The theoretical framework of Cultural Dimensions introduced by Geert Hofstede as a result of assessing the values of more than 100,000 IBM workforce from 50 countries represent one of the most significant contributions to the development of cross-cultural studies.
Hofstede differentiates cultures on the basis of following dimensions: individualism versus, collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity versus femininity, and long-term versus short-term orientation.
Individualism versus Collectivism
Individualism “describes the tendency of people to see themselves as individuals rather than as members of a group” (Velo, 2012, p. 26), whereas collectivism is associated with preference for group thinking and prioritising advantages of the group over individualistic advantages.
In organisations where collectivistic culture prevails employees consider decision making to be the responsibility of superiors. Similarly, Andrews (2009) argues that employees in highly individualistic work cultures feel motivated to engage in decision making in an individual manner.
Power distance is an extent to which group members are willing to accept unequal distribution of power. In societies with high power distance unequal distribution of power is tolerated by group members to a great extent. Such societies managers are not generally approachable and the most popular form of communication is downward communication.
In societies with low power distance, on the other hand, members of society are perceived to be more or less equal. Managers in low power distance organisations are viewed as peers by subordinates and there is usually two-way communication in such type of organisations.
Uncertainty avoidance dimension of culture refers to the degree of tolerance towards ambiguity and unexpected events and unstructured situations. Societies with high levels of uncertainty avoidance prefer to operate within highly structured environment and generally they have negative approach towards uncertainties. Bhattacharyya (2010) recommends the development of clear procedures and directives when managing organisations high in uncertainty avoidance.
Conversely, organisations with low uncertainty avoidant cultures value freedom of opinions and flexibility and there are only a few formal rules. According to Moran et al. (2011), advantages of such culture include higher level of creativity, and absence of need for formal instructions and procedures to achieve performance.
Masculinity versus Femininity
Masculinity versus femininity cultural dimension serves as an indication for the level of appreciation for traditional masculine values of achievement, status and power within a group. Accordingly, in high masculine organisations the level of gender equality tends to be compromised.
Organisational culture with feminine elements, on the other hand, puts great emphasis on feminine values such as compromise, quality of life, friendship etc. Moreover, organisations with feminine values are associated with greater levels of equality between genders.
Long-Term versus Short-Term Orientation
Long-term versus short terms orientation cultural dimension deals with time horizon differences between societies. It has been noted that “long-term orientation societies focus on the future, which means that they follow cultural trends towards delaying immediate gratification; therefore, they are money-saving societies” (Velo, 2012, p.38).
Cultures with short-term orientation, on the other hand, are marked with stability on personal and society levels, respect for traditions, and a high level of importance of meeting social obligations.
Criticism associated with Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Hofstede’s work has been criticised for inappropriate sampling in a way that “all participants in the survey were highly educated, white collar professionals employed by a multinational company, IBM, they are therefore not representative of their societies and may hold values different from those of the wider population” (Maude, 2011, p.106).
Moreover, according to Rosenhauer (2007), the framework of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions is based only in five dimensions and more important dimensions have been neglected. However, it is important to note that the validity of this argument is compromised by the fact that Rosenhauer (2007) fails to name any specific dimensions that Hofstede needed to address.
Johann (2008) and Andrews (2009) argue that Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions fail to take into account gender differences and occupational differences between individuals.
Johann, R. (2008) “Cross-Cultural Management: The case of DaimlerChrysler Merger” Grin Verlag
Maude, B. (2011) “Managing Cross-Cultural Communication: Principles and Practice” Palgrave Macmillan
Moran, R.T., Harris, P.R. & Moran, S.V. (2010) “Managing Cultural Differences: Leadership Skills and Strategies for Working in a Global World” Routledge
Rosenhauer, S. (2007) “Cross-Cultural Communication: Intercultural Competence as a universal Interculture” GRIN Verlag
Velo, V. (2012) “Cross-Cultural Management” Business Expert Press