Cultural Dimensions: Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory is a framework for cross-cultural communication. It was developed in 1980 by Dutch management researcher Geert Hofstede. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory shows the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members. It also shows how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from factor analysis. Culture is a pattern of values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, symbols, and norms, shared by a group of people.
Six categories of cultural dimensions are:
- Individualism – collectivism
- Power distance
- Uncertainty avoidance
- Masculine – feminine values
- High context – lower context
- Monochronic time – Polychronic time
1. Individualistic/ Collectivism: Prefer to act independently or interdependently.
- Individualism: Individualistic members will work alone and seek credit for their own work. Value individual achievement and freedom. US, Australia, Canada.
- Collectivism: Collectivist members will work in groups and try to help each other. Collectivist members may prefer face-to-face discussions instead of virtual discussions. Emphasize group identity. Asian and Latin American countries.
Recommended Adaptations: Encourage collectivism. Make sure that individualistic members understand that they are part of a larger group that needs their input and participation to achieve a shared goal.
2. Power distance: Extent of equity or status among members.
- High power: Inequity between high- and low-status members. Mexico, India, Singapore.
- Low power: Equity and interdependence among group members. New Zealand, Denmark.
Recommended Adaptations: Establish clear norms for member behavior. To what extent will members participate in decision-making? How will specific tasks be assigned? How and by whom will members be evaluated? Who will serve as leader(s)?
3. Uncertainty avoidance: Extent of comfort in uncertain situations.
- High uncertainty: Prefer rules, plans, and routines. Japan, Belgium, Greece.
- Low uncertainty: Comfortable with ambiguity and unpredictability. Jamaica, Hong Kong
Recommended Adaptations: Provide clear instructions to the high uncertainty members while giving low uncertainty members opportunities to function unaided.
4. Masculinity – Feminists: Concern for self and success versus a focus on caring and sharing.
Masculine: Masculine-oriented members focus on the task and personal success. Assertive, decisive, dominant. Japan, Venezuela, Italy.
Feminine: Feminine-oriented members focus on member relations and respect for others. Nurturing, cooperative. Sweden, Norway, Denmark.
Recommended Adaptations: Give high-context members time to review information and react; demonstrate the value o going beyond “just facts” to low-context members.
5. High context – low context: Directness of communication is specific circumstances.
- High context: High context members consider background, nonverbal cues, and interpersonal history when communicating. Messages are implied and context-sensitive. Japan, China, Greece, Mexico
- Low Context: Low-context members want facts a clear, direct, communication. Messages are explicit, factual, and objective. England, the US, and Germany.
Recommended Adaptations: Give high-context members time to review the information and react; demonstrate the value of going beyond “just facts” too low context-members.
6. Monochronic – Polychronic: How people organize and value time.
- Monochronic: Monochronic members focus on one task at a time and work hard to meet deadlines. Adhere to plans, schedules, and deadlines because time is valuable. North America and Northern European.
- Polychronic: Polychronic members are frequently late, do many things at once, are easily distracted and tolerant of interruptions. Not obsessed with promptness or schedules because time is not highly valued. Kenya, Argentina, African American.
Recommended Adaptations: Encourage monochromic members to take responsibility for time-sensitive tasks while accepting that polychromic members will vary Punctual based on the nature and importance of a situation or relationship.