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The Six Dimensions of Culture Essay

Armed with a large database of cultural statistics, Hofstede analyzed the results and found clear patterns of similarity and difference amid the responses along these five dimensions. Interestingly, his research was done on employees of IBM only, which allowed him to attribute the patterns to national differences in culture, largely eliminating the problem of differences in company culture. The six dimensions are:

1. Power/Distance (PD) “Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.” Cultures that endorse low power distance expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of power distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low power distance, people strive to equalize the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power.

2. Individualism (IDV) The high side of this dimension, called Individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. Its opposite, Collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”

3. Masculinity (MAS) This refers to how much a society sticks with, and values, traditional male and female roles. High MAS scores are found in countries where men are expected to be “tough,” to be the provider, and to be assertive. If women work outside the home, they tend to have separate professions from men. Low MAS scores do not reverse the gender roles. In a low MAS society, the roles are simply blurred. You see women and men working together equally across many professions. Men are allowed to be sensitive, and women can work hard for professional success.

4. Uncertainty/Avoidance Index (UAI) This relates to the degree of anxiety society members feel when in uncertain or unknown situations. High UAI-scoring nations try to avoid ambiguous situations whenever possible. They are governed by rules and order and they seek a collective “truth.” Low UAI scores indicate the society enjoys novel events and values differences. There are very few rules and people are encouraged to discover their own truth.

5. Long Term Orientation (LTO) The long-term orientation dimension can be interpreted as dealing with society’s search for virtue. Societies with a short-term orientation generally have a strong concern with establishing the absolute Truth. They are normative in their thinking. They exhibit great respect for traditions, a relatively small propensity to save for the future, and a focus on achieving quick results. In societies with a long-term orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.

6. Locus of Control Internal Locus of Control: * Control over outside events is largely internal, within the individual. * Emphasize the strength of will and determination; circumstances do not have to be accepted as they are. * There are no limits on what I can do or become, so long as I set my mind to it and make the necessary effort. * Life is in large part what one makes of it.

* Example: Cultures in North America have an internal locus of control. External Locus of Control : * Control is considered to be external to the individual. * Many aspects of life are predetermined, and cannot be controlled. * There are limits beyond which we cannot go and certain givens that cannot be changed and must be accepted. * Life happens TO you. * Example: Cultures in the Middle East and South America have an external locus of control.


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