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Solved by verified expert:Discuss Hofstede’s model of cultural differences, making sure to explain all five dimensions. Discuss where the U.S. culture and the Chinese culture each fall on this model.
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For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
9-496-044
JANUARY 31, 1996
HERMINIA IBARRA
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The
Hofstede Study
There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees which are falsehoods on the other. – Blaise Pascal1
Introduction
People from different national cultures often operate under different assumptions about what is
appropriate behavior. In organizational settings, these cultural differences in underlying assumptions
can significantly affect interactions when individuals from various nationalities meet.
The Culture’s Consequences Study
In a landmark study of the impact of national culture on the work-related attitudes and values of
IBM employees in 40 countries, Geert Hofstede argued that many differences in employee
motivation, management styles, and organizational structures found throughout the world can be
traced to differences in culture. Hofstede defined culture as the “collective mental programming of
people in different social environments.” He found that “culture” could be broken down into four
dimensions that explained many observed differences in organizational systems and managerial
behavior.
Power Distance
Power distance reflects the extent to which a national culture accepts and reinforces the fact that
power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally. In cultures with high power
distance, status differences are viewed as legitimate and intrinsic. These status differences can be
based on a variety of characteristics including age, social class, organizational rank, or family role
(e.g. parent, child). In cultures with low power distance, a hierarchical relationship is simply an
1. Quoted in Hofstede, 1980.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This note was prepared by Professor Herminia Ibarra. It serves to describe in abbreviated form the research of Geert Hofstede. Culture’s
Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1980; Culture and Organizations: Software of the
Mind. London: McGraw Hill, 1992.
Copyright © 1996 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685,
write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.
For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
496-044
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study
inequality of roles that is established for convenience in a particular context. Thus, someone who is
my subordinate today may be my boss tomorrow, or may be my boss on a particular project.
In business organizations, power distance is most explicitly reflected in the nature of the superiorsubordinate relationship. In high power distance cultures, bosses are-on average-viewed as
authoritarian and/or legitimately paternalistic. Subordinates are seen as more willing to accept
decisions made above them and less willing to question authority. Power distance also affects such
managerial systems as performance appraisal. INSEAD professor André Laurent described how the
adoption of an American performance appraisal system-which assumes that subordinates are on
equal enough footing with their superiors to disagree and negotiate successfully-met with failure in
high power distance countries such as France.2
Uncertainty Avoidance
Uncertainty avoidance indicates the degree to which a national culture values the reduction of
uncertainty and ambiguity. Members of high uncertainty avoidance cultures try to reduce the effects
of uncertainty by providing greater career stability, establishing more formal rules, demonstrating
low tolerance for deviant ideas and behavior, and believing in absolute truths. Formal laws and
informal rules are used to control the rights and duties of employers and employees, and to make
events clearly interpretable and predictable.
In managerial practice, this dimension is manifest in the use of detailed job descriptions and
instructions, and in the distaste for ambiguous matrix organizational structures where subordinates
may have two direct bosses. An example is found in a study of British, French, and German top
managers: of the three, British managers scored lowest on uncertainty avoidance. They tended to
occupy themselves more with strategic problems and less with daily operations, while the reverse
was the case for the German and French executives. Hofstede explains this finding by noting that
strategic problems are more unstructured and therefore demand a greater tolerance for ambiguity
than operational problems.3
Individualism-Collectivism
Individualism-Collectivism encompasses opposite poles.
Cultures that score high on
individualism value a loosely knit social framework in which people are expected to take care of
themselves and their immediate families. In contrast, cultures high in collectivism are characterized
by a tight social framework in which people distinguish between in-groups and out-groups,
expecting their in-group (e.g. family, company) to look after them in exchange for loyalty
In high collectivism cultures, management is the management of groups; in individualistic
cultures, it is the management of individuals. The use of teams and participative management, for
example, has been more pervasive and positively received in high collectivism cultures. Another
example pertains to the employer-employee relationship: In high collectivism cultures, it is perceived
in moral terms, like a family link; in individualist countries, it is a contract based on mutual
advantage. Employees in cultures that score high on individualism are expected to act according to
their self-interest, and incentive systems are structured based on that assumption. In cultures high on
collectivism, by contrast, an employer does not hire an individual, but a member of an in-group, who
2. Lauren, Andre. “The Cultural Diversity of Western Conceptions of Management” International Studies of Management and
Organizations, volume 12, number 1, 1983, 75-96.
3. Hofstede, 1992, p. 122.
2
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.
For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study
496-044
is expected to act according to the interest of his or her group even when it does not coincide with his
or her self-interest. Again, incentive systems are structured accordingly. Japan’s current debate over
merit pay illustrates the effect of this dimension (see Exhibit 1 for Japan’s score on this scale).
Masculinity-Femininity4
Masculinity-Femininity also encompasses two poles. The masculinity end reflects the extent to
which a culture’s dominant values conform to a traditional view of male sex-role characteristicsassertiveness and the acquisition of material goods. The femininity pole reflects dominant values that
conform to a traditional view of female sex-role characteristics-an emphasis on caring for others and
quality of life.
According to Hofstede, national cultures that score high on the femininity scale, like the
Netherlands and Sweden, prefer to resolve conflicts by compromise and negotiation; in cultures that
score high on masculinity, like the UK and Ireland, there is a feeling that conflicts should be resolved
by a “good fight.” Differences along this dimension also reflected in how collaborative versus
adversarial the labor relations of different countries tend to be. In another example, Hofstede recalls
that as a young man he did not receive a job offer, because he showed an excess of modesty (a Dutch
and “feminine” cultural trait) in his job interview. His prospective employer, an American, who was
expecting greater assertiveness, misjudged his behavior as hesitant and lacking in confidence.
Country Clusters
Hofstede found systematic differences and similarities among groups of countries along
combinations of these four dimensions. Exhibits 1-3 chart the position of 40 countries he studies on
the four dimensions. The exhibits also identify country clusters (indicated by circles) containing
those countries that Hofstede found to be similar in cultural characteristics.
Implications
In managerial practice, differences along these dimensions may cause problems and
misunderstandings. Returning to one of the examples cited earlier, Hofstede argued that, from the
viewpoint of the Dutch, American job applicants tend to oversell themselves, while Dutch applicants,
from an American’s perspective, undersell themselves. Without awareness of how to “read” each
other’s behavior, the scenario for cross-cultural misunderstanding is clear. At the level of the
organization, “corporate culture” is also a product of the country in which it develops. Implicit
models of organization may clash with those of other countries in contexts such as cross-national
joint ventures and mergers. As the globalization of business becomes a day-to-day reality, the
importance of understanding and managing these differences will increasingly become a topic of
study and debate.
Although Hofstede’s data were collected from individuals, he
A Caution about Stereotyping
maintains that cultural characteristics must be compared at the national cultural level. What is
important, he suggests, is paying attention to the central tendencies of a particular national culture, as
4. Many have criticized Hofstede’s choice of these terms. He maintains that managers in business are not exempt from the
effects of social norms about gender-related behavior, and that cultures vary in the extent to which equal value is attached to
traditional male and female gender roles.
3
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.
For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
496-044
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study
these are most useful for describing a country’s social systems. These tendencies, however, are not
“most useful” for describing individuals within the national culture. Indeed, when assumptions
about the collective priorities of a group are applied to an individual-regardless of that individual’s
actual values or behavior-the result is stereotyping.
Hofstede was one of the first researchers to study the effects of national
Further Research
culture in business settings. Since his path-breaking study, many others have replicated, challenged,
and modified his model. Some, for example, have argued that the four dimensions are a reflection of
Hofstede’s European background. Hofstede himself provides evidence of a fifth dimension-shortversus long-term orientation-which only emerged when Chinese researchers developed the
questionnaire to conduct the research.5 As any exploration into new territory, his study has
identified and signaled the importance of this domain, opening the way for future endeavor.
5. Hofstede, 1992, Chapter 7.
4
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.
For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study
Exhibit 1
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Positions of 40 Countries on Power Distance and Individualism Scales
Excerpted from Hofstede, G. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Newbury Park: Sage, 1980:
p.223.
5
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.
For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
496-044
Exhibit 2
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study
Positions of 40 Countries on Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance Scales
Excerpted from Hofstede, G. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Newbury Park: Sage, 1980:
p.316.
6
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.
For the exclusive use of A. Alqurashi, 2016.
National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study
Exhibit 3
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Positions of 40 Countries on Uncertainty Avoidance and Masculinity Scales
Excerpted from Hofstede, G. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Newbury Park: Sage, 1980:
p.324.
7
This document is authorized for use only by Ahmed Alqurashi in Organizational Behavior-1 taught by Katherine Roberto, Texas A & M Univ Corpus Christi from January 2016 to May 2016.

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