Hofstede’s cultural dimensions include power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation. The cultural differences of two or more countries can be effectively analysed through these dimensions in order to determine the extent of cultural fit between them.
Hofstede’s works on cultural dimensions has attracted a range of criticism from other researchers as well. Jones (2007) informs that Hofstede’s cultural dimensions have been criticised on following grounds:
Firstly, Hofstede’s research has been widely criticised for making an assumption that domestic population is an homogenous whole, whereas in reality nations can be formed from a range of ethnic units.
Secondly, Hofstede has a taken nation as a unit for study and this has attracted some criticism from researchers who maintain that cultures are not necessarily bounded by national borders.
Thirdly, some researchers also maintain that the validity of Hofstede’s findings have been compromised by political factors. Specifically, when the research was conducted there was a cold was between United States, Europe and USSR, and this might have affected the validity of the research.
Power Distance Cultural Dimensions
Power distance in culture relates the level of tolerance of unequal distribution of wealth and power within a given culture. The clear indication of power distance would be a level of hierarchy in the workplace (Holden, 2002).
Adler and Gundersen (2008) inform that in cultures where there is a high power distance there will be greater dependency between superiors and subordinates, parents and children, etc., and at the same time the social distance between the different levels of managers and workers will be high. In low power distance cultures on the other hand, subordinates feel free to approach their bosses and the social distance between them is not too high.
On the scale of power distance index compiled by Hofstede China has 80, whereas most of the African countries range at 64-80. Very high level of China’s power distance index can be linked to the communist history of the country, which is based on the central decision making concept living little room for self-initiative.
The power distance index of African countries is high is well compared to most of the other countries, and accordingly it can be said there is a high power distance in both, Chinese and African countries, and there should not be any problems in that aspect of the business as result of the merger.
Individualism Cultural Dimensions
Individualism dimension of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions refers to the importance of interests of an individual compared to the interests of the community the individual belongs to (Triandis, 2002). It also relates to the level of integration of an individual into a society.
China and African countries have strong collectivistic societies.
There is a different stance as regards to achievements in individualist and collectivistic societies. In individualistic societies achievements are usually prescribed to individuals who made efforts for those achievements, while in collectivistic societies the whole group takes the credit for the achievements.
In relevant index China scores 20, and the most African countries score similar as well, western countries scoring much higher at the same time.
Strong collectivistic trait of a Chinese society again relates to its communistic background, because the whole country used to be strongly tied to the idea of communism. In Africa a tribal form of living has prevailed for many centuries, with each individual being strongly tied to his or her tribe.
There is a very low chance of problems involved in the proposed merger between a Chinese and an African company related to the individualism cultural dimension due to the fact that both cultures score the same in that dimension.
Masculinity Cultural Dimensions
Masculinity is another important merit on which cultures differ from each-other according to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. It refers to the distribution of roles of males and females in a society, as well as, the level of ambition or achievement orientations of a society.
Thomas (2008) states that masculinity index does not indicate to the dominance of s gender in a given society, but it relates the extent of importance of traditional roles of each gender.
China scores higher (66) comparing to all African countries (41-63) indicating to the fact that Chinese society is more male oriented as compared to the African societies.
This can be a potential source of problems in the proposed merger between Chinese and African countries with Chinese male managers not taking seriously or even not recognising the authority of their African female colleagues.
It a serious issue that need to be dealt with by organising training and development programs for Chinese employees increasing their knowledge about the equality of gender and informing them about the negative consequences of gender related issues. Moreover, those managers who still refuse to co-operate in that aspect f their behaviour should be disciplined harshly in order to eradicate this problem thoroughly.
Uncertainty Avoidance Cultural Dimensions
Uncertainty avoidance dimension of a culture relates the degree of willingness of representatives of a culture to take risks compared to their preference for the highly structured way of life. Cultures which are high in uncertainty avoidance, “view uncertainty as negative and emphasize the use of rules and regulations in order to maintain predictability in the social environment” (Sorrentino, 2005, p.185). On the other hand, cultures that are low in uncertainty avoidance display more tolerance to non-standard situations.
China’s uncertainty avoidance index is considerably lower (40) compared to the same index of the most African countries (86-49) meaning that Chinese people are more tolerant to unforeseen circumstances, whereas, most of the African countries prefer structured way of life where many aspects of the business is governed by rules and regulations rather than individual initiatives.
This cultural difference may be a source of misunderstandings and challenges in the proposed merger of Chinese and African company. Therefore, in order to tackle this problem a desired level of uncertainty avoidance should be determined for the new proposed company, specifying the extent at which rules and regulations will govern each aspect of individual performance, and also specifying the acceptable level of individual initiatives in decision making.
Long-term Orientation Cultural Dimensions
Long-term or short-term orientation is another dimension of differences between cultures. Hofstede (2001) specifies the distinctive traits of cultures with long-term orientation as persistent, the great role of status in society, and an increased sense of shame. The characteristics of cultures with short-term orientation, on the other hand, are personal stability, respect for tradition, the fulfilment of social obligations, and protecting an individual’s ‘face’.
China is on the top of the list of relevant index with great margin compared to the all other countries of the world (118), indicating to the extremely strong long-term orientation of Chinese culture, while the most of the African countries have cultures with short-term orientation (25-16).
The great difference on that aspect of Chinese and African cultures is most likely going to affect the new company formed as a result of the merger. At the same time it is not possible to change viewpoint of Chinese and African employees on that aspect, due to the fact that these viewpoints have been formed during the lifetime and cannot be changed overnight. Still, cultural awareness training and development programs should be organised for both, Chinese and African employees at all levels that will allow them to comprehend things from an alternative viewpoints and this can minimise the chances of cultural misunderstandings in the workplace.
- Adler, NJ & Gundersen, A, 2008, International Dimensions of Organisational Behaviour, Thomson Learning
- Hofstede, G, 2001, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviours, Institutions and Organisations Across Nations, SAGE Publications
- Holden, N, 2002, Cross-Cultural Management: A Knowledge Management Perspective
- Jones, ML, 2007, Hofstede – Culturally questionable?, University of Wollongong
- Sorrentino, RM, 2005, Culture and Social Behaviour, Routledge
- Triandis, C, 2002, “Generic Individualism and Collectivism” in “The Blackwell Handbook of Cross-Cultural Management”, Blackwell, Publishers, Edited by Gannon, MJ & Newman, KL