This work considers advantages and disadvantages of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model, and researches whether it is still relatable and applicable to culture in the workplace nowadays. Moreover, this essay will attempt to answer if Hofstede’s model can really serve as an international standard of comparison of cultures.
The purpose of this essay is to answer the question whether Hofstede’s cultural dimension model is useful when thinking about culture in a workplace, its’ advantages and disadvantages and criticism.
It is relatable in 21st century more than ever due to the fact that people of different backgrounds and cultures are able to travel to different countries and work there, and as a result workplaces now are diverse and multicultural and it is crucial to understand the cultural values in these multicultural workplaces.
Geert Hofstede is a renowned social psychologist, who got wide recognition and multiple awards for his work in theory of cultural dimensions. According to Hofstede, values of employees within a workplace are ultimately influenced by their respective country’s culture (Hofstede, Hofstede, ; Minkov, 2010). Therefore, in order to better understand these values, a researcher must focus and analyze six dimensions of nation’s culture. Afterwards, these six cultural dimensions receive a numerical value which is based on a scoring system from 0 to 100. These six values include: Power-Distance index, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, Uncertainty-Avoidance index, Long-term orientation vs. Short-term orientation and Indulgence vs. Restraint.
In the 1960s, a new discipline of general psychology was established. It was called a cross-cultural psychology (Jahoda and Krewer 1997: 3, 24). Until this very day, the researchers of this discipline are still using the model of comparing data from numerous cultures in order to find out and analyze intercultural differences. The method that is being investigated in this paper is the work of Geert. His idea of comparing the national cultures is based on a model of cultural dimensions. That model is a standard of comparison, which can calculate numerical scores in different dimensions of high number of countries, therefore creating international rankings of said country and country clusters. Hofstede’s approach generated a lot of extreme reactions, both in a critical and a positive way. Until today many researchers use it for their cross-cultural research projects. Other researchers claim that the usage of these cultural dimension is invalid and it lead to the discrepancy.
In order to be unbiased and be able to address the question of the essay it is crucial to have a clear understanding of culture in the workplace and what it means in 21st century. Culture can be defined as “A collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group from another” (Hofstede 1980, 25). Therefore, it should be clear when the beliefs, values are and assumptions can be understood and taken as cultural norms, and how organization’s cultural norms might affect the way in which employees communicate, and how the organization communicates with others. On the other hand, culture is not something that can be acquired over a short period of time; it is a long and slow process of growing into a society.
The best way to summarize the progress of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory is by a following sentence: “In the late 1960s Geert accidentally became interested in national cultural differences – and got access to rich data for studying them” (Hofstede / Hofstede 2005:ix). His research had an amazing effect on researchers and academics, and the model became a go to instrument in the implementation of many new businesses and systems, practices, entrepreneurial and leadership behaviors, resolutions of conflicts, performances and innovations and many more cross-cultural issues. Term “culture” is open interpretation, and is known to have more than 160 definitions (Olie 1995, 128). As a result when a researcher considers the terminology used in the questionnaire, it also becomes an interpretation, and it becomes a problem of if the question determines the culture, or it is the culture that is determining the question. Moreover, translation of the questions and responses often add up to these difficulties.
Arguments Against Hofstede’s Model
Some researchers and academics argue that a survey is not a suitable way of defining and measuring accurately the cultural disparity. It is supported by the fact that when the variable being measured is the value which is culturally sensitive and might be considered subjective. Hofstede’s response to that criticism was that, surveys are one method, but not the only method that was used in his works (Hofstede 1998, 481).
This could be one of the most prevalent and often used criticisms used against Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model. Hofstede’s work assumes that the domestic population is a homogenous whole, and as a result standardizing it. But it is known that most of the nations are separated into ethnic groups, and therefore the analysis might be constrained by the personality of the particular individual being evaluated. As a result the outcome of the analysis can become arbitrary.
This criticism can be extended to national divisions, since it is known that nations are not proper units of analysis due to the fact that cultures are no always bound by borders (McSweeney 2000). More recent studies have stated that culture is often fragmented across different groups and national lines. To what Hofstede says that national identities are the only ways researchers have of recognizing and determining the cultural differences.
Some scholars argue that the study is too timeworn and old to be valuable and have value in a modern world, especially in this rapidly changing environment, with internationalization, multiculturalism and convergence. To which Hofstede replied that the cross cultural outcomes were based on years and years of indoctrinations. Moreover, recent studies that replicated his works showed that the culture will not change overnight.
Amount of Dimensions
Initially many argued that 4 or 5 dimensions is not enough to give a sufficient information and feedback about cultural differences. Hofstede agreed to that statement, and noted that it important that the dimensions would be added to his original work (Hofstede 1998, 481).
Another big criticism was received due to the fact that only one company was used in the research. Critics stated that a study that centers around only one company cannot possible provide adequate information on the whole cultural system of a particular country. to what Hofstede replied that the study was not meant to provide the absolute, it was merely providing the differences between diverse cultures and for that this style of analysis was more than appropriate. Moreover, it was pointed out that the usage of a single multinational employer eradicates the effect of the corporate policy and management practices from different companies that could be influencing behavior differently, so that there is only national culture explaining the occurring culture differences.
Arguments In Support of Hofstede’s Model
Even though there is a lot of criticism to cultural dimensions model theory, Hofstede’s work is the most widely recognized and used researched that is being used among different practitioners and scholars, as it has many appealing points.
The framework that was used in Hofstede’s research was based on a thorough and comprehensive design with a systematic data collection and a rational theory. And even though many critics claim that the sampling was flawed, due to the fact it that it was sparse and unevenly distributed, many consider it the “go to” research.
When Hofstede’s model was first introduced, there was little to no studies and researches on culture and many business only begun entering the international field and as a result were experiencing many difficulties, and needed a reliable advice. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model at that time met and even exceeded the expectations when it came to the demand for cultural guidance. Furthermore, many scholars were also starting to pay attention to culture, and as a result Hofstede is considered an innovator and as discoverer in this field.
During an analysis that was undertaken by Sondergaard in 1994, where it was attempted to replicate Hofstede’s study, and 61 replications were analyzed. The result showed that the majority of these works matched Hofstede’s findings, while some duplicated them completely. The only field that was not confirmed as much was individualism. To what Hofstede stated that cultures will adjust and shift over time. Moreover, studies that did not try to duplicate his findings, but were of similar lines also confirmed the accuracy of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model.
Culture as a field in social science receives a lot of attention in 21st century. And as it was shown by Sondergaard’s research, many scholars attempted to replicate Hofstede’s work and many more will be using and recreating it with other cross-cultural studies. On the other hand, many academics and researchers state that culture is dynamic and constantly changing field, to what Hofstede does not agree. Cultures are changing and merging, new technologies are shifting and shaping the way people communicate, and globalism is changing the way people trade and interface. Therefore, it is crucial that researchers keep on track with these changes, and be able to anticipate them so that scholars and practitioners are always able to get the latest and most precise tools in understanding cross-cultural communication and be able to stand in global cooperation. It is evidential that more research is required to gauge culture in terms of modern standards of this ever changing world.
This work has examined the advantages and disadvantages of Geert Hofstede’s ground breaking theory of cultural dimensions model. It has shown arguments in both the support of Hofstede’s theory as well as against it. Even though there is a high level of controversy and criticism around Hofstede’s theory, it still remains the most valuable and pioneered study on culture for scholars and practitioners. In conclusion, it is believed that more research would be needed to capture the shift in current cultural maps, which are being influenced by globalizations, technology and other factors. Because of that fact the workplaces have become a lot more multicultural than just two decades ago, and as a result it is a lot more difficult to achieve high accuracy when it comes to cultures in the workplace, especially taking into consideration that many countries are becoming more and more multicultural, and when that happens cultures merge, and are not showing many strong traits that their cultures would have previously shown. Because of that it would not be accurate to only rely on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model to determine and organize the cross cultural communication in the workplace, especially knowing that there is a chance of stereotyping with it. As a result, Hofstede’s work still has value to both practitioners and scholars but it has to be used cautiously and there is a possibility to improve it with addition of new dimensions and an upgrade of existing ones.