August 18th, 2017
Every living people are made to be unique and have their own identity, with their identity and characteristic behavior. Culture has a strong impact on people’s behavior in a working environment. Many of the features of people are followed by what cultural influence a person had. Today, it has become more common to have interactions with different countries, globally through the developments of technology. Being able to adapt to cultural differences can help people to become an effective leader and positively strengthen the relationships in working environments.
Hofstede’s Six Dimension
A Dutch social psychologist, Geert Hofstede, has researched how culture makes a difference in workplaces. In his studies, he has found a total of six dimensions of behavior that defy the differences and similarity of cultures in over 40 different countries. Hofstede describes the culture as the “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others” (Hofstede, 2012a). The six dimensions in which characterizes the differences and similarity of cultures are power distance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation versus short term normative orientation, and indulgence versus restraint. Amongst other countries, Japan and United States have distinctive results in Hofstede’s six dimension.
United States Comparison with Japan
Figure 1. The country comparison model was adapted from
Hofstede, (2012). Country Comparison Retrieved from https://geert-hofstede.com/countries.html
In a working environment, there would always be a power hierarchy in a company. One of the Hofstede’s six dimensions is power distance. Power distance is how much people can deal and accept with inequality in power in a member of society. (Hofstede, 2012b). Figure 1 shows the United States of having a lower power distance than Japan. There is not a significant difference between these two countries. Although, the country with higher power distance tends to have stronger hierarchies, with a large gap in power with the lower level employees. Both Japan and United States are hierarchical society. A society that is higher in a hierarchy tends to have greater gaps in authority and compensation. In work environment, decision making can be a slow process, due to confirmation from every level of the hierarchy, especially when it comes to Japan. (Hofstede, 2012b) In both countries, people are taught equality and there a society, in which hard work pays off.
Individualism versus Collectivism
In the dimension of individualism versus collectivism, like figure 1, lower rate shows collectivism and higher rate shows individualism. The more individual, they are more self-centered in their behavior and are expected to take care of themselves. On the other hand, collectivism is more about focused on following the group’s idea and working along with neighbors. According to Wharton, managers in the United States are more likely to have directions by face to face where Japanese would use a memo. (Wharton, 1999) The differences show how Japan is more “face-saving,” where managers in the United States are more about “brute honesty” (Wharton, 1999). Japanese are more collective since the act of face-saving is not to disrupt the harmony.
Masculinity versus Femininity
Both countries do have a higher than average score for masculinity. Masculinity with a higher score shows societies that are more competitive in the achievement of success (Hofstede, 2012a) In contrast, femininity talks more about the quality of life and caring for the weak. Japan has a higher rate in masculinity, which we can see how Japan of having a long hour working hours and excellent quality in their products and services. (Hofstede, 2012b)
Avoidance uncertainty tells how much the member of that society’s tolerance in confronting risk and step out from their comfort zone. The United States scores below average for uncertainty avoidance, where they have stronger tolerance in accepting newer ideas and free speech. Which results in the United States has fewer rules. Japan, on the other hand, has a higher score in uncertainty avoidance since their society is driven to work in the hierarchy and not to stand out, which new ideas would be difficult to be accepted. Japan has more rules in society written out for almost everything, to measure certainty.
Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Orientation
This dimension shows the level of society in having traditional value. The Japanese are more long-term oriented, which their work ethics demonstrate their different ideology. Even in difficult times, Japanese companies prioritize in steady growth and prosperity of the industry. They are not for the money but “for the shareholders, to serve the stakeholders and society at large for many generations to come” (Hofstede, 2012b). The United States is rather short-term based on measuring business performance on a quarterly basis, which will give faster results.
Indulgence versus Restraint
The United States and Japan, again, shown contrast in the dimension of indulgence versus restraint. United State is known to be relatively indulgent, with more “work hard and play hard” mentality. There is less socially restricted or dis-accepted to run towards human drives in enjoying life. Society in Japan is known to be restraint. People’s desired are controlled and are deemed to be morally wrong to do so. As a leader, not knowing these broad characteristics such as indulgence and restraints can create huge conflict in a working environment. “Even though the behaviors are global, as a leader you should approach the individuals that you’re dealing with individually and pay some attention to their cultures.” (Rook, 2013) Working together with a global team, with each person having different cultural background can create discomfort and lower performance.
Adapting to different cultures can strengthen the relationships with teammates and help people to become an active leader in the working environment. The United States and Japan had very different social behavior preferences and characteristics that strongly influence their working environment today. As globalization grows, we must pay more attention to these details for the team mates to become a better leader. Understanding the person’s cultural past and using the Hofstede’s six dimensions can help to bring a closer understanding of each individual’s behavior.
Hofstede, G., & Rottgers, C. (2012a). National Culture. Retrieved from http://geert-
Hofstede, G., & Rottgers, C. (2012b). Country Comparison. Retrieved from https://geert-
Rook, C. (2013). How different cultures perceive leadership. Retrieved from
Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. (1999). How cultural factors affect leadership. Retrieved