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Work Culture Described by Hofstede's Method

September 1, 2021

Hofstede's Method in work culture

Imagine yourself being put in charge of a large international team, a dream you have been harboring in your mind for years. You get a boost of excitement and they start to take over you until you hear that being the boss on this scale means having to deal with different work cultures of various ethnicities. You will have a close working relationship with these people; and just like that, your enthusiasm can start to crumble down to the floor. Now, you’re getting nervous about everything; from small office chit-chats to having to spend hours in a confined conference room with culturally diverse people who already don’t see much in you. To give you back your composure, it’s vital you have a basic understanding of how professor Hofstede’s method describes work culture. Also known as Hofstede’s Six Dimensions of Culture, his theory guides you into breaking an unpleasant stalemate situation with your colleagues of other cultures and remove the barriers blocking the connections between you.

Professor Geert Hofstede, the intellectual responsible for the dimension ideology, created this theory in 1980 after a decade of studies, aims his method to determine the dimensions in which cultures wary. Since the introduction, Hofstede’s Six-Dimensional Theory has become a milestone in understanding how cultural differences affect the working atmosphere.

At first, the theory consisted of four dimensions, but later on, and after studying IBM staff in over 50 countries, he defined the fifth and sixth dimensions that give us clear insight into how culture reshapes the workspace. Here are the six dimensions:

1.    Power Distance Index (high vs. low)
2.    Individualism vs. Collectivism.
3.    Masculinity vs. Femininity.
4.    Uncertainty Avoidance Index (high versus low).
5.    Long vs. Short-Term Orientation.
6.    Indulgence vs. Restraint.

Each country will be rated on 0 to 100 in every dimension.
After completing his work, Hofstede observed a distinct algorithm of similarities and differences among the first four dimensions.

Let’s take a deeper look into these dimensions:

1. Power Distance Index (high vs. low)

This dimension testifies to the existence of inequality in the working environment. In more plain words, Hofstede’s method describes work culture by putting a finger on the difference between people with power and without.

A high DPI score shows that society has come to terms with the unleveled distribution of power and to a great effect, members know where they stand in an organization and “their place.” On the other hand, scoring a low DPI puts a system into a widely-dispersed power ambiance where having more power comes with consequences as the other party members don’t seem so keen about it and don’t accept the inequality.

A great example of a high DPI society would be Malaysia – scoring 100 on the scale – where members don’t take things into their own hands and wait for the instruction of the manager. They want the boss to dump down tasks to them, and if not so, they’d consider the task to be utterly banal.

2. Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)

This dimension depicts the power of ties people feel towards one another.

A high IDV rate tells us weaker and shakier interpersonal bunds. Consequently, it’s less likely for people to take blame and responsibility for other’s outcomes and actions. In individualistic communities and workspaces, people separate work-life from social life, place time, personal freedom, and privacy on top of all, and enjoy the time to time challenges.

But if you take a look on the other side of the scale, in a more related system or aka society, people keep close binds to the group they participate in and are more susceptible to take part in group actions. In return, they are accepted into the group with open arms, and the group stands by their side in defending their rights. In these societies, people do care for each other, and one’s well-being is always on the top of another’s list. In these groups, keeping up with the group’s pace and not being the foul note in the collective harmony, overrides everything and anything; another great example of how Hofstede’s method describes work culture.

3. Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS)

This dimension refers to the different statues of men and women across distinct cultures.

Working in a masculine society, the roles of men and women don’t overlap that much. Here, it’s expected of men to exert their power and take on the leading roles. They are to be reliable, healthy, decisive, fast, and limit-pushing.

Japan is an excellent example of a high MAS, with a score of 95. Although, in this country, kids (boys and girls) are taught the value of competing and finding their own place in the world, still the social rules reign supreme over the workspace and its workforce; so, be ready for hierarchical, deferential, and excessively traditionally patriarchal environment.  In this system, long working hours don’t seem like a far-fetched idea, and women feel the pressure to perform more as a housewife than a 16-hours-a-day employee. Nonetheless, due to infant-teaching mechanisms, they will put in a considerable amount of effort to win over their masculine counterparts.

On the contrary, in a society like Sweden, a feminine-dominant atmosphere, a great deal of overlap between men and women roles can be detected, and modesty counts as a virtue. So, to not unintentionally provoke your co-workers or subordinates, try to stay clear of the nasty old “boys club” mentality, even though it might still exist. Workplace flexibility and balance between work and social life are considered to be of great value, and people sour up through ranks by negotiating, collaborating, and sticking to the work ethics.

4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

If you know what coping with anxiety means, then this is your topic.

In this dimension, societies with high UAI are described as systems where people want to take control of everything and have fewer surprises on their paths. If by any means, they can’t control their lives, they leave everything up in the hands of faith and go with the flow of the river. This translates into a more conservative, rigid, and framed working culture unless an unstoppable danger threatens the …. Survival. The staff takes its social conventions pretty seriously, and the unspoken “rules” might hatch in these environments. Be careful and clear about your intentions, since the employees are prone to show emotion or anger, in presumed necessary.

Greece outclasses all others in terms of UAI score with a staggering number of 100. Therefore, if you’re thinking about opening your own business in Greece, be aware of social tendencies that shape the cultural aspects of the workspace. Your colleagues or employees might show some emotional outbursts from time to time, but, at the end of the way, it’s more likely for them to go the rational and conservative solution.

Unlike Greece, Singapore falls the lowest on the UAI spectrum. Singaporean don’t really follow structured policies and enjoy the unknown void of making spontaneous innovations and being generally inclusive. Keep in mind that how much they seem inclined to open-minded decision making, you always need to keep them in check, and some rules must be placed.

5. Long vs. Short-Term Orientation

Initially, describe as the “Pragmatic Versus Normative” or “PRA,” this dimension in “Hofstede’s method describes work culture” focuses on the time horizon people of a society display. Basically, what it tries to point out is that countries and cultures that like to do things in the long-term are more pragmatic and modest. Members of these types of societies often wonder what is right and value education. They are more likely to compromise but in their own unique way. While working with them, try to be modest and selfless.

On the other side, the short-term-oriented communities, people care more about principles, truth, and consistency. They often want to be clear on the reason behind events and pay tremendous attention and respect to religious and national subjects. Our tips for you while working in such societies are to sell yourself to be taken seriously and don’t show any sign of weakness, cause that might undermine your gesture.

Power Distance on Company Culture blog by QPage

6. Indulgence vs. Restraint (IVR)

Hofstede’s sixth dimension, which he, to some extent, owns its integrity and definition to Michael Minkov, is a new topic, and the results coming out of it are considered to be less consistent.

What a high IVR rate demonstrates is countries with a greater appreciation of life and with the mentality of enjoying life. With greater appreciation, comes more positive vibes and other highly-disputed social behaviors, like freedom of speech or personal happiness. While working in these types of work cultures, you shouldn’t take life too seriously. The workforce enjoys flexible work hours and bestows the balance between their work and social life.

Countries with a high IVR score allow or encourage relatively free gratification of people’s own drives and emotions, such as enjoying life and having fun. In a society with a low IVR score, there is more emphasis on suppressing gratification and more regulation of people’s conduct and behavior, and there are stricter social norms.

Right across the scale, in countries with low IVR ratings, the work culture puts people in a position to spend less time in the gratification of their successes and not to boast about their glories. They are asked to behave in a more rigid and controlled way. For these people, stricter social tendencies have a higher value.

Eastern European countries like Russia conceived lower IVR and are characterized by restrained cultures. Making fewer jokes informal meetings is an essential factor to keep in mind and again shows us how Hofstede’s method describes work culture in different countries.


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