In my previous article I wrote about the very first of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, the Power Distance. Now, we have arrived to the second one, the Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV).
This dimension measures how many members of a culture define themselves apart from their group memberships. In general, in individualist cultures people are expected to develop and display their individual personalities and choose their own affiliations. In the collectivist cultures however, people are defined and act mostly as a member of a long-term group, such as the family, a religious group, a city or a profession, among others.
Traits of high IDV (a.k.a. Individualistic) countries
The people of these countries mostly care about their nuclear family and they value the personal opinion. It is considered normal, to have conflicts between the individuals – they can consider conflicts having a positive effect as well.
People of the individualistic countries are supposed to look after themselves and their immediate family only. In school the children have to speak up and take initiatives – if not, they are encouraged to do so. They learn ‘how to learn’ in order to be able to know how to manage any situation that might occur in their lives later on.
Basically, we can say, that the education system of these countries teaches the students how to think alone, how to bring ideas and how to solve issues in the future.
What about the work life of the high IDV countries?
The connection of the people within a workplace is based on a contract. This means an “I pay you, so you give me your best performance” approach. In the high IDV workplaces there is room for direct feedback (and it is often also expected) and managing upwards might also be accepted. Nepotism is rejected, being considered as morally wrong – as people in these countries believe that positions at the workplaces must be earned by knowledge, experience and hard work.
These workplaces have direct communication styles and the relationship between the colleagues are mainly distant. Which of course doesn’t necessarily mean that they do not know personal things about each other, but even if they do, they consider each other colleagues, in the first place, rather than friends.
As per the recognition in these workplaces, they are normally primarily personalised. This means, that even if team awards exist, the main profile of the recognitions happen on a person-to-person basis.
High IDV country examples: USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Hungary, Netherlands.
Traits of the low IDV (a.k.a Collectivist) countries
The people in the low IDV countries belong to certain groups which are supposed to look after them in exchange for loyalty. They keep close connection with their extended family and they also consider the group opinion very important. For the sake of keeping the harmony of the group, they avoid open conflict, as according to their beliefs, the conflicts would ruin the group unity.
In the school the children do not speak up by themselves, unless they are mandated by the group. They learn ‘how to do it’ in order to be a good group member.
What about the work life of low IDV countries?
In the workplaces the connection between people is morally based (I take care of you and you are loyal in return). Feedback is always indirect, as direct feedback would be considered as an insult, even if it was a positive one. Nepotism may be found in these workplaces more often, due to the “I take care of you” approach.
The style of the whole communication is indirect in these workplaces and people tend to have close relationships with their colleagues. Being collectivist countries, the work recognitions are also collective – given to a group of people instead of individuals.
Low IDV country examples: China, Indonesia, Thailand, Colombia, Peru, Greece, Turkey, Malaysia.