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In today's global marketplace, it's important to understand the differences between cultures, as well as how those differences affect the way you do business.
One of the ways to understand culture is to look at it in the four dimensions established by Hofstede: 1.
Individualism vs.
Collectivism 2.
Small or Large Scale Power Distance 3.
Uncertainty Avoidance 4.
Masculinity vs.
Femininity
The first dimension is Individualism vs.
Collectivism
.
The issue in this dimension is the relation between an individual's interests and the interests of the group.
In individualist societies, the individual exercises loose ties between others, is concerned with his own self-interests, and possibly the interests of his immediate family.
Individualist societies normally have a large degree of freedom and liberty, which encourages people to pursue personal goals and ambitions.
In collectivistic societies, individuals are not so much concerned with their own interests as they are the interests of their group, which can include immediate and extended families.
Every country theoretically fits somewhere along the Individualist-Collectivist continuum.
The second dimension measures Small or Large Scale Power Distance.
The fundamental idea is how each society deals with inequality.
All societies suffer from inequality, but some are more unequal than others.
Some of the variables which contribute to inequality are physical size, intellectual giftedness, wealth, and heredity.
In organizations, scholars like Hofstede contend that the degree of Power Distance is associated with centralization and autocratic leadership.
Uncertainty Avoidance is the third dimension.
In short, this dimension deals with how each society copes with the uncertainty of an unknown future.
Some societies accept more readily this uncertainty without much fear.
These "Weak Uncertainty Avoidance" societies take life as it comes, do not work as hard, are willing to take risks, and are very tolerant of almost any behavior and opinion.
On the other hand, other societies experience anxiety because of an uncertain future.
Also known as "Strong Uncertainty Avoidance" societies, these cultures are marked by emotional stress and aggressiveness.
Finally, the fourth dimension is Masculinity vs.
Femininity
.
The issue is role divisions between men and women in society.
In every society, men and women perform certain roles; men normally take more dominant roles, while women are concerned with more caring and supportive roles.
One can use these types of roles to describe similarities between cultures.
"Masculine" cultures value a high degree of achievement, money, and work first.
More "feminine" societies value quality of life, relationships, and helping others before power and money.
From these four dimensions, we can understand why it is wrong to assume or assign one management theory to work for all cultures and societies.
Much of the writing on management over the past couple of decades, especially about leadership, models of organization, and motivation, have been written from an American point of view.
Economically, this points to the importance of the US economy during this period, but culturally it does not consider the impact on other societies.
While more works needs to be done to understand the entire scope of the role culture plays in management, understanding that there are differences, and using these dimensions to explore them, is the first step.
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