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Analysis of the Cultural Dimension Models in International Business

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INTRODUCTION

There have been several models developed to try and help us understand culture and its differences. In this term paper, we will focus on the differences between the models by Gon Hofstede, Fon Trompenaar and Ronen & Shenkar. Fon Trompenaar’s and Hofstede’s models are quite similar as they explain the differences in culture based on personality while Ronen and Shenkar focused on the cultural clustering of countries based on their similarities in work-related attitudes.

MAINBODY

DIMENSIONS OF CULTURE IN BUSINESS

This group paper discusses culture in the work place in terms of dimensions. These are concepts that allow variation between the attributes of cultures to be quantified, attention will be given to the reflection of these cultural dimensions in the business environment (Browaeys & Price, 2011). In this paper we shall look at dimensions of culture in the business environment using Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of culture, Fon Trompenaars’ model of cultural dimension and the Ronen and Shenkar model.

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GEERT HOFSTEDE’S DIMENSIONS OF CULTURE

Geert Hofstede’s research is well known worldwide and is not only frequently quoted and applied in cross-cultural research, but is also used in prescriptive works on dealing with other cultures. However it often gets a lot of criticism from other theorists and practitioners alike. Nevertheless, consideration of Hofstede’s work is indispensable to any study on culture and management. The following are Hofstede’s cultural dimensions.

LOW/HIGH POWER DISTANCE

Power distance refers to the extent to which members of a culture expect and accept that power is unequally distributed in a society. Power and inequality is present in every culture but this dimension tries to see to what extent this is in different cultures. In high power distance cultures, the leaders are essentially benevolent autocrats and usually inaccessible by their subordinates and they enjoy the privileges their power gives them. Usually when something goes wrong, the subordinates are the ones to blame and they are very dependent on their superiors. However in low power distance cultures, the leaders are more oriented to their subordinates and allow them to participate in decision making. The relationship between the two is more horizontal than vertical and the leaders are easily accessible. If anything goes wrong, the system is blame and not the subordinates alone. (Marie-Joelle Browaeys & Roger Price, 2011)

INDIVIDUALISM/COLLECTIVISM

This dimension concerns itself with the relationship between the individual and the group. To what extent are the individuals in a society autonomous and to what extent are they embedded in a group. It basically talks about the importance a culture grouping attaches to relationships. Some cultures place more importance on personal relationships rather than the task to be performed and these are individualistic in nature. Their relationships are usually within the family, meaning blood-ties guarantee trust and loyalty and any relationship outside the family need to be built. In collectivist type cultures, the collective achievement is the focus rather than individual achievement, they put more focus on their collective relationship rather than individual relations, meaning the team comes first then individual needs follow. (Marie-Joelle Browaeys & Roger Price, 2011)

SHORT TERM VERSUS LONG TERM ORIENTATION

The dimensions outlined above were supplemented by this fifth dimension, Hofstede claims that this dimension was not found in the data used to determine the original dimensions because the questions used in the survey were designed by westerners. When research was made into values suggested by researchers with what Hofstede calls ‘eastern minds’ did this fifth dimension come to life. A short term oriented culture includes fostering virtues related to past and present especially in respect for traditions; preservation of this is a societal obligation. A long term oriented culture includes fostering virtues that are oriented towards the future. (Marie-Joelle Browaeys & Roger Price, 2011)

HIGH UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE

There are many ways to detect if someone has a high amount of uncertainty avoidance. Factors to consider are usually; the use of formality and how well they can interact with others, evident resistance of change and not being able to tolerate untraditional ways. All these are characteristics of high uncertainty avoidance.

People in high uncertainty avoidance societies may be afraid of people whom are different than them. Examples of countries with high uncertainty avoidance would be Italy, Korea, Mexico and Russia.

LOW UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE

In disparity, people can also show characteristics of low uncertainty avoidance. Unlike high uncertainty avoidance, those with low level use informality when conversing with others, they often rely on informal norms and behaviors in most matters. Also, they will show no to little resistance to change.

Additionally, people with low uncertainty avoidance will not have any difficulty with interacting with people whom are different than them. They are very open to learning new things from different cultures and usually don’t find a hard time in tolerating traditional ways.

MASCULINITY AND FEMININITY

Masculinity-femininity cultural dimension refers to the distribution of values between the gender-men and women. A society is called feminine when there is not a strong differentiation between the genders for emotional and social roles. Both men and women should be modest, caring and loving and both boys and girls may cry, but neither should fight.

In masculine societies, both men and women are confident and aggressive; however women are less aggressive and less confident than the men.

For individuals from a highly masculine cultural background, mothers may tend to feel more comfortable dealing with the emotional implications of a diagnosis from a doctor, while fathers may feel more comfortable handling the factual aspects of the situation and show less emotion in response to a diagnosis. In a hospital situation, this may include appointment scheduling, payment.

While on the other hand individuals from low masculine cultural background both, parents will share equal responsibility. Work isn’t divided according to your gender. Both parents will share roles example if the father is in with the doctor the mother can proceed to go pay. In this kind of culture there is nothing like this is what a woman should do or this is what a man should do. All roles are equally shared.

FON TROMPENAARS’ MODEL OF CULTURE DIMENSION

Fon Trompenaars’ model of culture dimension contains seven dimensions universalism vs. particularism, individualism vs. communalism, specific vs. diffuse, neutral vs. emotional, achievement vs. ascription, sequential time vs. synchronous time and internal direction vs. external direction as discussed below.

1. UNIVERSALISM VS PARTICULARISM

UNIVERSALISM

People have high regards on laws, rules, values, and obligations. They try to fairly interact with people in relationships to the rules or laws but forget that relationships are formed before the rules are followed.

PARTICULARISM

People believe that each circumstance, and each relationship, dictates the rules that they live by. Their response to a situation may change, based on what is happening in the moment, and who is involved.

2. INDIVIDUALISM VS COMMUNITARIANISM

INDIVIDUALISM

People believe in personal freedom and achievement. They believe that you make your own decisions, and that you must take care of yourself.

COMMUNITARIANISM

People believe that the group is more important than the individual is. The group provides help and safety, in exchange for loyalty. The group is always stronger than an individual is.

3. SPECIFIC VS DIFFUSE

SPECIFIC

People keep work and personal lives separate. As a result, they believe that relationships do not have much of an impact on work objectives, and, although good relationships are important, they believe that people can work together without having a good relationship.

DIFFUSE

People see an overlap between their work and personal life. They believe that good relationships are vital to meeting business objectives, and that their relationships with others will be the same, whether they are at work or meeting socially. People spend time outside work hours with colleagues and clients.

4. NEUTRAL VS EMOTIONAL

NEUTRAL

People make a great effort to control their emotions. Reason influences their actions far more than their feelings. People do not reveal what they are thinking or how they are feeling.

EMOTIONAL

People want to find ways to express their emotions, even spontaneously, at work. In these cultures, it is welcome and accepted to show emotion.

5. ACHIEVEMENT VS ASCRIPTION

ACHIEVEMENT

People believe that you are what you do, and they base your worth accordingly. These cultures value performance, no matter who you are.

ASCRIPTION

People believe that you should be valued for who you are. Power, title, and position matter in these cultures, and these roles define behavior.

6. SEQUENTIAL TIME VS SYNCHRONOUS TIME

SEQUENTIAL TIME

People like events to happen in order. They place a high value on punctuality, planning and staying on schedule. In this culture, “time is money,” and people do not appreciate it when their schedule is thrown off.

SYNCHRONOUS TIME

People see the past, present, and future as interwoven periods. They often work on several projects at once, and view plans and commitments as flexible.

7. INTERNAL DIRECTION VS EXTERNAL DIRECTION

INTERNAL DIRECTION

People believe that they can control nature or their environment to achieve goals. This includes how they work with teams and within organizations.

EXTERNAL DIRECTION

People believe that nature, or their environment controls them; they must work with their environment to achieve goals. At work or in relationships, they focus their actions on others, and they avoid conflict where possible. People often need reassurance that they are doing a good job.

RONEN AND SHENKAR MODEL

Ronen and Shenkar came up with a model that grouped countries based on the similarities and differences in work-related attitudes. These clusters have developed over time having countries that were previously not included being included in areas such as Africa and Latin America. Predictors of clusters are examined on the role of language, religions and geography in generating information.

These clusters include:

  • Nordic Europe – Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden
  • Anglo-Saxons – United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada
  • Latin Europe – Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal
  • Latin America – Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia
  • Far Eastern – Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia
  • Arab – United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait
  • Germanic Europe – Germany, Austria, Switzerland
  • Near Eastern – Turkey, Iran, Greece

CASE STUDIES

ACTIVITY 2.1 MASTERS OF COLLABORATION

Question 1: a) Look up the scores of these same countries on the remaining cultural dimensions on www.gert-hofstede.com

  • § USA
  • Power distance-40
  • Masculinity-62
  • Long term orientation-26
  • § GERMANY
  • Power distance-35
  • Masculinity-66
  • Long term orientation-83

Question 1: b) How could score differences on these other dimensions also influence collaboration between the four cultures mentioned? Give concrete examples, if possible.

This case study talks about collaboration and how working together is far more beneficial than working alone.

It talks about the collaborations between Rover (a British car company) and Honda (a Japanese car company) and how the collaboration suffered using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions

It also talks about DaimlerChrysler Link which was between Germany and USA and how that collaboration suffered as well.

The score differences on these other dimensions as shown in question 1(a) may also influence collaboration between the four cultures in the following ways;

§ Power distance – The extent to which the society expect and accept that power is unequally distributed in the society.

§ Masculinity – A society that’s assertive and competitive in nature and less nurturing.

§ Long term orientation – Fostering virtues oriented towards the future and less on those of the past and present.

Question 2: To what extent can Hofstede’s cultural dimensions be used to explain such cultural gaps?

Cultural gaps can exist even within an organization between two departments of the same organization. This is because even though there’s the overall organizational culture all the workers share, each individual comes with their own culture depending on their background. These differences in culture can bring about the gap. One person may come from an individualism kind of culture while his colleague comes from a collectivism kind of culture, these two are used to doing things differently and this difference can bring about a gap between them.

ACTIVITY 2.2 PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS

Question 1: Why were the Canadian hosts surprised by the behavior of the Chinese? How do you think the Canadians expected the Chinese to behave?

The Canadians were surprised because they expected the Chinese to be very appreciative of the measures they had taken to make sure everything was ready for them.

They expected the Chinese to be pleasantly surprised therefore leading them to be warmer towards the Canadians.

Looking at Trompenaar’s seven dimensions of culture, we can relate to the behaviour of the Canadians vs Chinese as neutral vs. emotional. The Chinese seem to come from a culture that is very reserved in the showing of emotions. Being overly friendly (as the Canadians were) was not normal for them whereas the Canadians are of a more emotional culture. They believe in showing emotions. That was probably why they expected the Chinese to be very happy and to show their excitement.

Question 2: Why do you think the Chinese behaved the way they did?

REASON FOR CHINESE BEHAVIOUR

The Chinese feel that they were entitled to more privileges than what they got because they were visiting the country they were going to struck a business deal with so it was work of the Canadians to patronize them.

Cultural difference can also be another cause of the way the Chinese behaved because their culture might be different from that of the Canadians. Maybe in the Chinese culture an elaborate party on the first day of meeting business partners but rather on the day the deal has been signed.

The silent behaviour can also be a strategy that they developed to have the Canadian’s think the deal is not perfect hence to help in negotiating new prices or in the entire negotiation.

The Chinese might be behaving that way because they respect the Canadians because they are in their country and respect they authority that it comes with.

The Chinese might also have an individualistic cultural dimension to business. Thus their behaviour since they believe that the task prevails over relationship.According to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, China’s masculinity score is 66, meaning it is a masculine society. The Chinese people are willing to sacrifice leisure and family priorities for work and they are success oriented and driven. This is why the Chinese acted the way they did, they didn’t go there for leisure, they went their strictly for work and that’s why they had no interest in socializing with the Canadians.

Question 3: If you had to choose a word to describe Chinese culture, what would that word be?

The word we would choose is uncertain. This can be explained well in Hofstede’s framework which states uncertainty avoidance is the degree to which individuals of a specific society are comfortable with the unknown. Just like the Chinese tried to minimize the social event which was uncertain to them.

Question 4: Read the information on the fifth dimension one more time. Try to explain the Chinese author’s analysis by using the values described in concept 2.1.

Importance of work goals – The Chinese guests made excuses that they were tired after their journey and avoided the Chinese floor show after dinner.

The Chinese were formal – Throughout their visit the Chinese maintained a formal behavior.

The Chinese people did not interact with the Canadians – The Chinese said very little at the Canadians attempts to make social conversations which shows that the Chinese people do not value human relationships.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, these three models provide a manager with a greater understanding based on their personalities and even their nationality or where they have lived previously. With an understanding of Hofstede and Trompenaar’s models, it would be easy to pick out certain behaviour in your employees and find out how best to deal with them. Ronen and Shenkar’s model would be a good model to categorize workers according to their strengths based on nationality. If people from country X are well known for a certain trait then the manager could use that information to their advantage. Of course, this will not always be accurate or a true representation of an individual but it is a great starting point.

RECCOMMENDATIONS

We recommend that one should use Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Fon Trompenaars’ model or Ronen and Shenkar model in order to understand a particular culture.

We recommend that even though cultures may fall into the same category it is important to check their percentages on those dimensions for a better understanding. The percentages are available on www.geert-hofstede.com

We recommend that no culture is superior or inferior to another. That regardless of the category they belong to in reference to Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Fon Trompenaars’ model or Ronen and Shenkar model no culture is superior or inferior to another.

We recommend that all cultures should be respected regardless of the category they belong to in reference to Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Fon Trompenaars’ model or Ronen and Shenkar model.

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