I’ve introduced Geert Hofstede a couple of posts ago, so I’ll share a bit more about his work as an “in-between post” in my Personal Positive Power blog series. He researched national cultures and I admire his work. He offers insights about organizational culture as well: check out his book “Cultures and Organizations – software of the mind – Intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival”.
Hofstede’s six dimensions determine both national and organizational cultures: Power Distance, Individuality (versus Collectivism), Masculinity (versus Femininity) Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientation (versus Short-Term) and Indulgence (versus Restraint). Let’s look at a few of these while I take my home country as an example.
There is inequality in every society because people differ in abilities, power, wealth, and status. Power Distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
The Netherlands scores rather low on this dimension: Being Dutch means being independent, having accessible leaders, decentralized power and participation by employees. The USA has a higher power distance.
Individualism versus Collectivism
Individualism is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves. In Collectivist societies, people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
The Netherlands is an Individualistic society: Dutch people cherish their autonomy, just like Americans do.
What is the tolerance of the ambiguous and the unpredictable? That’s what Uncertainty Avoidance is about. Extreme ambiguity creates intolerable anxiety. Every society has developed ways to alleviate this anxiety. Technology, laws and rules and religion all help against the feeling of uncertainty. Even ineffective rules can satisfy the need for uncertainty avoidance!
The Netherlands has a slight preference for avoiding uncertainty. France scores extremely high, while the British can handle uncertainty better. The USA scores low on uncertainty avoidance so might feel better equipped to improvise, experiment and see what happens.
Masculinity versus Femininity
A masculine culture indicates that the society is driven by competition, achievement, and success. A more feminine culture means that the dominant values are caring: both for others and for yourself. Quality of life is a sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable.
The Netherlands has a feminine culture where it’s okay to express yourself, to make mistakes, to be humble, to ask questions, and to experiment. The culture is less about status and more about being content. The USA tends toward a more masculine culture.
- So, how would you score your organization or national culture on these dimensions?
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