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Understanding culture: Impact on motivation & talent management (through a business management top up degree online)

28-Aug-2017 13:48:21 / by Nabeela D'Sa

Nabeela D'Sa

Culture is defined as a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that taken together, constitute a design for living. Although values are abstract ideas and convictions about what people believe, norms are prescribed behaviors that are acceptable in a specific society. Both values and norms are influenced by many factors such as religion, language, social structures, education and political systems and so on. Values like ethics are not difficult to understand or learn however they are difficult to observe and this is exactly why a business management top up degree online helps business managers to study and understand values in order to comprehend the reasons and motivations behind specific individual actions or reactions.

In this article we will review the cultural model of Geert Hofstede and something that you would learn on a business management course:

Uncertainty avoidance

This cultural dimension by Hofstede refers to the extent to which people feel comfortable when they are exposed to an ambiguous or uncertain situation. People in a low uncertainty avoidance society are more willing to take risks and appreciate flexibility and informality in the workplace. in contract, people n a high uncertainty avoidance society tend to be risk averse and favor rigid and formal decision-making processes in the workplace.

Under high uncertainty avoidance, security is a strong motivator and order and predictability are paramount. Rules are important and must be obeyed to avoid chaos, furthermore, communication is direct and unequivocal to avoid confusion. Often this directness in high uncertainty avoidance countries such as Germany is mistaken for rudeness, when in reality it is an effort to ensure the clarity of a message is preserved.

In USA, culture falls in the low uncertainty avoidance block and tolerance for risk and change has often been mentioned as the main source of the country's technological leadership in the world. Conversely, people who are culturally inclined to avoid risks and uncertainties of life tend to think that developing new technology from the ground up may be too risky. Accordingly, high uncertainty avoidance countries tend to represent a less favorable environment for technological development than low uncertainty avoidance countries.

Here are some countries with a culture of high uncertainty avoidance - Germany, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Austria, France, Japan and Brazil.

Whereas India, China, South Africa, United Kingdom, Singapore, Philippines are cultures with low uncertainty avoidance.

Power Distance

This refers to the extent to which people have an equal distribution of power. In a large power distribution culture, power is concentrated at the top in the hands of a relatively few number of people and the people at the bottom are subject to decision and instructions given by superiors. Conversely, in a small power distribution culture, power is equally distributed among the members of society and it is important to note that the particular predominant perspective on power distribution/distance is held and reinforced by the members of the society itself.

Managers from high power distance societies tend to believe in giving detailed instructions to their subordinates with little room for interpretation. Subordinates in these cases are supposed to respect the authority and superiority of the manager/management team. Characteristics of high power distance cultures are:

  • Inequality among the members in the society
  • Lack of free communication across different levels of hierarchy
  • Centralized control

There distinguishing traits of high power distance cultures often throttle employee creativity and new ideas. In contrast, those reared in a low power distance culture believe in less centralization, low level of hierarchical authority, promote employee interaction, promote lateral communication and focus less on constantly observing the rules with the objective of the greater good.

Countries with a high power distance culture are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, India, Mexico, Philippines, Malaysia, Bahrain. Qatar and Oman.

Countries with a culture of low power distance are Austria, Germany, United States, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland.

Individualism VS. Collectivism

Individualism means that people seek and protect their own interests over the common goal of the society at large. In an individualistic society, people are comfortable with having the authority to make a decision based on what the individual thinks is best. In individualistic societies, employees are provided with a great deal of personal freedom and autonomy. In a collectivist culture, people tend to belong to groups or collectives and look after each other in exchange for loyalty. employees working in collectivist cultures are not allowed enough independence necessary for organizational members o think creatively or out of the box and thereby fail to cultivate an atmosphere of innovation and creativity.

Countries with Individualistic cultures: United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands. Italy, France and New Zealand.

Countries with collectivist cultures: South Korea, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Venezuela, Thailand and Portugal.

Masculinity VS. Femininity

According to Hofstede, a masculine culture is basically a performance driven society where rewards and recognition for performance are primary motivational factors for achievement. In masculine societies, people are supposed to be competitive, ambitious, assertive and risk taking in order to achieve their goals. Such societies tend to give the utmost respect and admiration to the successful achievers who fulfill his or her ambition and demonstrate assertiveness and willingness to take risks in order to achieve goals.

On the other side, in feminine cultures people tend to emphasize the quality of the whole life rather than money, success and social status which are not easier to quantify. The people of this society are willing to reach out to the underprivileged and share their wealth with them.

Countries that are masculine societies are Japan, Hungary, Venezuela, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland and China.

Countries that are feminine culturally are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, India, Thailand and Finland. 

Confucian Dynamism [Long term orientation VS. short term orientation]

This dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and/or the future. Long term orientation captures the following elements: adaptation of tradition to modern contexts, high savings ratio driven by thrift, patience and perseverance towards slow results, and concerns with respecting the demand of virtue.

On the other hand, short term orientation contains the following aspects: respect for tradition, lower saving rate, quick results orientation and concern with possessing the truth.

Countries with a culture of long term orientation are China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Countries on the other side of the spectrum with a short term orientation are United States, Norway, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Germany.

In today's expanding borders and mixing of cultures on every landscape, it would not be entirely true to generalize cultures on the basis of the above tangents. Many countries such as India, United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia exhibit traits linked to more than one culture. None the less, despite the criticisms of Hofstede's generalization on cultures it still remains seminal work that many apply across various disciplines to understand how and why the world operates, and has always been used in international business and management to help progress to the future.

Learn more about this and other business models and strategies on a business management top up degree online

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Topics: Management

Nabeela D'Sa

Written by Nabeela D'Sa


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