International Journal of Intercultural Relations
25 (2001) 89±107
Do organizations re¯ect national cultures?
A 10-natio...
90 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107
discrepancies in national cul...
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1. Power distance, e.g. the d...
92 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107
A ®nal issue is whether Hofst...
J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 93
respondents to indicate to wh...
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1.2. Instruments
The questio...
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There were several versions o...
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categories with their frequen...
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Table 2
Correlations between...
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Fig. 1. Average scores of per...
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Fig. 2. Average scores of per...
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Fig. 3. Average scores of pe...
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Fig. 4. Average scores of pe...
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further support for Hofstede...
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desired levels of power dist...
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organizational life and that...
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Levitt, T. (1983). The globa...
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Nation culture

The main purpose of this study was to cross-validate Hofstede's classi®cation of national cultures. An additional aim was to investigate the relationship between culture as perceived and culture as desired. Over 800 advanced students of economics, business administration and management from 10 countries participated in the study. They gave free descriptions of an organization they knew well and they rated their native companies on Hofstede's dimensions of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity. In addition, they indicated how they would like their native companies to be on the same dimensions. Both the data concerning the free descriptions and the data concerning the ratings of native companies show considerable support for Hofstede's four dimensions. Remarkably, there was hardly a relation between culture as perceived and culture as desired. The latter ®nding has important implications for the interpretation of the literature on national cultures.
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Transcripts - Nation culture

  • 1. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 Do organizations re¯ect national cultures? A 10-nation study Jan Pieter van Oudenhoven* Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS, Netherlands Abstract The main purpose of this study was to cross-validate Hofstede's classi®cation of national cultures. An additional aim was to investigate the relationship between culture as perceived and culture as desired. Over 800 advanced students of economics, business administration and management from 10 countries participated in the study. They gave free descriptions of an organization they knew well and they rated their native companies on Hofstede's dimensions of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity. In addition, they indicated how they would like their native companies to be on the same dimensions. Both the data concerning the free descriptions and the data concerning the ratings of native companies show considerable support for Hofstede's four dimensions. Remarkably, there was hardly a relation between culture as perceived and culture as desired. The latter ®nding has important implications for the interpretation of the literature on national cultures. # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: National cultures; Organizational cultures; Individualism; Power distance; Uncertainty avoidance; Masculinity The increasing integration of the global market has urged national enterprises to cooperate internationally. However, many attempts towards international coopera- tion have not been successful so far. Quite often, a mis®t of cultures is mentioned as a cause of the failure (Cartwright & Cooper, 1993, 1996; Olie, 1994). Managers have indeed a strong preference for culturally similar cooperation partners, in particular, when they have to deal with intensive forms of cooperation (Van Oudenhoven & De Boer, 1995). In the case of cross-border cooperation, chances of a clash of cultures are higher than if cooperation takes place within the borders of one nation, since *Corresponding author. Tel.: +31-50-3636386; fax: +31-50-3636304. E-mail address: j.p.l.m.van.oudenhoven@ppsw.rug.nl (J. P. van Oudenhoven). 0305-1978/01/$ - see front matter # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 1 4 7 - 1 7 6 7 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 0 4 4 - 4
  • 2. 90 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 discrepancies in national cultures have to be added to the normal variety of organization cultures. Hence, the term ``double layered acculturation'', which indicates adjustment to both an alien organization culture and an alien national culture. Knowledge of national cultures is important, so that if cultures differ considerably, suitable forms of cooperation may be sought (Olie, 1994). Moreover, adequate awareness of international variations in cultural systems can help to avoid expatriate failure (Tung, 1987). There are hundreds of de®nitions of culture, but almost all of them refer to culture as a set of shared values, beliefs, and practices. According to Hofstede (1991), culture is: ``the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group from another''. Collective programming takes place at the national and at the organizational level. National cultures distinguish members of one nation from another, and organization cultures distinguish the employees of one organization from another. There is a clear distinction between national cultures and organization cultures. National cultures refer to profound beliefs and values, and practices that are shared by the vast majority of people belonging to a certain nation. They are re¯ected in the ways people behave at school, in the family, on the job, etc., and they are reinforced by national laws and governmental policies with respect to education, family life, business, etcetera. Organization or corporate culture refers to the values, beliefs and practices that are shared by most members of an organization. These values, beliefs, and practices may stem from regional or occupational groups or from common organizational experiences and, consequently, may not be applicable outside that organization. Cultures as found within organizations will, therefore, differ to some extent within one nation, but they are supposed to differ even more from nation to nation, because } in addition } they re¯ect their national cultures to a certain degree. For instance, a national culture in which the persons in power, such as teachers, parents or managers, are highly respected and deferred to, will lead to a form of organizational communication in which subordinates hesitate to express disagreement with their bosses. Most research on national cultures has been limited so far to descriptions of individual } or relatively small samples of } national cultures. Two important exceptions are Schwartz's study on cultural values which was originally done in 20 countries (Schwartz, 1992), but has continuously been expanded (Smith & Schwartz, 1997), and Hofstede's research which originally included data from 40 nationalities (Hofstede, 1980). Subsequently, he enlarged his sample to cover 53 countries (Hofstede, 1991). The two studies show considerable convergence; the survey of values by Schwartz has sustained and ampli®ed Hofstede's conclusions rather than contradicted them (Smith & Bond, 1998). We will focus on Hofstede because his study has most relevance for cross-national organizational functioning. His main source of information were data from a survey which was conducted twice, producing a total of 116,000 questionnaires on work-related attitudes of IBM- employees. Applying factor-analyses to these data (the mean scores per country), Hofstede found that there were four basic dimensions on the basis of which national cultures can be characterized:
  • 3. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 91 1. Power distance, e.g. the degree of freedom in decision-making a superior leaves to his or her subordinate. This dimension resembles Fiske's (1992) Authority ranking which refers to cultural patterns which vary according to the degree of rank and hierarchy. It also corresponds to Schwartz's Hierarchy value (Schwartz, 1994). 2. Uncertainty avoidance, e.g. the strictness of rules used to deal with uncertain and ambiguous situations. This concept is the opposite of Schwartz's Intellectual Autonomy (Schwartz, 1994). 3. Individualism±collectivism, e.g. the degree to which people have freedom to adopt their own approach to their job. Triandis de®nes individualism versus collectivism as follows: ``People in individualistic cultures often give priority to their personal goals, even when they con¯ict with the goals of important in-groups, such as the work group; conversely, people in collectivist cultures give priority to in-group goals'' (Triandis, 1994). 4. Masculinity±femininity. The extent to which highly assertive values predominate (e.g., acquiring money and goods at the expense of others) versus showing sensitivity and concern for others' welfare. This dimension corresponds to a great deal with Schwartz's Mastery versus harmony value (Schwartz, 1994). Hofstede's study has made a major contribution to contemporary cross-cultural psychology. He has offered an empirically based classi®cation of cultures and his coverage of nations is impressive. Although more recent, but less extensive studies, have supported Hofstede's conclusions (e.g. Hoppe, 1990; Sfndergaard, 1994), there are other studies that failed to ®nd the patterns as predicted by Hofstede or found considerable shifts in value classi®cations (e.g. Fernandez, Carlson, Stepina, & Nicholson, 1997). There are several factors which may explain the failure to ®nd the same patterns in these studies. A major diculty is that Hofstede's conclusions are primarily based on data from } predominantly male } IBM-employees. Employees recruited by IBM may well be different from the `average national' and may originate from quite different segments of society from country to country. Consequently, respondents from IBM are not representative for their nations so that there is a selection problem. Secondly, his data were collected 25±30 years ago in a world which has changed tremendously politically and economically. A third problem is that the items used by Hofstede did not suciently discriminate between the actual or perceived culture and the desired culture. They may partly re¯ect the culture as the employees found it to be (e.g. a power distance item: ``How frequently, in your experience, does the following problem occur: employees being afraid to express disagreement with their managers?'') and partly how they would like it to be (e.g. an uncertainty avoidance item: Agreement with the statement: ``Company rules should not be broken } even when the employee thinks it is in the company's best interest''.). Although, according to Hofstede (1991, p. 27), ``... from one country to another there is a close relationship between the reality one perceives and the reality one desires'', there may well be a discrepancy between value and practice, for instance, between the desired level of power distance and the level actually perceived.
  • 4. 92 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 A ®nal issue is whether Hofstede's dimensions are ``on people's mind'' if they are not made salient by explicitly referring to the dimensions. As a matter of fact, when questions are asked concerning Hofstede's dimensions, these dimensions become salient. But, would they also be used in people's spontaneous descriptions? These four issues are all good reasons for a cross-validation study of Hofstede's ®ndings. The basic assumption in this study was that the culture as found in companies within a country should partly re¯ect the national culture. This implies that if Hofstede's four dimensions really characterize national cultures, then actual companies from a particular country would on the average have to resemble the description of that particular national culture more as compared to companies from other countries. Concrete, real companies, however, consist of many elements of which the national cultural ¯avor is only one aspect. Differences in size, organizational culture, branch, region, etc., may neutralize the in¯uence of national culture. This means that national cultures may not easily be recognized at the concrete company level, but do exist in the images respondents have of the overall typical characteristics of companies in their country. This implies that national cultures will more clearly be identi®ed if we ask respondents from different countries to score their national companies in general. In order to test Hofstede's model, we presented statements directly related to Hofstede's dimensions and then asked respondents from different countries to indicate to which degree these statements applied to the national companies that they knew. In this case, Hofstede's conclusions would be supported to the extent in which a positive relation is found between the national scores on the four dimensions by the respondents of this study and Hofstede's scores. By presenting stimuli using Hofstede's dimensions we make these dimensions salient. It is important to know whether respondents also make use of Hofstede's dimensions when they describe a company without such speci®c instructions. Therefore, we let respondents think freely of cultural and structural aspects of an existing company in order to ®nd out whether the dimensions of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity and individualism are important ``spontaneous'' dimensions to describe organizations. Naturally, such a description task had to be done before the four dimensions were made salient. Therefore, this task had to precede the questions in which the respondents were asked to rate the statements concerning the dimensions. Summarizing, we tried to test the following two hypotheses: 1. Respondents use Hofstede's dimensions when they ``spontaneously'' describe organizations. 2. Companies within a country re¯ect the corresponding national cultures as described in Hofstede's terms. Apart from testing the validity of Hofstede's dimensions, this study aimed to ®nd out whether there is a relationship between the actually perceived and the desired national culture. This was done in the following way. We not only asked the
  • 5. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 93 respondents to indicate to what degree the statements measuring Hofstede's dimensions of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and masculi- nity/femininity actually applied to the national companies as far as known to them, but also to what degree they would desire that they did. 1. Method 1.1. Subjects As respondents 817 advanced (higher education) students of business administration, management, industrial economics, and related disciplines participated. The students came from universities or comparable high-level education institutions in Belgium (N=102; Dutch-speaking group), Canada (N=60; English-speaking group), Denmark (N=76), France (N=88), Germany (N=75), Great Britain (N=87), Greece, (N=79), Spain (N=72), United States (N=62), and The Netherlands (N=116). In all countries except Greece students from several schools/ universities participated. Although all respondents were students, most subjects of this study, due to their business orientation, had organizational experience in addition to their academic experience: Sixty-eight percent had more than one year of work experience and many of them were working part-time: only 11% indicated to have no working experience. The advantage of this sample is that they form a fairly comparable group across countries. Because the sample's work experience covered a wide range of organizations, the risk of registering the culture as perceived within only one single company is avoided. A further advantage of this group is that they are the kind of people that, much more than their average countrymen, are trained to look at organizations with a certain amount of intellectual distance. Sixty-one percent of the students were male, 39% were female. Forty-seven percent were younger than 23 years. Thirty-four percent were 23±27 years of age; a substantial group of 19% were older than 27. In order to be able to rate national companies on Hofstede's four dimensions, respondents need to have been able to observe a number of organizations. For that reason the 104 respondents that were younger than 21 years were excluded from some of the analyses. They were assumed to have had too little working experience to be suciently experienced observers. The average age of the remaining 713 students of 21 years and older was 25.32 years. When asked to think of a concrete company, the respondents mentioned com- panies from different branches: agricultural and food industry (14%), ®nancial sector (12%), metal industry (12%), consultancy and services (11%), commercial sector (11%), health and government sector (8%), chemical industry (8%), electronics and information technology (7%), transport (6%), construction (4%), media (3%), and miscellaneous (4%). Seventeen and a half percent of the companies were small (25±50 employees), 12% were medium sized (51±100 employees), and the remaining 70.5% were large companies.
  • 6. 94 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 1.2. Instruments The questionnaire started with a general description of the research project, explaining that it dealt with `increasing international cooperation'. Next, there were some questions about the school to which the students belonged, their gender, nationality, age and work experience. The ®rst part of the questionnaire induced the respondents to give ``free descriptions of organizations'' (see Appendix A for the version given to the US students). They were asked to imagine an existing company and to make a description of it with a maximum of 10 adjectives with respect to its cultural and structural aspects. It should be a national company of at least 25 employees, preferably the company they had worked in (as was stressed in oral instructions), but they could also choose a company they knew from family, friends, a summer job, or from practical work. Asking them to describe a company forced them to think of a company as concretely as possible which would prevent them from using stereotypes of national companies to describe that particular organization. In order to ®nd out whether companies within a country re¯ect the corresponding national cultures as described in Hofstede's terms the questionnaire included four sets of statements1 (see Appendix B). There was one set for each of Hofstede's dimensions (®ve statements per dimension, indicating a very low to a very high position on that dimension). The respondents had to indicate which of the ®ve statements applied most to the organizations in their country as far as known to them, and to choose the statement that concurred most with their preference. These two different questions were used to distinguish between the culture as perceived and the culture as desired. In each country respondents received the questionnaire in their native language. The English and Dutch versions were developed simultaneously by a bilingual team. Since Hofstede has published the items in both languages, it was possible to use his formulations to a great extent. Both versions were extensively reviewed by native English and Dutch-speaking persons. For the other versions the questionnaire was always translated by a native speaker and than translated back into Dutch. 1.3. Procedure Over 90% of the questionnaires were administered to groups at the end or at the beginning of a lecture that formed a part of the ordinary curriculum. During a very short oral introduction the students were asked by the researcher to participate } as future business experts } in an international survey on organizational climates. Filling out the questionnaire by the whole group never lasted more than 25 min. The remaining 10% of the subjects was approached individually by a colleague of the author. 1 I am grateful to Geert Hofstede who was as kind as to check whether the questionnaire correctly re¯ected the four dimensions and to give some suggestions for improvement.
  • 7. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 95 There were several versions of the questionnaire due to variations in the order in which reference was made to the four dimensions. The different questionnaire versions were randomly given to the students. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents who were asked to collaborate did so. The task dealt with international cooperation, a topic which most students found interesting. Moreover, it did not take much of the students' time. These factors may have motivated the students to ®ll out the questionnaire seriously. 1.4. Design and analysis To answer the question whether respondents ``spontaneously'' used Hofstede's dimen- sions to describe organizations we had to put in order the over 3000 descriptions collected in seven different languages. All non-Dutch words and expressions were translated into Dutch by linguists. Descriptions that were (almost) synonymous (e.g. ``small'' and ``reduced size'') were brought together. Next, a group of ®ve judges (advanced students of organizational psychology) combined groups of descriptions that were very much related into categories. Combinations of groups of descriptions were made, provided that all ®ve judges agreed that they formed a meaningful and coherent category. The next step was to dichotomize the category descriptions, like ``young±old'' or ``regional±international''. All ``idiosyncratic'' (e.g. ``The plant was founded in a former school'' or ``My Dad worked there'') and neutral (e.g. ``nor modern nor old-fashioned'') descriptions that could not be subsumed in one of these dichotomized categories were left out of the analysis. To ®nd out whether Hofstede's dimensions are used when respondents spontaneously describe concrete companies we looked at the categories, but excluded the infrequently mentioned categories from the analysis. Categories had to be referred to at least 50 times in order to be included in the analysis. According to this criterium nine categories, representing 1925 descriptions were included in the analysis. The remaining 35% of the descriptions were mentioned with too low a frequency or were neutral descriptions. In order to test whether companies within a country re¯ect the national cultures as characterized by Hofstede we ®rst applied a multivariate analysis of variance of the effects of nationality on the scores on the four dimensions as perceived and as desired. Univariate analyses of variance were then carried out to ®nd out which variables contributed to the signi®cant effects. Because of the relatively large number of respondents and, consequently, the relatively high power of analysis, all differences between nations were tested at a 1% probability level. Next, we calculated the correlation between the country scores in this study (the average score per dimension as perceived and as desired) and Hofstede's country scores. 2. Results The ®rst research question dealt with whether respondents used Hofstede's dimensions at all when they ``spontaneously'' describe a concrete organization. There were nine categories which were referred to at least 50 times. The dichotomized
  • 8. 96 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 categories with their frequencies were: ¯at/non-bureaucratic versus hierarchical/ bureaucratic (389); innovative versus traditional (368); pro®table versus non- pro®table (295); good versus bad work ambiance (248); international versus regional (195); small versus large (176); informal versus formal (101); young versus old (90); and individualistic versus teamwork (63). For the analysis, dyads of judges scored all descriptions of the companies given by the respondents on the nine categories. For each of the nine categories a ``1'' or ``2'' was scored according to the company description given (e.g. young=1; old=2) or a ``0'' was scored if the descriptions were not applicable to the category or if no information with respect to that category was available. The amount of scoring accordance between two independent judges with respect to the use of the three different scores was relatively high (Cohen's Kappa=0.84). The most frequently mentioned category included descriptions like `hierarchical', `bureaucratic', `centralistic' versus `¯at', `non-bureaucratic' etc. This category, which we called `bureaucracy', refers at the same time to the power distance and the uncertainty avoidance aspects of organizations. Interestingly, country scores } for the 10 countries (see Table 1) } on this category correlated 0.66 with Hofstede's power distance and 0.63 with his uncertainty avoidance scores (see Table 2). The category `individualistic' versus `teamwork' clearly corresponds to individualism versus collectivism. The correlation with Hofstede's score was 0.47. The category `work ambiance' which refers to social relationships at the work ¯oor is conceptually related to Hofstede's femininity. ``Having a good working relationship with your direct supervisor'' and ``Working with people who cooperate well with one another'' are indicative for femininity (Hofstede, 1991; p. 82). The correlation with Hofstede's score was 0.49. Together these three ``Hofstedean'' categories formed 36% of all categories that were mentioned frequently enough to be included in the analysis. That is a considerable part of the descriptions, if we take into account that almost Table 1 Country scores on bureaucracy (1=low; 2=high), individualistic versus team work (1=team work; 2=individualistic), work ambiance (1=bad; 2=good) and on Hofstede's classi®cation Bureaucracy Individualistic work Work ambiance Power distance Uncertainty avoidance Individualism Masculinity Belgium 1.74 1.12 1.79 65 94 75 54 Canada 1.58 1.00 1.97 39 48 80 52 Denmark 1.58 1.00 2.00 18 23 74 16 France 1.82 1.67 1.65 68 86 71 43 Germany 1.70 1.40 1.73 35 65 67 66 Greece 1.70 1.00 1.91 60 112 35 57 Spain 1.77 1.00 1.86 57 86 51 42 The Netherlands 1.72 1.62 1.87 38 53 80 14 United Kingdom 1.79 1.40 1.74 35 35 89 66 United States 1.80 1.44 1.76 40 46 91 62 Total 1.74 1.29 1.81 (N ˆ 389) (N ˆ 63) (N ˆ 248)
  • 9. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 97 Table 2 Correlations between Hofstede's scores and country scores on bureaucracy, individualistic (versus team) work and work ambiance Hofstede's dimensions Power distance Uncertainty avoidance Individualism Femininity Bureaucracy 0.66 0.63 ÿ0.36 ÿ0.41 Individualistic (versus team) work 0.05 ÿ0.14 0.47 ÿ0.02 Work ambiance 0.42 0.22 0.24 0.49 40% of all descriptions referred to fairly neutral aspects of organizations such as the size, age, pro®tability, and regional versus international character of the organiza- tion. The remaining 24% of descriptions referred to traditional versus innovative, and formal versus informal aspects of organizations. Apparently, Hofstede's dimensions are important ``spontaneous'' dimensions to describe organizations. Moreover, the respondents' descriptions of their native companies show national differences which correspond to a large extent to what would be predicted on the basis of Hofstede's national culture scores. The second research question was whether companies in a country re¯ected the national cultures as characterized by Hofstede. Therefore, the ideas that respondents had of their native companies were related to Hofstede's scores on the four dimensions. Only the respondents that were 21 years or older (87% of the students) were included in this analysis. First, a multivariate analysis of the effect of nation on the perceived and desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and femininity was carried out. This analysis including 10 countries yielded a signi®cant effect of nation, F (72,5624)=5.23; p50.001. All eight variables contributed to this effect. In Figs. 1±4 the average scores on the perceived and desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and femininity for the 10 countries are graphically presented and the corresponding univariate F-values and p-values are given). Next, the correlations were calculated between Hofstede's scores and the perception scores obtained in this study. As can be seen from Table 3 for the 10 countries there are moderate to moderately high correlations between Hofstede's scores on power distance, uncertainty avoidance and femininity, and the perception scores obtained in the current study. Only with respect to the perceived level of individualism a high negative correlation was found, opposite to what was expected. There was, however, a high correlation between the desired level of individualism in this study and Hofstede's scores on individualism. These remarkable results can easily be explained if we take into account that the questions used in Hofstede's study also measured the desired level of individualism. There, respondents were asked to disregard the extent to which individualism related factors were contained in their job, but to answer instead how important they would be in an ideal job (Hofstede, 1991, p. 51). We will elaborate on the differences between desired and perceived level of individualism in the discussion section.
  • 10. 98 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 Fig. 1. Average scores of perceived and desired level of power distance for 10 countries (1=low-power distance; 5=high-power distance). In almost all cases there were large differences between the perceived and the desired culture, as Figs. 1±4 clearly show. The differences are particularly large with respect to power distance. In all countries the respondents would like to have much less power distance as compared to what they perceive in the companies. When measures were analyzed at the individual level there was virtually no relation between the perceived and the desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and femininity. Not a single correlation between the individually measured perceived and desired levels of the four dimensions was higher than 0.14, which indicates that culture as perceived and as desired are largely independent variables. Additional analyses: Apart from the effect of nation on the perceived and desired levels of Hofstede's dimensions, the data from this study allow us to assess the possible effects of gender, age and working experience. Multivariate analyses were carried out on all eight dependent variables (the perceived and desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and femininity). In this case all respondents were included in the analysis. Signi®cant multivariate effects were found of gender, F(8,808)=2.92; p50.01, and of age, F(8,808)=4.51; p50.001. Univariately, only a few signi®cant effects were found. Women desire less power distance than men (M=2.03 versus M=2.17), F(1,815)=6.66; p=0.01; and respondents younger than 28 prefer a higher level of femininity than respondents
  • 11. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 99 Fig. 2. Average scores of perceived and desired level of uncertainty avoidance for 10 countries (1=low uncertainty avoidance; 5=high uncertainty avoidance). of 28 and older (M=2.98 versus M=2.79), F (1,815)=12.21; p50.001, and they perceive their national companies as more individualistic than their older colleagues do, M=3.35 versus M=3.22, F (1,815)=13.05; p50.001. In contrast to the just mentioned variables, the factor nation had highly signi®cant effects on all dependent variables which suggests that nation is a much stronger source of variance. Because the respondents in this study were students who generally have broader career perspectives than the average employee, they may show different perceptions of the culture and different desires when compared to ordinary employees who may have sought and found the culture they like in their current job. To ®nd out whether ordinary employees think differently from student employees, the questionnaire was also applied to a sample of 58 Dutch lower and middle-level employees from eight different organizations and three different sectors (the chemical, energy, and construction sector). When these employees were compared to Dutch students on the perceived and desired culture dimensions no signi®cant differences were found between the groups with respect to their perceptions of the culture, but they did differ signi®cantly with respect to their preference for uncertainty avoidance, F(1,170)= 35.84; p50.001 and femininity F(1,170)=17.98; p50.001. Ordinary employees desire less uncertainty (M=3.24 versus 2.61) and a higher level of femininity (M=3.40 versus 2.97) as compared to business students.
  • 12. 100 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 Fig. 3. Average scores of perceived and desired level of individualism for 10 countries (1=low individualism; 5=high individualism). 3. Conclusions Two decades ago Hofstede published his ``Culture's consequences'' which stated that national cultures can be distinguished on the basis of four dimensions. The purpose of this study was to ®nd out whether his classi®cation is (still) valid. The answer is quite armative. Not only do students of business and economics use categories which are conceptually close to Hofstede's dimensions when they spontaneously describe companies, but their descriptions of native companies are to a considerable degree related to what would be predicted on the basis of Hofstede's classi®cation. The evidence from the spontaneous descriptions should be interpreted with caution, however, because the descriptive data were analyzed ``post hoc'' and the category ``individualistic versus teamwork'' was too infrequently used to allow ®rm conclusions. Further evidence comes from the ratings of native companies. First, we found indeed signi®cant differences between the countries with respect to all four of Hofstede's dimensions which were more convincing than the effects of other relevant factors, such as gender, age, and working experience. Moreover, there is quite some correspondence between the scores as found in this study and Hofstede's scores. The support is even stronger if we interpret the positive correlation of desired individualism with Hofstede's individualism scores as support for his individualism scores. Actually, as we indicated in the results section, the individualism scores in
  • 13. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 101 Fig. 4. Average scores of perceived and desired level of femininity for 10 countries (1=low femininity; 5=high femininity). Table 3 Correlations between Hofstede's scores and the perceived and desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and femininity in this study (N ˆ 713) Hofstede's dimensions Power distance Uncertainty avoidance Individualism Femininity Perceived power distance 0.38 Desired power distance ÿ0.08 Perceived uncertainty avoidance 0.22 Desired uncertainty avoidance 0.46 Perceived individualism ÿ0.69 Desired individualism 0.59 Perceived femininity 0.68 Desired femininity 0.00 Hofstede's study were based on what the IBM-employees wished and not on how they actually perceived it in their organization, so that it is not surprising that we found a considerable correlation between his country scores on individualism and the scores on desired levels of individualism in this study. The spontaneous description data with respect to the dichotomy ``individualism/teamwork provided
  • 14. 102 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 further support for Hofstede's individualism dimension. But how can we explain the striking differences between perceived and desired levels of individualism found in this study? A plausible explanation is that the frames of reference about what is an acceptable level of privacy may differ from country to country according to the level of desired individualism, and thus in¯uence people's perceptions of individualism. Consequently, the same amount of privacy may be perceived as much by collectivists (Greeks for instance), but as little by individualists (Americans and Canadians, for instance). In the individualism part of the questionnaire items such as ``Work and personal life are separated to a great extent'' were used. Such items are probably more subject to subjective interpretations than if the items were formulated in terms of concrete behavior. In this study, a short questionnaire was used in order to enhance the participation of respondents. The success of survey research, in particular of cross-national studies, depends on their willingness to collaborate. A risk of using relatively few questions is that it makes it dicult to assess the reliability of the instrument. The fact, however, that two totally different methods of testing Hofstede's dimensions (the spontaneous descriptions of concrete companies and the rating of national companies in general by statements regarding the four dimensions) support the validity of Hofstede's classi®cation suggests that the results are suciently reliable. Moreover, the fact that the two genders totally replicate each others' perception scores further indicates that the questions led to reliable results. To conclude, this study means substantial support for Hofstede's dimensions: Respondents appear to use ``Hofstedean'' dimensions spontaneously. Moreover, both the results obtained with the spontaneous categories and the perception ratings of national companies show a considerable correspondence with Hofstede's scores. An interesting question is whether differences in national cultures remain unaffected over time or tend to converge. The convergence position holds that as a result of common industrial experiences } in particular, of technological origin } organizational patterns and structures and management structures are converging (e.g. Levitt, 1983). By contrast, others } e.g. Hofstede (1993) and Laurent (1983) } argue that organizations are culturebound and that effective ways of management depend on the culture involved. The data from this study did not test the convergence versus divergence controversy, but the pattern of the differences between the culture as perceived and as desired suggests some support for the convergence hypothesis: the respondents from all nations show consensus in their preference for a lower power distance as compared to the perceived level of power distance; the same holds with respect to uncertainty avoidance and } almost in all cases } with respect to individualism and masculinity. Taken together this pattern of results may be seen as a sign of a growing convergence of national organization cultures. Global market integration and internationalization (Americanization) of management literature lead to a reduction of national differences of organization cultures. In other important ®elds of live (e.g. in family or religious life areas) such a convergence may not (yet) be taking place or may occur more slowly. There is little if any relation between the culture as perceived and the culture as desired. In addition, there are considerable differences between the perceived and the
  • 15. J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 103 desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and femininity. The pattern of preferences may be affected by the academic career of the respondents. Students of economics and business administration get to know and are probably in¯uenced by American management techniques. There is indeed quite some correspondence between the values of Organizational Development and the preference scores by the respondents of this study. According to Jaeger (1986) Organizational Development is characterized by low-power distance, low uncer- tainty avoidance, low masculinity and medium individualism. This pro®le is quite similar to the desired levels of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity as found in this study. Remarkably, a sample of Dutch ordinary lower and middle-level employees do not differ from Dutch students in their perceptions, but they do differ in their preferences: First, they value clear instructions more than students do. In contrast to these employees, students are starting their career and are trained to take initiatives and to follow general outlines instead of clear instructions. It may also be a consequence of age differences. The only aspect of the IBM-population which Hofstede (1991, p. 117) found to be related with uncertainty avoidance was average age. In countries were IBM employees tended to be older he found higher stress and more rule orientation. The average age of this sample of Dutch employees was approximately 40 years, whereas the students were in their early twenties on average. Secondly, the employees ®nd good relationships with their co-workers more important and making a career less important than students do. This result also corresponds with Hofstede's (1991, p. 86) ®ndings. He found that oce workers and unskilled or semiskilled workers were the most ``feminine'', and professional workers were the most ``masculine''. Interestingly, the Spanish, Greek, and German groups, in particular, show large differences between the desired and perceived levels of power distance, individualism, and masculinity. All these three nations had authoritarian political systems in recent history. Authoritarian systems are characterized by high-power distance and high masculinity. The current data indicate that respondents from these three nations want to dissociate themselves from that pattern. One might speculate that differences between desired and perceived levels suggest that a national culture is the process of being transformed. On the basis of the liking and the perception scores it must be concluded that it is important to make a distinction between the culture as perceived and the culture as desired. Across nations we found some differences in preference scores, such as a lower desired level of power distance by women, and the higher preference for femininity of young respondents. Probably, the culture as desired varies more according to the group to which one belongs than the culture as perceived. Students and employees, or men and women may differ with respect to their preferences, but they all have common experiences when working in the same organization or in the same country. Therefore, it is understandable that their perceptions do not differ within one nation. One might speculate that culture as desired may gradually in¯uence the culture as perceived. If we take into account that women increasingly participate in
  • 16. 104 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 organizational life and that they have a stronger preference for low power distance than their male colleagues it is to be expected that organizational cultures will, in general, tend towards lower power distance. It would be interesting in future research to put this speculation to a test. Acknowledgements Many colleagues of mine helped me enormously with the collection of the data from 11 countries. Without their help this study would not have been possible. I would like to thank the following persons, in particular: Belgium: Eddy van Avermaet, Piet Van den Abeele, and Frank van Overwalle; Canada: Ben Sugloski and Titia Sietsma; Denmark: the late Harald Vestergaard and Heather Hazard; France: Francoise Askevis and Denis Hilton; Germany: Peter Hammann, Bettina Hannover, and Ulrich Wagner; Greece: Marina Bastounis, Alexandra Hantzi, and Andreas Nikolopoulos; Portugal: Elisabeth Sousa, Spain: Francisco Javier Montero and Ana Puy Rodiguez; The Netherlands: Akkie Bootsma, Jan-Willem Gehrels, Anne-Marie Jeunink, Ursula Jonge Baas, Judith Keser, Robert Kleen, Peter Koopman, Theo Postma, Ad Pruyn, Frances Roest, Hans van Uitert, Luan Uitenwerf, Maarten van Opstal, Marcel Verheijen, Josiane Wiersma, and Harm Zuil; United Kingdom: Peter Harris; United States: George Cvetkovich, Joe Garcia, Chris McCusker, Julie Olson, and Larry Sherman. I am also very grateful to Bram Buunk and Evert van de Vliert and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. Appendix A. Organization description task We ask you to imagine an existing company and to make a description of it in a maximum of 10 adjectives. It should be an American company (e.g. not Sony Electronics) with a minimum of 25 employees. Choose a company you know from family, friends, a summer job, or from practical work. We are especially interested in cultural and structural aspects of organizations and less interested in juridical and economical aspects. The company is: 1- 2- 3- 4- 5- 6-
  • 17. 7- 8- 9- 10- J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 105 In what line of business does the company of your description operate? } Company size 1. 25±50 employees 2. 51±100 employees 3. >100 employees Appendix B. Ratings of national companies Finally, four sets of statements (referring to Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Femininity, and Individualism) with regard to organizations were presented in random order to the respondents. They were ®rst asked to indicate which statement applied most to American organizations as far as known to them by circling one of ®ve letters (``Which statement applies most to the American organizations that you know? Complete by circling the appropriate letter''.). Next, they were asked to choose the statement that re¯ected most the situation they preferred (``Which statement concurs most with your preference? Complete by circling the appropriate letter''.). (Power Distance) (a) Decision making within the organization always takes place after consulting with employees involved. (b) Managers regularly consult their employees before they make decisions. (c) When decisions are being made, employees can express their opinion. (d) Employees have little opportunity to express their opinion with regard to important decisions. (e) All decisions are made by the top of the organization. (Uncertainty Avoidance) (a) One can hardly speak of organization rules: employees work autonomously. (b) Strict rules hardly exist and they may be broken if necessary. One adheres only to general rules of behaviour. (c) Clear organization rules do exist. However, it is possible to complete tasks in your own way provided that this is in accordance with the organisation's policy. (d) Within the organisations there exist clear instructions which have to be followed. (e) Organization rules are very strict and have to be adhered to rigorously.
  • 18. 106 J. P. van Oudenhoven / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 89±107 (Femininity) (a) Employees are very career-oriented; good relationships with co-workers are less important. (b) Making a career is important, even more important than good relationships with co-workers. (c) Making a career is important. However, it may not damage good relationships with co-workers. (d) Making a career is less important than good relationships with co-workers. (e) Having good relationships with co-workers is highly important; making a career plays hardly a role. (Individualism) (a) Work and personal life are hardly separated; one likes to do work which serves the organisation's interest. (b) Although work and personal life are intertwined, employees do appreciate a certain degree of privacy. Their behaviour is very much oriented towards the organization's interest. (c) Employees want a considerable degree of privacy. They pursue their own interests but not at the expense of the organization. (d) Work and personal life are separated to a great extent. Employees pursue their own interest; that of the organization is of minor importance. (e) Work and personal life are strictly separated. Employees only pursue their own interests; the organization's interest hardly plays a role. References Cartwright, S., & Cooper, C. L. (1993). The role of culture compatibility in successful organizational marriage. Academy of Management Executive, 7, 57±70. Cartwright, S., & Cooper, C. L. (1996). Managing mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances: Integrating people and cultures. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. Fernandez, D. R., Carlson, D. S., Stepina, L. P., & Nicholson, J. D. (1997). Hofstede's Country Classi®cation 25 years later. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137, 43±54. Fiske, A. P. (1992). The four elementary forms of sociality: Framework for a uni®ed theory of social relations, Psychological Review, 99, 689±723. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's consequences: International differences in work related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications. Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations. Software of the mind. London: McGraw-Hill Book Company. Hofstede, G. (1993). Cultural constraints in management theories. Academy of Management Executive, 7(1), 81±94. Hoppe, M. H. (1990). A comparative study of country elites: International differences in work-related values and learning and their implications for management training and development. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jaeger, A. M. (1986). Organization development and national culture: Where's the ®t? Academy of Management Review, 11, 178±190. Laurent, A. (1983). The cultural diversity of Western management conceptions. International Studies of Management and Organization, 8(1±2), 75±96.
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