What is HOFSTEDE’S CULTURAL DIMENSIONS THEORY?

Professor Geert Hofstede’s belief that culture is more often a source of conflict than synergy led him to analyze the impact of different societal cultures on the members of a community. The result of his research was a cultural analysis tool – one set to bridge the differences between cultures in an international workspace. Hofstede’s original survey was undertaken on the employees of IBM in 56 countries, from 1967 to 1973, and involved over 1000 interviews and a variety of angles to bring about the model of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions.

The original survey identified four dimensions about cross-cultural exchange and the behavior associated with the same, although the model has been modified twice – first by individual researchers in Hong Kong and then by Hofstede himself. The contemporary model encompasses the parameters of individualism-collectivism, the avoidance of uncertainty, power distance or strength of social hierarchy, task-orientation versus person-orientation (masculinity-femininity), long-term orientation, and indulgence versus self-restraint.

  • The ‘Power Distance Index’ (PDI) is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of various organizations and or institutions accept their power and in turn, expect the power to be distributed equally. A higher degree of this index (such as in Latin, African and Asian countries) indicates the definite establishment of the hierarchy in this regard as opposed to when people question authority, and an effort for the distribution of power is made (like Germanic countries and Australia)
  • The ‘Individualism vs. Collectivism Index’ (IDV) explores the degree to which people in a societal setting are then integrated into groups via a similar connection. While the former, implying loose ties, relates an individual with only one’s immediate family, the latter describes societies comprising of highly-integrated relationships and involve extended familial relations and those of other groups. The position of a society on the IDV scale reflected in the definition of people’s self-image in terms of “I” or “we.”
  • The ‘Male versus Female Index’ (MAS) pertains to conventional gender roles. While Masculinity represents a preference in society for academic and working achievements, heroism and bravery, being more assertive and material rewards come more easily to the male counterpart, whereas with femininity these characteristics lean more towards values like cooperation and being a team player, modesty and being more docile than aggressive, caring for the meeker individuals and quality of life and environment in the workplace. MAS scores are relatively high in the United Kingdom, Japan, and certain other European countries, while countries such as Sweden and Norway rank comparatively lower.
  • The ‘Uncertainty Avoidance’ (UAI) is defined as a society’s tolerance for lack and inability to make decisions with high scores implying stiff codes of behavior, absolute truth, guidelines and laws (Germany, Belgium) while lower scores indicate more acceptance of differing thoughts or ideas (Denmark, Sweden). The index exhibits the degree to which people accept or avoid an event of something unplanned or unpleasant and then shy away from the status quo.
  • Long-term orientation versus short-term orientation’ (LTO) links the connection of the past to the present actions or future challenges. A lower ‘short term’ score implies the maintenance of tradition, an increased value on steadfastness and often a low economic development rate (Latin and African countries), while a high ‘long term’ score implies a reliance on adaptation and pragmatic problem-solving (China, Japan, Hong Kong).
  • The ‘Indulgence versus Restraint‘ (IND) refers to the extent of freedom afforded by societal norms to citizens. While a high IND score or indulgence (Latin America, parts of Africa) implies the free satisfaction of the basic and the natural desires concerning enjoyment, a low score or restraint points to the regulation of the same by invasive and strict social expectancy (East Asia, Eastern Europe). The impact of globalization and the creation of the global village make
  • Model extremely relevant in the contexts of sociology, anthropology, international business, and cross-cultural psychology. However, the limitations of the model have been hinted at by McSweeney and Allon, with the latter having located methodological as well as theoretical inconsistencies in the same.

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