© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com
Classifying Cultural Differences (Hofstede Categories)
A second component of culture considered in the 2V model is “World-View” – the “world view” The worldview is considered in anthropological studies as a set of beliefs, values and attitudes, used by social actors to interpret and categorize reality, giving meaning to events, establishing relationships between them and guiding behavior.
The worldview is such a personal concept that it is difficult to classify in rigid schemes, however the need (or attempts) to provide classifications have led some social scientists to produce categories through which to read cultures. Among these, we expose the Hofstede classification, one of the most used in the literature.
Among the classics of intercultural communication, Hofstede’s categories are often cited as parameters for differentiating and categorizing cultures. Hofstede’s categories can be an interesting starting point for starting a reflection on cultural differences. However, the risk of generalization is high, and it is undesirable to use them for automatic predictive purposes. It would be extremely wrong to conclude that – because a person has a certain passport or a certain nationality – his mere belonging to a country allows us to predict with certainty how he will behave.
It seems more useful to think about how these categories can help us understand who we are dealing with when we negotiate, based on the concrete behaviors we observe, and without letting ourselves be clouded by automatic judgment. We therefore suggest using categories above all as tools to analyze the organizational cultures with which one comes into contact.
Individualistic cultures characterize systems in which the bonds between individuals are weak, vary over time, and each has to look after himself substantially, or at most his close family. Individual freedoms are high, and social security substantially low, the possibility of social ascent and career high, as well as the risk of failing and falling without nets and protections. Collectivist cultures, on the other hand, incorporate the individual into the group in a very cohesive way, offering him protection in exchange for loyalty and fidelity, giving security but at the same time limiting freedom of expression and deviations from the norm.
The individual is very controlled. This dimension is typically used to distinguish how some cultures manage work and social practices, distinguishing between individualistic cultures such as Canada, US, Australia, and Great Britain, from other cultures considered collectivistic, such as those of East Asia (Japan, Korea South, Hong Kong, and Singapore) and Latin America.
Tab. 6 – Differences between cultures with high individualism and high collectivism
|Identity is based on the individual||Identity comes from belonging to social groups or families|
|We move in the first person, without waiting for help. The strategy is determined by the individual||Help is expected from the community; greater passivity. The strategy is expected from others|
|High degree of autonomy. Autonomy is rewarded||Little autonomy. Autonomy is punished|
|The value comes from the results produced by the individual himself||The value is inherited or absorbed based on the group to which you belong|
|Employment relationships are seen as contracts based on mutual benefit||Work relationships are seen as moral functions, like family relationships|
|The task or goal takes precedence over the relationship||Relationships come before tasks or goals|
|The recruitment comes as a result of selections based on skills||Hiring depends on recommendations, on connections|
|Career depends on the results produced||Career depends on internal and external affiliations|
|Speaking openly and asking for an open confrontation indicates honesty||Harmony must be maintained at any cost and confrontation and confrontation must be avoided|
|Communications are direct||Communications are “veiled”|
|Failure to comply with the rules produces a sense of guilt and a loss of self-esteem||Failure to comply with the rules produces public shame and loss of social face|
|Management is the management of individuals||Management is group management|
As we argue throughout the course of this publication, the advanced intercultural negotiator should never assume that a counterpart is individualistic or collectivist (or otherwise characterized) just because it is classified in terms of nationality and stereotypes. Even within Western countries and industrialized areas (mainly individualistic) we can find “bubbles” of collectivism, in rural areas but also in corporate areas (partly for example in industrial districts) where the facade is individualistic but the heart and habits are essentially collectivist.
The mental practice of collectivism as “living and doing together”, hit hard by the crisis of the former Soviet Union, becomes a sign to be hidden in public statements. Intrinsically, in many cultures, there remains a strong need for sociality and collectivity, typical of Latin and Mediterranean areas, but also of Asian cultures, which continues to express itself despite the educational “mainstream” (prevailing culture, dominant proposal) proposed by the model Anglo-Saxon culture.
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