Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension is a theory developed by Geert Hofstede that lays the foundation for cross-cultural communication. It demonstrates how society’s culture has an impact on its members and how it relates to behaviour.
What is Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension?
The business world is no longer limited to specific geographical boundaries. It has become interconnected and is now operated on a global scale. This means that people in a company will have to work with individuals from different countries having a different cultural background. It is a fact that most people are firmly immersed in their culture and are unable to see its impact on others.
Working in a multicultural environment is a reality, and it becomes necessary to have a solid theory behind you that will help to solve problems arising as a result of inter-cultural conflicts.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is used widely in several cross-cultural fields like cross-cultural communication, international management and cross-cultural psychology. Cultural norms have a significant impact on interpersonal relationships at work. The framework provided by this theory helps to find ways to do business across different cultures and assess their impact on a business setting.
Hofstede’s six dimensions of culture
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension was published in the 1970s with four dimensions that could distinguish one culture from the other. Later the fifth and sixth dimensions were added so that it can become the best standard for understanding cultural differences in the international arena. The six dimensions are as follows-
1. Power Distance Index (PDI)
The first dimension of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is Power Distance Index. It refers to the inequality that exists between individuals with power and without power. A lower index shows that people are questioning the authority and making attempts to distribute power. In contrast, a higher index signifies that hierarchy has already been established in society without a doubt.
High Power Distance Index shows that people accept the unequal distribution of power and acknowledge the status of a leader. Here the culture agrees with the power difference and inequality and shows respect for authority and rank. Important characteristics include
- Complex hierarchies
- Centralized organizations
- Large gaps in compensation
Low Power Distance Index shows that power is dispersed and shared and is not distributed unequally. According to this dimension, one should delegate as much as possible and involve everyone in the decision-making process, which will be affected by the decisions at one time or another. Here the culture encourages flat organizational structure, and the onus is on participative management and decentralized decision-making. Important characteristics include
- Flat organizations
- Equal power between supervisors and employees
2. Individualism Versus Collectivism (IDV)
The next dimension of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is Individualism Versus Collectivism (IDV). It explores the extent to which individuals in a society are integrated into a specific group, the ties that people have within their community and the perceived dependence and obligation on groups.
Individualistic societies have loose ties and relate to the relation of the individual with his immediate family. Here people take a minimum responsibility for the action of another person, and the onus is on attaining personal goals.
Collectivism relates to integrated relationships existing in a society that extends to families and others into in-groups. In such a society, people are loyal to their group and take responsibility for the well-being of one another. They are loyal to their group, which in turn defends the interest of all its members.
High IDV score encourages the accomplishment of an individual. Important characteristics include
- Respect for privacy
- The expectation of individual rewards for the hard work
- Enjoying challenges
- The high value placed on people’s time, freedom and privacy
Low IDV score shows that suppressing emotions can endanger harmony. It signifies that wisdom is essential and one should never give negative feedback in public. Important characteristics include
- Maintaining group harmony is most important
- Emphasis on becoming skilled
3. Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)
The next dimension of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS). It refers to role distribution between males and females in society.
Masculinity in this dimension is described as a penchant for assertiveness, heroism, achievement and material rewards in society. Femininity in this dimension is the counterpart of masculinity and is described as a penchant for modesty, cooperation and caring for the weak in the community.
In a feminine society, women play a subservient role and share caring views equally with men. Modesty is perceived as a virtue, and importance is given to a good relationship with supervisors. In a masculine society, the females are competitive and assertive, although a bit less than the men. Being strong and assertive is considered a good trait in this society. There is always a gap between male and female values.
High MAS score indicates that people are motivated by specific targets, and there is a norm for differentiated gender roles. Important characteristics include
- A feeling of importance and pride
- Strong ego
- Achievement, success and money are important
Low MAS score indicates that success is achieved through collaboration and negotiation, and work-life balance is essential in terms of organizational culture. Important characteristics include
- Onus on quality of life
- Consensual relationships
4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
The next dimension of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI). It refers to how people cope with anxiety in a society and is often described as the tolerance level of society for uncertainty or vagueness.
Societies with high UAI score opt for stiff laws, guidelines and codes of behaviour. It believes only in truth, and people make life as predictable as possible. The people are clear about their expectations, goals are set, and parameters are defined at the onset. There is a low tolerance for risk-taking and uncertainty. Important characteristics include
- Societal conventions
- People are allowed to be expressive and can show emotions
- Society is structured, conservative and rigid
- A society with high energy
Societies with low UAI score shows acceptance of various ideas and thoughts. There are few regulations, and the environment is free-flowing, and people are open and relaxed. The titles are less relevant, and respect is given to the individuals who can cope under all circumstances. There is a high tolerance for risk-taking, ambiguity and uncertainty because of lax regulations and rules. Important characteristics include
- Minimal urgency
- Inclination towards open-ended learning
- Open to change
- More inclined towards decision-making
5. Long-Term Versus Short-Term Orientation (LTO)
The next dimension of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is Long-Term Versus Short-Term Orientation (LTO). It refers to the connection of the past with current as well as future challenges.
Societies with high long-term orientation indicate that steadfastness is valued and traditions are kept and honoured. It puts its focus on the future and involves a delay in short-term success to achieve long-term success. The emphasis is on long-term growth, perseverance and persistence. Important characteristics include
- Emphasis on obligations and virtues
- Thrift is seen as a positive value
Societies with short-term view tend to place the onus on truth and consistency. It includes delivering short-term success and putting the burden on the present instead of in the future. The emphasis is on quick and fast results. Important characteristics include
- Emphasis on rights and values
- Strong convictions
6. Indulgence Versus Restraint (IVR)
The sixth dimension of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory is Indulgence Versus Restraint (IVR). It considers the tendency of society to fulfil its desires.
Countries that have high IVR score encourage free fulfilment of an individual’s emotions and drives. The society fosters dialogues and debate in meetings, prioritizes mentoring, coaching and feedback and emphasize work-life balance. Important characteristics include
- Having fun
- Enjoying life
- Optimistic approach
- Freedom of speech
Countries that have low IVR score put their onus on suppressing gratification. There are strict social norms and more regulation of people’s behaviour and conduct. People are professional and avoid jokes and fun activities in the formal sessions. Important characteristics include
- Rigid and controlled behaviour
- Pessimistic attitude
Strengths of Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions model
The strengths of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension are as follows-
- The Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension model is considered a beneficial key that helps to reflect on a personal assumption about what is normal.
- A non-profit organization can use this theory to review its expectations and behaviours. It will ultimately assist in refining and expanding fundraising practices.
- Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension is used by multinational managers in boosting the motivation level of the employees’ and minimizing any conflicts. It ultimately improves the performance of a business organization.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions.
The limitations of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension are as follows-
- The vast generalization of the theory has proved its weakness. It does not compare individuals instead puts the onus on central tendencies of a country or society.
- Another limitation of the Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension lies in the methodology of the original research. The survey at the beginning was limited to the employees of IBM, and the responses were from sales plus marketing employees only. This is why people think that Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension is based on inconclusive research.
- The world has seen lots of changes in terms of cultural and political movements. Technology has advanced to a higher degree, and we can see many changes that have revolutionized the thinking and behaviour pattern of people all over the world. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension theory was created way back, and it becomes essential to incorporate every change since then.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension helps to overcome the cultural and geographical differences that act as barriers in the effective communication between people belonging to different places and culture. The theory is a tool to understand and overcome the differences so that it becomes possible to work in a harmonious environment without making any faux-pass.
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