July 28th, 2012 Geert Hofstede
Geert Hofstede (or Gerard Hendrik Hofstede – born 2 October 1928, Haarlem) is an influential Dutch writer on the interactions between national cultures and organizational cultures, and is an author of several books including Culture's Consequences (2nd, fully revised edition, 2001) and Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind (2nd, revised edition 2005, with his son Gert Jan Hofstede).
Hofstede's study demonstrated that there are national and regional cultural groupings that affect the behaviour of societies and organizations, and that are very persistent across time.
Geert Hofstede's Framework for Assessing Culture
Geert Hofstede has found five dimensions of culture in his study of national work related values:
Small vs. Large Power Distance – the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Small power distance (e.g. Austria, Denmark) expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic. People relate to one another more as equals regardless of formal positions. Subordinates are more comfortable with and demand the right to contribute to and critique the decision making of those in power. In large power distance countries (e.g. China) less powerful accept power relations that are more autocratic and paternalistic. Subordinates acknowledge the power of others simply based on where they are situated in certain formal, hierarchical positions. As such the Power Distance Index Hofstede defines does not reflect an objective difference in power distribution but rather the way people perceive power differences. In Europe, Power Distance tends to be lower in Northern countries and higher in Southern and Eastern parts. There seems to be an admittedly disputable correlation with predominant religions.
Individualism vs. collectivism – individualism is contrasted with collectivism, and refers to the extent to which people are expected to stand up for themselves and to choose their own affiliations, or alternatively act predominantly as a member of a life-long group or organization. Latin American cultures rank among the most collectivist in this category, while the U.S.A. is one of the most individualistic cultures.
Masculinity vs. femininity - refers to the value placed on traditionally male or female values (as understood in most Western cultures). So called 'masculine' cultures value competitiveness, assertiveness, ambition, and the accumulation of wealth and material possessions, whereas feminine cultures place more value on relationships and quality of life. Japan is considered by Hofstede to be the most "masculine" culture, Sweden the most "feminine." Anglo cultures are moderately masculine. Because of the taboo on sexuality in many cultures, particularly masculine ones, and because of the obvious gender generalizations implied by the Hofstede's terminology, this dimension is often renamed by users of Hofstede's work, e.g. to Quantity of Life vs. Quality of Life. Another reading of the same dimension holds that in 'M' cultures, the differences between gender roles are more dramatic and less fluid than in 'F' cultures.
Uncertainty avoidance – reflects the extent to which members of a society attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty. Cultures that scored high in uncertainty avoidance prefer rules (e.g. about religion and food) and structured circumstances, and employees tend to remain longer with their present employer. Mediterranean cultures and Japan rank the highest in this category.
Long vs. short term orientation – describes a society's "time horizon," or the importance attached to the future versus the past and present. In long term oriented societies, values include persistence (perseverance), ordering relationships by status, thrift, and having a sense of shame; in short term oriented societies, values include normative statements, personal steadiness and stability, protecting ones face, respect for tradition, and reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts. China, Japan and the Asian countries score especially high (long-term) here, with Western nations scoring rather low (short-term) and many of the less developed nations very low; China scored highest and Pakistan lowest.
These cultural differences describe averages or tendencies and not characteristics of individuals. A Japanese person for example can have a very low 'uncertainty avoidance' compared to a Filipino even though their 'national' cultures point strongly in a different direction. Consequently, a country's scores should not be interpreted as deterministic.