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Hofstede and Trompenaar’s Cultural Dimensions

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Published: Thu, 09 Aug 2018

Hofstede stated 5 Cultural dimensions which can be used to investigate national preferences. To explain the variation of cultural dimensions in different countries, a chart illustrating all 5 Cultural dimensions is shown in Hong Kong, China and USA. Detailed explanations are given below:

Power distance is the distance in the approach between the subordinates and seniors in an organization. The high Power Distance countries make use of Centralized decision making and the employees are less likely to question their seniors. Whereas, in low power distance there is decentralized organization structure and employees are more likely to question their seniors.

In high Individualism, it is generally expected that people only take care of their loved ones like their immediate families, there is very less tendency that the people will work and belong to any groups.

Countries with high Masculinity, there is high degree of gender differentiation and people will place much importance on recognition, challenges, wealth, earnings etc. whereas, countries with high femininity, importance is given to quality life, cooperation, friendly atmosphere, caring others etc.

Uncertainty avoidance is how people feel and react in doubtful situations and has created beliefs to avoid such situations. In countries with high Uncertainty people believe on experts and their knowledge, there is need for security and people are not willing to take risks. Whereas, in low Uncertainty avoidance people tend to be ambitious and are ready to accepts unknown risks.

The fifth cultural dimension was studied by using Questionnaire in various countries around the globe. Long Term Orientation deals with good moral values regardless of truth. In Long Term Orientation the values such as Perseverance, thrift play vital role, while respect in beliefs, principles in society and binding oneself by social duties are associated with Short Term Orientation (Hofstede and Bond, 1984).

Trompenaar Cultural dimensions:

Universalism and Particularism: According to Trompenaar, the culture assigns the importance either to the rules or personal relationships. In Universalism culture people share belief that the rules, values and law are more important than personal or other relationships while, in Particularism cultures people focus more on human friendship or personal relationships.

Individualism and Communitarism: Trompenaar ‘Individualism and Communitarism’ cultural dimension carry the same meaning with Hofstede’s Individualism. As explained above, the culture differences are illustrated as to whether people function more as individuals or in groups.

Specific and Diffuse: In Specific cultures such as Denmark, the interactions between people are well defined viz the interactions are tending to criticize their juniors directly and openly, people tend to concentrate on hard facts, standards. In diffuse cultures like Russia, the criticism is considered a personal matter and may form a part of losing value or prestige.

Affectivity and Neutrality: Affectivity and neutrality cultural dimension provides a degree in which people show their feelings. In Affectivity cultures, individuals express feelings naturally and openly. People talk loudly, show happiness or unhappiness, greet with enthusiasm etc. whereas in Neutral cultures, people tend to hide their emotions.

Achievement and Ascription: In Achievement cultures, members are awarded official position depending on job performances, whereas, in Ascription cultures, members are respected or awarded official positions depending on ethnic groups, age, family, gender etc.

In Sequential time cultures, people generally perform duties sequentially i.e. perform only one duty at a given time. While, in Synchronous time cultures people are flexible, handling several duties at a single point of time.

Inner and Outer directed: It is set of people who believe that ‘environment can be controlled’ versus a set of people who believes ‘environment controls them’. In Inner directed cultures, people believe that it is in human’s hand and right a expertise knowledge can control nature; In outer directed cultures people believe that nature is not in their control and therefore they should live and change themselves according to the nature or environment.

Source: Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars, (1993).

Hofstede and Trompenaar helped to explain cultural differences with help of various cultural dimensions. Below table provides information on Trompenaar cultural dimensions with respect to various countries around globe.

”Thus, it can be seen that the cultural dimensions provided by Hofstede and Trompenaar help to better understand various cultures and thus they help to investigate different national preferences”.

Strengths and Weakness of Hofstede and Trompenaar:

Inherent bias between Hofstede and Trompenaar and ways to ‘overcome Inherent bias’:

To show the inherent bias between Hofstede and Trompenaar an association between national metrics on individualism and national sales data of ‘i’ branded phones is demonstrated. The analysis shown in Table 1 reveals the ‘bias’ on individualism criterion of Hofstede and Trompenaars (Burns and Bush, 2006 cited by Veerapa and Hemmert, 2010).

The lack of precision can be overcome by using diagnostic tools like SPSS (Wilcox, 2001). SPSS helps to correct the deviations and presents post hoc test outputs which can be analyzed (Burns and Bush, 2006 cited by Veerapa and Hemmert, 2010).

Hofstede Improvement model:

In Hofstede’s model it has been seen that the model merely assumes uniformity. Hence, there is a need to study diversity, richness of institutions and their practices. Presently, intense debates, reviews on interaction, ‘structure’ and conceptualization are available on immediate basis. We should be engaged and involve in using theories of action, which can deal with multiple influences, change and variety, situational & non-national variability, power and difficulties on individual subjects instead of seeking explanations from the conceptual lacuna for assumed national uniformity (McSweeney, 2002).

Comparison between different models:

Most of the cultural literatures have discussed and pointed towards core values of culture which helps to identify difference between cultures. Hofstede proposed that the most efficient method to modify the process of thinking is to change individual behaviour (Schwartz, 1999 and Hofstede, 1980). Project GLOBE has focused and illustrated effects of leadership qualities on various cultures and examined charismatic leadership at three levels industry type, national and organizational- nested within each other (House et al., 1999). The fit between management practices and cultural characteristics is considered to play a vital role in implementing a successful management team (Aycan et al., 2000). Nevertheless, Hofstede and Harzing, (1996) proposed that only few studies were able to examine or only few theories realized that the culture itself changes over period of time.

Schein (1992) proposed a cultural dimension which reflects on the levels of visibility. Drawing on Schein’s proposal, cultural theories vary depending on concentration on the different layers of culture. Many cultural theories concentrate on the middle portion; values specialized in between visible and invisible parts of culture (House et al., 1999; Hofstede, 1980; Inglehart and Baker, 2000). The association between change in economic development and work values was studied by Inglehart and Baker (2000) and both found noticeable cultural changes. Very few models concentrate on the visible and the external layer of practices and behaviors, Trompenaar assessed or judged the differences in cross-cultures with respect to behaviours, driven by values (Trompenaars, 1994; House et al., 1999).

Multiple levels of cross cultures are shown in Figure 1:

Most of the cross cultural research focused on national level, illustrating differentiation in cross cultures with regards to national values (House et al., 1999; Hofstede, 1980).

Berson, Erez and Adler, (2004) proposed the formation of interdependent and multinational work teams helps to minimize the complexity in workplace within and across borders. The interdependent teams help the companies to bridge cultural gaps and assure smooth coordination and communication. Even the CEO’s has consistently emphasized the interdependence and connectedness in their speeches.

Hall (1976) studied high and low context cultures. Environment is important for the people belonging to high context cultures and they rely on interpretation i.e. make use of non-verbal signals during communication, whereas, in low context cultures non-verbal signals are often ignored and environment is less important. Hall model does not rank different countries and is built on qualitative insights and the model does not provide numerical data and hence, comparisons can only be on subjective basis.

Problems for Expatriates:

This section discusses differences in organizational styles and cultural patterns between Japanese and German staff members in Dusseldorf region of western Germany, and issues they encounter for morale, communication and co-operation.

As English not being the native language for both Japanese and Germans, a sizable amount of Japanese firms in Dusseldorf region remark on communication problems and stress between Japanese expatriates and local staff members. There is also a contrast on subject of politeness, Japanese staff are recognized for considering the politeness to great extents; a distinct Japanese politeness syndrome is unwillingness to say ‘no’ with firmness, which confuses the foreigners and Westerners find it disingenuous, whereas, Germans suffer the reputation for being arrogant, blunt and curt. The Germans see the standoffishness of Japanese as an obstacle to pleasant office relationships. German managers found it difficult and comment that ‘even after continuous efforts they are not in a position to socialize’ with Japanese expatriate teams. The isolation and the size of Dusseldorf region helped to put a belief on German side, that Japanese are reclusive and clannish by character. The Japanese were annoyed by German curtness and Germans were bothered by Japanese unfriendliness (Lincoln et al., 1995).

The Japanese expect forthright assumption of guilt and produced apologies in places where the Europeans find it inappropriate and unnecessary. In Japanese firms the acceptance of failures of one’s duties is an obligation to European (Wall Street Journal, 1989), as the Westerners impulse to shift blame to others and defend oneself. Some differences also occur on the decision making process as for Japanese its bottom-up ‘command and control’ while for Germans its reverse (Kieser, 1990; Lincoln et al., 1990). More, the Japanese hire employees as generalists and not as specialists.

The Germans found the appraisal style inconvenient because the Japanese appraisal style judge’s long-term achievements and performances and not present performances (Endo, 1994). If the company wants to reward the younger ambitious local hires for their appropriate skills, the company was not able to do so, because of the morale issues of appraisal system of Japanese business cultures, due to which the problem of inequality arise.

Expatriates Managers motivating and leading staff:

Research has shown that the styles of leading staff, motivating and communicating vary among countries (Adler and Gundersen, 2008). To motivate and to understand the motivation drivers of the employees, an expatriate manager should have a broad idea about real root values of different cultures (Sergeant and Frenkel, 1998).

Work placement motivation plays an important role so that the employees work effectively and organization can achieve their goals. In multi-culture environment the motivation factors will vary from person to person, so the organization should use different motivational tools. One of the strongest motivational factors is probably the development of an appropriate reward system; this can influence both employee motivation and job satisfaction (Hickins, 1998 cited by Albu, 2009). The people motivations may vary depending on their emphasis on income, more number of contacts, security in job or feeling of accomplishment.

The attributes and roles chosen by experienced expatriate managers in leading their teams are not constant and may vary in different contexts. Finnish expatriates in various countries indicated different perceptions of leadership, examined by Suutari (1996). For examples, an expatriate from Germany commented that the ‘softness’ in Scandinavian is inappropriate and claim ‘for receiving respect from subordinates a person should be more authoritative’. Similarly, if a manager from a different culture is working in France, he should avoid participating in groups, as he would not succeed to get any ideas from his colleagues and nothing will work if he did not take a decision himself. An expatriate in UK was advised to make use of directive style and be more rigorous. Whereas, in Thailand good leadership qualities are associated with moral values like to sacrifice, to think about majority and not only about their families. ”A successful leadership style must be appropriate to the context within which it is exercised” (Mead, 2005, p. 133).

PART 2

Preparation for Expatriates and their relatives:

After reviewing various research articles following were the requirements found for preparing an expatriate for successful mission. The companies need to employ rigorous and sophisticated pre-move policies to expatriates along with their families, which include personality and psychometric testing, cross-cultural and language training (Forster, 2000). Many researchers like Mendenhall and Oddou, 1986; Tung, 1981; Brislin, 1981, Smith and Still, 1997; Bochner, 1982; Forster, 2000, Brislin et al, 1986 have strongly emphasized on cultural ’empathy’ during expatriate trainings.

Cross cultural training is broadly classified into 6 types by Tung (1982): 1] Using information containing facts such as information on housing, schools, weather, and geographical location. 2] Cultural preferences or tendencies, information such as the value systems of host country. 3] Cultural Assimilation programs which help to describe cross cultural experiences. 4] Linguistic training 5] Sensitivity training, helps developing confidence in particular situations. 6] Exposure to other cultures by means of field experiences, which will help to get a feel of emotional pressures.

According to Brewster and Pickard (1994) following should be the cultural training programs for expatriates: 1] a cognizance about major emphasize on influencing ‘cultural behaviours’ 2] Mandatory knowledge which is required when dealing in different situations. 3] Developing emotional maturity and acquiring skills to help psychological adjustments when working abroad.

Thus following can be the relevant training programs, which can be used to prepare an expatriate.

How Cross cultural Training programs support Expatriates and their relatives:

The cross-cultural and linguistic training introduces the employee the importance of cultures and help to sensitise the actual differences in cultures. The training programs help expatriates to become vigilant of unavoidable psychological stress which usually happens when individual tries to adapt in foreign cultures (Forster, 2000).

Cross cultural training and language training helps to built cross cultural competency skills and ”add on” social and professional skills, knowledge, coping techniques and factual information to expatriates and helps to create an artificial make-up. Training programs also helps to provide relevant information on the living and working styles of the host country. Cultural, political, economic information and information on cultural awareness helps expatriates to understand the foreign culture in more suitable and personal way, all these factors work at intellectual or mental process of the expatriate. More, cross-cultural training also consist of learning activities which are purely based on experience combining mental process and behavioural techniques which help to reinforce the assimilation of information on occasions like experimenting alternative response strategies and simulating critical incidents. It is also believed that, cross cultural training helps to acquire an intercultural effectiveness skill which improve families and personal adjustments overseas. Such skills include building relationships, effective cross cultural communication, transition stress management, cultural awareness, improving managerial decision making, negotiation techniques and conflicts resolution (Kealey and Protheroe, 1996).

Nevertheless, as per Gertsen (1990) literature, excluding the training, for a successful expatriate mission, lot more depends on the employees personal traits like openness, self confidence, good communication skills, intelligence, optimism, tolerance, empathy, independence, initiative and willingness to change.

Requirements for working in multi-culture environment:

Intercultural competence plays an important role and is necessary, when a member of a cross-cultural team needs to build strong relationship with other nationalities. Due to intercultural competence the member is able to exchange verbal & non-verbal levels of behaviour (Dinges, 1983; McCroskey, 1982; Spitzberg, 1983).

Research delineated important features of inter-cultural competence such as ability to develop and maintain relationships, personal traits like inquisitiveness and effectively sharing information with others (Black and Gregersen, 2000; Mendenhall, 2001). Apart from knowledge of language and culture, Intercultural competence also involves affectivity and behavioural skills like charisma, empathy, friendliness, ability to control uncertainty and anxiety (Gudykunst, 1998; Spiess, 1998).

There are three parts of intercultural competence, sufficient cultural knowledge, appropriate skills and Personality Orientation. The managers in USA and Russia have associated high performing cross cultural teams with clearly understanding their approach for team goals, equipped with complementary skills, working with expertise teams, and tremendous commitment with relatively higher degree of motivation, clear responsibilities of team roles, cultural sensitivity, cooperative team climate and access to technology (Matveev and Milter, 2004).

To work effectively with multi cultural teams the managers need to know and understand the culture of a person with whom they are interacting, their behaviour patterns during conflict situations, and information about their personality, life experiences, demographics etc. Manager of diverse cultures needs to be vigilant with regards to the interests, resources of different cultures and diversity of perspectives, to obtain all this information the manager requires high level of intercultural communication competence (Matveev et al., 2002).

Lessons drawn from tutorials and classes

From tutorials and classes, we gathered knowledge which helped critical analysis of contexts and issues relating to business and management operating across cultures. Various aspects of cultural diversity and national cultures have been explored. International HRM has become a strategic asset of many organisations and play vital role in implementing and developing policies on cross cultural management. We learnt differences between cultures, their relations when working in organisations, businesses and the way people from different cultures interact and communicate. It was also observed that if the variety of cultures is ignored, the organisations suffer from conflicts and underperform.

From the principle theories of cross cultures I explored the effects of cultural diversity on leadership, negotiation, communication, motivation and ethics in organisations. Through critical analysis the awareness among cultural differences was raised, while reinforcing behaviours and skills that can help managers to adjust in such differences.

The main focus of study was on management of International Business and there was seen a strong emphasis on cultural differences between European, Asian, Anglo-American and African.

How multicultural awareness can be raised and stereotyping be decreased

To raise multi cultural awareness, Sleeter (1992) given importance to multicultural professional development programs and awareness building inservice programs. Sleeter observations revealed that after completion of these programs, teacher’s greatest change was increased attention to Black students and increased the usage of cooperative learning activities.

Multi-cultural awareness can also be raised through well-prepared induction programmes incorporating cultural awareness training. Professional counselling across cultures could also provide effective help to raise cultural awareness (Skinner, 2010). Sue et al. (1982) suggested three dimensions of cross cultural counselling competencies: knowledge, awareness and skills. The counsellor needs certain cultural specific knowledge and must be aware of potential cultural differences. Thus, cross-cultural training and cultural competencies raise multicultural awareness.

Stewart et al., 2009 proposed the success of a modern technique ‘Situational Attribution Training Technique’ to minimize the underlying stereotyping. ”White participants were trained extensively to choose situational over dispositional explanations for negative stereotype-consistent behaviors performed by Black men” (Stewart et al. 2009, p. 221). Reduced racial stereotyping was demonstrated by the individuals who finished their ‘Situational Attribution Training’. More, the impact of Stereotyping can be minimized by bringing together different cultural members and when these members come together they notice that other persons are not as stereotype as considered, this proof makes a disagreement, which finally helps in improving thinking about stereotypes.

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