Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Multinational corporate managers must possess a keen understanding of cultural differences and how these differences impact the effectiveness of teams and the workplace. Managers accomplish this task by developing common pathways for teams to operate such as inclusive policies for utilizing diverse attributes to leverage competitive advantage. Managers develop these pathways and inclusive policies by using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions.
Geert Hofstede believes that collaboratively, everyone has his/her unique personality, history, and interest and people are intensely social. He believes people use language, empathy, practice collaborating to form intergroup competition. Basically, people abide by unwritten rules that tend to classify groups other than their own as inferior rather than superior. These groups are national, religious, ethnic in boundaries, occupational or academic disciplining, and group membership. He basically used five simple characteristics to help determine why people incorporate these values in family life and in occupational settings. Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to compare Brazil and Japan, managers can identify commonalities to build teams as well as differences in culture to build collaborative pathways and policies.
The Impact of Culture
Culture affects the workplace and leaders because individual differences run deeper than what many people realize. One never knows a person’s background or why they are set in their chosen ways. Hofstede discusses how cultural differences naturally create conflict due to upbringing, life experience, or their chosen values, beliefs, and norms as adults (Mansour, Peter, De Luque, & House, 2006). Therefore, individual differences can be much more than mere gender, race, political choice, and more although those areas exist additionally. In fact, individual differences can be a conflicting cognitive perception between individuals that are the same race, gender, political choice, and more (Cater, Lang, & Szabo, 2013).
Another impact of culture is seen in the effectiveness of teams. Effective teams have a diverse set of skills which is derived from people of different backgrounds. Research has shown that having people with different skill sets is more important than having people with high level skills and more expertise. The reason is similar to the reason that diversity is more important to team effectiveness. Diverse skill sets provide unique ways of interpreting problems and providing solutions (Engleberg & Wynn, 2012). As such culture becomes a commodity for the modern organization.
Today’s organizations have learned retaining or attracting talent with individuals who share core values an organization can sometimes aid the creation of safe havens in organizations and unifying workers. Values such as trust, integrity, and more show to be universal to some degree, but even in this understanding, organizations continue to struggle with diversity. Targeting core values is not enough to bring organizational effectiveness since organizational effectiveness has its own individual cognitive meaning to each firm and to individual leaders, signifying the complexity arising in culture. Organizational struggle with diversity shows how adopting and operationalizing values is not enough to eliminate borders of culture.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
1) Power distance
2) Uncertainty avoidance
Brazil and Japan are similar in the fact that they are collectivist cultures that maintain a high Power-Distance relationship (The Hofstede Center, 2020). Brazil is less oriented than Japan but both cultures have high degrees of respect for hierarchy and authority and they are less likely to work in teams that have a horizontal leadership as their cultures tend to see authority (The Hofstede Center, 2020).
Understanding power-distance affects team design. Both teams in Brazil and in Japan will need to be constructed with designated leaders. Clear expectations of the team will also need to be identified. Having a clear team leader will allow these teams to operate more effectively than teams such as in the US which may be more autonomous and flexible in goals.
It is worth noting that many argue that authority is culturally based. Hofstede’s work is one of the most thorough empirical surveys on cross-cultural influences on work-related values, delineated marked differences in what he called “power distance.”
For Hofstede, power distance is the degree to which members of a culture feel comfortable with inequalities in power within an organization; that is, the extent to which one’s boss is seen as having greater power than oneself. Thus, views regarding both power and leadership shape the conception of authority within an organization. And because both these facets of authority conception differ drastically from culture to culture, authority itself is conceived of differently from society to society.
Consequently, no single dimension of authority and power is likely to hold equally for all managers and employees in a multicultural domestic setting or in the multicultural milieu of the multinational corporation.
Brazil and Japan also rank high in uncertainty avoidance which means these cultures respect and follow tradition or the status quo. Understanding the uncertainty dimension reveals that teams should be designed with more stringent policies and goals. While Brazil ranks less than Japan in this area their uncertainty avoidance is still close enough that neither culture is likely to embrace change easily (The Hofstede Center, 2020). Two takeaways in this understanding include developing teams that are highly task focused and developing change management plans for when teams must change methods or goals (Camillo, 2012). Teams that are less open to change can be leveraged when working on tasks that require less creativity or less autonomy (The Hofstede Center, 2020). To be sure, these teams will need to be managed effectively in terms of their focus, and task orientations such as redesigning a company’s operations may require a comprehensive plan for change management detailing the buy-in as well as stages of change adoption.
Individualism — Collectivism
The dimension of individualism is denoted by being collectivist or individual in nature. Brazil and Japan differ in this area with Japan being strongly collectivist and Brazil being more individualistic in nature (The Hofstede Center, 2020). From a team standpoint, this factor impacts many areas but most importantly the incentive and reward systems. Japanese teams are more likely to work in a more productive manner working towards the common good or goals of the group whereas Brazil teams will work better with individual benefit (The Hofstede Center, 2020).
Both Brazil and Japan are highly masculine cultures meaning that values such as competitiveness and wealth acquisition are preferred over values of relationship building and quality of life (Camillo, 2012). There is a much lower degree of conflict in these cultures as well (Camillo, 2012). This dimension means that both countries are likely to work long hours and be highly productive in team settings. The disadvantage of these teams will be their tendency to place value on the bottom line or achievement of a goal over its quality (The Hofstede Center, 2020). To curb this problem, clear team goals are needed in areas of quality.
The final dimension is a long-term orientation. This is a controversial dimension because it is difficult to quantify (The Hofstede Center, 2020). The dimension is intended to show the differences between eastern and western cultures (The Hofstede Center, 2020). According to Hofstede Brazil would rank lower in the following areas:
Long term orientation
-ordering relationships by status and observing this order
-having a sense of shame
Short term orientation
-personal steadiness and stability
-protecting your ‘face’
-respect or tradition
-reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts (The Hofstede Center, 2020).
While Japan and Brazil are extremely similar in cultural dimensions there are individual nuances of these cultures which are guided by the degrees of dimensional difference. For example, Japanese culture is a higher-context culture than Brazil and this means that Japanese workers and team members are impacted not just by manager directives but how and when these directives are given (Hofstede, 1998). This means that the Japanese are more likely to place greater emphasis on interpersonal relations such as trust and comfort (Hofstede, 1998). These differences may seem small but they can be important when teams are being built and goals are being set.
Camillo, A. (2012). Managerial Communication: Applying the latest communication techniques and strategies to avoid conflicts and promote a transparent and effective working relationship. The Complete guide to strategic Service Management, 231–232.
Cater, T., Lang, R., & Szabo, E. (2013). Values and leadership expectations of future managers: Theoretical basis and methodological approach of the GLOBE Student Project. Journal for East European Management Studies: JEEMS, 18(4), 442–462.
Engleberg, I. Wynn, D. (2012) Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies 6 Edition Pearson
Mansour, J., Peter W. D., De Luque, M. S., & House, R. J. (2006). In the eye of the beholder: Cross cultural lessons in leadership from Project GLOBE. Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(1), 67–90.
The Hofstede Center. (2020). Brazil. Retrieved from The Hofstede Center: http://geert-hofstede.com/brazil.html