Hofstede Cultural Dimensions
With regards to cultural dimensions, there are some important perspectives which must come to the forefront in this analysis. Geert Hofstede was quite influential in the field of cultural communications. Hofstede's cultural dimensions can be thought of as a framework for cross-cultural discussions in a custom written research paper from Paper Masters.
In terms of the theoretical framework of this concept, it seeks to describe the ways in which society's behaviors and culture influence the values of its members. The origins were due to Hofstede's experiences using factor analysis from a survey complied by IBM for employees between 1967 and 1973. Hofstede conceptualized the model into several dimensions which could be analyzed. These include the following:
- Uncertainty avoidance
- Power distance
- Long-term orientation
- Indulgence vs. self-restraint
Hofstede added that component in 2010. This proves that cultural dimensions are constantly changing based on technological innovations, along with the values in which society may consider important.
Applying Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions
The ways in which this theory may be applied also include international relations, particularly communication and management. Through a hierarchal framework, communication may seem difficult, for example, leaders of an American company communicating with foreign leaders in business. Through cross-cultural communication, along with sensitivity, a mutually beneficial experience would occur.
Protocol, along with small talk, would be an example of these dynamics coming into play. If one group preferred more formal negotiations whereas another wanted to socialize, perhaps through going to lunch, this may result in them connecting or disconnecting, depending on which communication style was more prevalent. Gender may play a role in this as well, if one culture deemed women insignificant as leaders, and another was more permissive. This is important with regards to Hofstede's cultural dimensions. Overall, society will do well to recognize the values a group has will determine their behavior within their niche, and with other people, as well.
Explanation of the Five Cultural Dimensions
Hofstede's first dimension is power distance, which refers to the acceptance that individuals in the culture have toward the unequal distribution of power. Eastern cultures have a high power distance, indicating that both leaders and followers are comfortable with the high degree of separation created by the various status positions within society. As a result, Easterners place heavy emphasis on the status of the members of the negotiating team, and are less willing to negotiate with individuals that they perceive as low status despite the existence of authority to negotiate. In contrast, Western cultures have a low power distance rating, suggesting that most Westerners are more egalitarian in their relationships, with status seen as a less important factor. In the context of cross-cultural negotiations, it becomes important for both sides to recognize the relative importance of status to the other party. As a result, Western negotiators should be of approximately the same status as their Eastern counterparts in order to facilitate the negotiating process.
The second of Hofstede's dimensions is individualism, which refers to the degree in which individuals are integrated into groups within the society. In Eastern culture, there is a high degree of collectivism, with people highly integrated into extended family and work groups from the time of their birth. As a result, there is a very high expectation that consensus and harmony must be achieved in order to proceed with any decision that affects the group. Loyalty to the group is paramount, with individuals expected to sacrifice their well being for the welfare of the group. In contrast, Western cultures have relatively loose ties between individuals, with people expected to look after themselves and only their immediate families. These differences in the individualism dimension result in a slower pace of negotiations for Easterners due to the need to deliberate and consider the impact of the negotiation outcome on the group. In highly bureaucratized Eastern nations such as China, the pace is even slower due to the need to obtain a greater degree of collective consensus for the negotiation outcome.
Hofstede's masculinity/femininity dimension refers to the distribution of the roles of the genders in a society. In this model, feminine attitudes and perceptions do not vary significantly across cultures, while masculine attitudes and perceptions range from very assertive and competitive to the more feminine of caring and modest. In societies where masculine competitive values are emphasized, there is a greater gap between masculine and feminine values. The more masculine cultures will tend to respond to conflict with aggression, while the more feminine cultures will tend to respond to conflict with negotiation. Based on this dimension, Eastern cultures tend more toward the feminine due to a concern with relationship building, trust and group consensus. Western cultures are more aggressive and are concerned with performance and justice. Nonetheless, the differences between Eastern and Western cultures in the masculinity/femininity dimension are not great when empirically measured by researchers, suggesting that this dimension has a lower degree of impact on the negotiating process than other cultural dimensions. Goodwin and Goodwin (1999), for example, report that the data from the IBM studies on which Hofstede based his theories indicates that Malaysians were only slightly less masculine than New Zeal anders. The specific degree of variance in the masculinity/femininity dimension appears to be governed more by local national culture than by the broad category of Eastern and Western culture.
Hofstede's next dimension is uncertainty avoidance, which describes the degree of comfort that individuals in a particular culture have with ambiguity. A culture with a high uncertainty avoidance level prefers formal rules of behavior and structured situation, with uncertainty manifesting itself in high anxiety levels. In general, Eastern cultures tend to minimize uncertainty, with members of these societies feeling uncomfortable in unstructured situations. Strict laws and codes of behavior that create a reasonable ability to predict outcomes help to minimize uncertainty, and any deviation from the formal societal pattern is not well received. Western cultures generally have a higher tolerance for uncertainty, emphasize the need for fewer rules and are more tolerant of diverse opinions. At the same time, there are significant national cultural deviations from this generalized norm on both the Eastern and Western sides. For example, uncertainty avoidance is higher in Japan than in other Eastern nations and higher in Germany than in other Western nations.
The uncertainty avoidance dimension has been identified as one of the critical factors in the development of negative spirals during the negotiation process between Eastern and Western businesses. The anxiety produced by uncertainty in the negotiation and the proposed resolutions often causes the Eastern negotiator to delay the process while they evaluate the degree of uncertainty. At the same time, the need to preserve face prevents them from directly identifying the cause of the delay. This often produces frustration on the part of the Western negotiator that has a higher level of comfort with uncertainty. As a result, the Western negotiator views the behavior of their counterpart as procrastination and insincerity.
Hofstede's fifth dimension was developed after he proposed his initial theories and is referred to as Confucian Dynamism, which is meant to identify some of the cultural nuances that led to the rapid development of East Asian economies. In effect, this dimension deals with the short-term or long-term outlook of a culture, and examines the selective promotion of various values meant to foster a particular outlook. Specifically, Confucian Dynamism refers to the long-term outlook of Eastern cultures, which is influenced by the values of Confucianism and Buddhism that stress harmony, cooperation and maximizing the benefit to the group. As a result, Eastern negotiators are very concerned with establishing a long-term relationship as one of the outcomes of the negotiation, which is a benefit that is greater than the immediate subject matter of the negotiations. In contrast, the Western orientation is far more short-term, seeking to derive immediate benefits from the negotiation, with a long-term relationship perceived as a series of short-term negotiations. As a result, the Western negotiator is generally highly focused on the specific subject matter of the negotiation, with a relatively narrow view of the nature of the beneficial outcome of the negotiations.