The most influential studies analyzing cultural differences were done by Geert Hofstede. He was a Dutch researcher who studied 116000 people working in dozens of different countries.
Hofstede identified five important dimensions of national culture that is differing from culture to culture, country to country. These five dimensions are:
Hofstede model of national culture
- Social Orientation: The first dimension identified by Hofstede is social orientation. Social orientation is a person’s belies about the relative importance of the individual and the groups to which that person belongs. Key values of individualistic people include a high degree of self-respect and independence. These people often put their own career interests before the good of their organizations. Well-defined social networks usually characterize societies that tend to be collectivistic, including extended families, tribes etc. People are expected to put the good of the group ahead of their worn personal welfare, interests, or success.
- Power Orientation: The second dimension of Hofstede proposal is power orientation. Power orientating refers to the beliefs that people in a culture hold about appropriateness of power and atuhority differences in hierarchies such as business organizations. The extreme of per orientate are power respect and power5 tolerance. Power respect indicates that people in a culture tend to accept the hierarchy. In contrast, people in the hierarchy. These people are more willing to question a decision or mandate from someone at a higher level or perhaps even refuse to accept it.
- Uncertainly Orientation: Uncertainty orientation is the feeling people have regarding uncertain and ambiguous situations. People in cultures characterized by uncertainty acceptance are stimulated by change and thrive on new opportunities. Ambiguity is seen as a context within which an individual can grow, develop, and carve out new opportunities. In these cultures certainty carries with it a sense of monotony, and overbearing structure. Hofstede suggested that many people from the United States, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia are uncertainty accepting. In contrast, people in cultures characterized by uncertainly avoidance dislike ambiguity and will avoid it whenever possible. Ambiguity and change are seen as undesirable. These people tend to prefer a structured and routine, even bureaucratic, way of doing things. Hofstede found that many people in Israel, Austria, Japan, Italy, Colombia, France, and Germany tend to avoid uncertainty whenever possible. Uncertainty avoiding countries, for example, tend to adopt more rigid hierarchies and more elaborate rules and procedures for doing business. Conversely, uncertainty accepting cultures are more tolerant of flexible hierarchies, rules and procedure. Risk taking (“nothing ventured, nothing gained”) is highly valid in uncertainty accepting countries such as the United states and Hong Kong, whereas preserving the status and prestige of the firm through conservative, low risk strategies is more important in uncertainty-avoiding countries such as Spain, Belgium, and Argentina. As the opening case indicated, uncertainty-accepting cultures may be more attuned to the needs of the new e-commerce economy.
- Goal Orientation: Goal oriented, is the manner in which people are motivated to work toward different kinds of goal, On the extreme of goal orientation continuum is aggressive goal behavior. People who exhibit aggressive goal orientation continuum is premium on material possessions, money, and assertiveness. At the other extreme, people who adopt passive goal behavior place a higher value on social relationships, quality of life, and concern of others. According to Hofstede, cultures that value aggressive goal behavior also tend to define gender-based roles somewhat rigidly, whereas culture that emphasize passive goal behavior do not. For example, in cultures characterized by extremely aggressive goal occupations; women are generally expected not to work outside the home and to focus on their families. If they do work outside the home, they are usually expected to pursue work in areas traditionally dominated by women. According to Hofstede’s research, many people in Japan tend to exhibit relatively aggressive goal behavior. Men and women in passive goal behavior cultures are more likely both to pursue diverse careers and to be well represented within any given occupation. People from the Netherlands, Norway Sweden, Denmark, and Finland tend exhibit relatively passive goal behavior.
- Time Orientation: Time orientation is the extent to which members of a culture adopt a long-term versus a short-term outlook on work, life, and other aspects of society. Some cultures, such as those of Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, have a long-term, future orientation that values dedication, hard work, perseverance, and thrift. Other cultures, including those of Pakistan and West Africa, tend to focus on the past and present, emphasizing respect for traditions and fulfillment of social obligations. Hofstede’s work suggests that the United States and Germany tend to have an intermediate time orientation.
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