top of page
Search

Hofstede & Cross-cultural Communication - Is His Theory Still Valid Today?


Introduction


“Communication is the process where people exchange information, their emotions, and their behavioral intentions” (Brislin, 2008, p. 33).

Our lives are shaped by communication. In today's globalised world, we are more aware of how it affects everyone. One of the most important things to remember when communicating in a global environment is to be aware of cultural differences. Since people from different parts of the world use different communication practices, the researchers have always been interested in intercultural communication.

However, there might be questions about the validity of these theories today. The traditional approaches of cultural communication include the works of the scholars such as: Hofstede, who developed cultural dimensions, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck, who developed the value orientations, and Schwartz, who is known for creating cultural taxonomy models (Liu et.al., 2018).


Hofstede's traditional approach to cross-cultural communication is discussed in this paper, as well as whether it is relevant within today's global business environment.



Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions - review and validation to today's global business environment


“When people from both cultures are aware of preferences and differences and try to take them into account, they try to integrate their efforts. This pattern is typical of individuals who know about and respect cultural differences” (Brislin, 2008, p. 10). Thus, it is clear that understanding cultural differences is a crucial aspect of effective communication. This topic is therefore always of interest to scholars. Whereas the world develops day by day, traditional approaches, such as those of Hofstede, are still taken into consideration.


As stated by Wu (2006) according to Hofstede, the cultural dimensions have a major influence on behaviour in all cultures. These dimensions are: individualism-collectivism, masculinity-femininity, power distance, uncertainty avoidance and long-term and short-term orientation. Hofstede's work does not only provide insights into the business world, but it also covers other disciplines. The comprehensive nature of this work makes it particularly engaging even long after conducting the research.


According to Wu (2006) Hofstede’s (1984, 2001) concepts of work-related cultural dimensions have been studied in the field of intercultural communication, cross-cultural psychology, and international management. In the past few decades, his country classification has been frequently cited by researchers. Hofstede’s data includes a broader range of countries than other datasets. For example, compared to GLOBE. Dimensions are statistically different; hence Hofstede's theories have been replicated by a number of researchers, and the replications show they are still valid, confirming that Hofstede's descriptions of cultural differences are common and enduring. (Zainuddin et al., 2018).


“Lowe and Gibson (2006) review 180 empirical studies published between 1980 to 2002 and observe that Hofstede dimensions successfully predict cross-country variations and links between culture and organizations” (Lowe & Gibson, 2006 cited in Zainuddin et al., 2018, p.5).


Based on the information provided, it could be argued that the research Hofstede conducted in one company many years ago is still relevant today, as shown through empirical studies conducted over many years. Though it might be useful guidance for international managers and employees, there is a fine line between having guidance and fostering cultural prejudices.


Hofstede’s work raises questions regarding the relevance of his research and approaches. In my opinion there is a possibility that generalizing cultural dimensions could be wrong since each country consists of subcultures. There may be people coming from the same country with different cultures. As a result, one cannot assume that if someone comes from a specific country, he/she will fit into a particular dimension. Furthermore, I believe that such divisions would lead to stereotypical thinking, which sometimes leads to difficulties especially while working in a global environment.


According to Javidan et al., (2006) in the field of cross-cultural psychology and international management, Geert Hofstede is among the pioneers. Though, the overwhelming influence of his 1980 book, based on his IBM consulting project, may have made it relatively easy for other scholars to use his culture dimensions and associated country scores in an uncritical manner. These scholars also argue if the questionnaire can be generalised, as it was specifically designed for IBM. The survey questions were very much tailored to IBM's needs and interests, which can hardly be considered non-American centric in the 1960s. Information was therefore collected based on IBM's needs. Additionally, “Hofstede’s (2006) critique, based on a single study of a small number of organizations (Hofstede et al., 1990), suggests that organizational cultures are different phenomena from national cultures” (Javidan et al., 2006, p. 904).


Moreover, arguments against Hofstede include cultural homogeneity. In Hofstede's study, the domestic population is viewed as homogenous. The majority of nations, however, are ethnically diverse. A common flaw of Hofstede is that he tends to overlook the importance of community and the variations of it (Nasif et al. 1991, 82; Redpath 1997, 336; Dorfman and Howell 1988, 129; Lindell and Arvonen 1996; Smith 1998, 62 cited in Jones, 2007). Additionally, “Nations are not the proper units of analysis as cultures are not necessarily bounded by borders (McSweeney 2000). Hofstede points out however that national identities are the only means we have of identifying and measuring cultural differences (Hofstede 1998, 481)” (Jones, 2007, p. 5).


Conclusion

Globalisation leads people to be aware of the cultural differences, especially in business environments, where both: verbal and non-verbal communication plays an important role. Considering the critique, Hofstede has received, researchers still take into consideration his work. Despite the importance of the research, we have mentioned reasons which lead Hofstede’s work to criticism. Most importantly, it cannot be assumed that people from similar countries have similar cultures. Person’s cultural values and behaviour itself modifies according to the situation and time. Furthermore, countries are most likely to include subcultures, which sometimes might be completely different to dominant culture. This also proves that we can’t assume that an exact person shares the exact same values and cultural habits as people around him/her.


In the global business world, we cannot rely only on dimensions, which were identified in the past century. Countries develop and people change. The business environment as well constantly changes, as do individuals' behaviours. Therefore, it could be argued that labelling people with some characteristics related to their culture/country may lead to flawless communication and guarantee the success in global business and management.



__________________________________

References:

Brislin, R,W. (2008). Working with cultural differences: dealing effectively with diversity in the workplace. Westport, CT : Praeger. https://eds.p.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=5396f11c-a2a4-456d-8bca-c1b5f914e3b8%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=up.948320&db=cat01619a


Javidan, M., House, R., Dorfman, P,W., Hanges, P., & Luque M.S. (2006). Conceptualizing and measuring cultures and their consequences: a comparative review of GLOBE's and Hofstede's approaches. Journal of International Business Studies, 37, 897-914. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400234.pdf


Jones, M,L. (2007). Hofstede - Culturally questionable? Oxford Business & Economics Conference.

Liu, S., Volcic, Z., & Gallois, C. (2018). Introducing intercultural communication (3rd ed.). London: SAGE Publications. https://app.talis.com/port/player#/modules/5f48ae9252703118d296f558/resources/5f48cee452703118d296f687#page-137


Wu, M. (2006). Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions 30 Years Later: A Study of Taiwan and the United States. Intercultural Communication Studies, 15(1), 33-42.


Zainuddin, M., Yasin I,M., Arif, I., & Hamid A,B,A. (2018). Alternative Cross-cultural Theories: Why Still Hofstede? Putra Business School, University Putra Malaysia.



4 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page