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Hofstede’s Five Dimensions of Culture

Explore Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

In addition to the organisational cultures described in the previous step, we can also consider cultures on a national level.

This approach is commonly associated with Geert Hofstede (1984, 1988 & 2001), as described in Schermerhorn and Bachrach (2017). He explored national cultures through the identification of five different dimensions, which are:

  • Power distance
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Individualism-collectivism
  • Masculinity-femininity
  • Time orientation

The five dimensions are explained below:

Power Distance

Power distance is the degree a society accepts or rejects the unequal distribution of power in organisations and society. In high power distance cultures such as Japan, we expect to find great respect for age, status and titles. This could create problems for an American visitor used to the informality of a more moderate power distance culture, and accustomed to using first names and casual dress in the office.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty avoidance is the degree a society tolerates or is uncomfortable with risk, change, and situational uncertainty. In high uncertainty avoidance cultures, such as France or Japan, one would expect to find a preference for structure, order and predictability.

Individualism-Collectivism

Individualism-collectivism is the degree to which a society emphasises an individual’s accomplishments and self-interest, versus the accomplishments and interests of groups. In Hofstede’s data, the United States had the highest individualism score of any country.

Masculinity-Femininity

Masculinity-femininity is the degree a society values assertiveness and materialism versus feelings, relationships, and quality of life. You might think of it as a tendency to emphasise stereotypical masculine or feminine traits and attitudes towards gender roles. Visitors to Japan, with the highest masculinity score in Hofstede’s research, will probably notice how restricted career opportunities can be for women.

Time Orientation

This is the degree to which a society emphasises short-term or long-term goals. Americans are notorious for being impatient and wanting quick, even instant gratification. Accordingly, American companies are expected to achieve short-term results. Many Asian cultures are the opposite, valuing persistence, being patient, and are willing to work for long-term success.

However, Schermerhorn and Bachrach (2017) add that Hofstede warned against acting with the mistaken assumption that a generalised cultural value applies always and equally to all members of a specific culture.

Your task

Can you see why Hofstede’s cultural dimensions can be significant in business and management?
Do you have any specific examples?
Share your thoughts in the comments area.

References

Schermerhorn, J. R. Jr., & Bachrach, D. G. (2017). Exploring management (6th ed.). Wiley.

Hofstede, G. H. (1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. SAGE Publications.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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