Last Updated 16 Apr 2020

Trompenaars vs. Hofstede

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Trompenaars vs. Hofstede 1. 2. Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 2 Cultural Dimensions of Hofstede and Trompenaars ................................................... 3 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Analogies or identities of the cultural dimensions ...................................................... 5 Differences of the dimensions .............................................................................................. 7 Advantages and Risks seeing the world and cultures with dimensions .............. Effects on practice operation ................................................................................................ 8 Personal meaning and consequences of the dimensions .......................................... 9 2. 1. 2. 2. Hofstedes’ Dimensions........................................................................................................... 3 Trompenaars’ Dimensions ................................................................................................... 4 1. Introduction Nowadays a lot of companies operate in a multitude of distinct countries.

However, if we do a double take, it is evident that multinational enterprises and their strategies differ from country to country. If not, it might be the case that those companies will fail. For example Wal-Mart opted for entering the Japanese market. Unfortunately, they tried implement the American strategy in Japan. Americans were keen on bargain buys in huge amounts 24 hours a day. Whereas the discount strategy in the USA has been very successful, it had adverse effects in Japan. Japanese people equated low prices to low quality and thus didn’t want to buy at Wal-Mart.

Moreover, Japanese weren’t used to the fact that a store was open 24 hours per day. Such misunderstandings cause huge trouble. For some situations we cannot prepare. However, it would have been important for WalMart to analyze the Japanese culture in depth before starting business there. If we look at everyday life it is safe to say that all people have the problem how to cope with people’s relationship to time, nature and other human beings. The solutions how to get a grip on these problems differ from culture to culture. Consequently, it is important to be aware of the cultural differences of each country.

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Trompenaars and Hofstede give some propositions how to classify cultures. 2 2. Cultural Dimensions of Hofstede and Trompenaars 2. 1. Hofstedes’ Dimensions Geert Hofstede filtered out 5 dimensions which indicate how people are influenced by their culture especially in the workplace. The first dimension refers to identity. The dimension Collectivism vs. individualism reflects the relationship between an individual and the group. In more individualistic societies the emphasis is put on freedom, personal achievement and individual identity. Consequently, ties in a group (e. g. he family, workgroup) are loose. People manifest a higher incentive for self-initiative and try to take care of themselves. In contrast, collectivistic cultures place great value on the common interest of a group, harmony between members and taking care of each other. There is a clear distinction between inand outsiders. If an outsider takes face of one group member the entire group feels offended and avoids contact with the troublemaker. Secondly, Power Distance deals with hierarchy and the degree of inequality between members of a society which is adopted as a natural state of affairs.

In high power distance countries inequality in physical and intellectual capabilities is considered to be normal. Subordinates are in for displaying obedience to the boss. There is a pronounced sense of hierarchy and people enjoying a high status reveal their power. Whereas societies that rank low on power distance play down hierarchy and stress equality. There is no focus on titles and positions and leaders do not exhibit their skills obviously. Masculinity vs. Femininity is about relationship between gender and work roles. In male-dominated cultures sex roles are sharply differentiated.

There is a clear role distribution which suggests itself in the fact that men are superior to women and men normally occupy management positions. Hence, the focus is on achievement, competition and ‘fighting’. However, in female oriented cultures genders are less distinguished and both genders play the same role. These cultures stress care, compromise and harmony. The fourth dimension called Uncertainty Avoidance aims at the way people try to get a grip on unpredictable and ambiguous situations. People living in a culture with strong uncertainty avoidance have fear of the unknown.

Therefore elaborate rules, regulations, and clear orders exist. Cultures with a low uncertainty avoidance tolerate differences, unanticipated situations and are more open toward change. People make decisions which are subject to individual discretion and which are based on more universal rules. Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation relate to the choice between future and present virtue. In other words, Hofstede’s last dimension can be seen as an indicator for a society’s attitude toward time and tradition. Values associated with Long-Term Orientation are thrift, filial piety and perseverance.

Young people should sacrifice their pleasures of their life at their young age for the sake of the benefit of their future. Values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'. Consequently, this orientation is more oriented toward the past and the present. 3 2. 2. Trompenaars’ Dimensions Trompenaars explored how people relate in private, business life and moral conflicts. Afterwards he extracted seven dimensions. The first dimension Universalism vs. Particularism can be prescribed with key words as rules vs. elationships. In universalistic cultures people are supposed to strictly adhere to standards and rules. Consequently, infringing the right (regardless of the reason) is equivalent to undermining morals and should be punished. There are no exceptions. In particularistic societies obligations to the closer surrounding enjoy highest priority. Protecting your members (e. g. family, friends) is more important than observing law. In case of Collectivism vs. Individualism the question arises if people attribute more importance to oneself or to the group.

In individualistic cultures there is a clear distinction of individuals within a group. It is common that personal achievement is rewarded and people are motivated to improve their individual performance in order to be promoted. Representatives of a group or a company are allowed to make binding decisions on their own. In collectivistic cultures people identify themselves with the group. High achievement of one person is put down to the good performance of the entire group and thus success is shared within the group. Only the whole team or at least a certain number of members make decisions and take responsibility.

The dimension Neutral vs. Affective deals with the range of expressed feelings. Neutral societies avoid to demonstrate feelings and strong gestures and hence try to display controlled behavior. If someone reveals anger or aggression this behavior is tantamount to unprofessionalism. Discussions are lead on a factual level. However, in affective cultures expression of feelings either verbally or nonverbally is normal. People expect direct emotional answers and appreciate vital and animated expressions. In the fourth place, Diffuse vs.

Specific relates to the strategies and approaches for getting to know each other. People living in a specific/low context culture pursue a purpose in relating with another person, thus prefer direct and to the point communication. People clearly distinguish between private and business life e. g. titles are used in the job world not in private life. As the private sphere is relatively small only few people take part in one’s private life. In diffuse/high context cultures every life space permeates all others which means that everything is connected to everything.

Even employers can take an active part of the worker’s private life. Achievement vs. Ascription refers to the accord of status. Achieved status is equivalent to success because of taking action. Managers are of different age and gender as they have reached the position due to performance, knowledge and skills. Ascribed status represents the opposite side. High status does not have to be justified. It is rather independent of task or specific function. Often external factors like age, gender, connections, education and family background decide on the status.

The sixth dimension Sequential vs. Synchronic deals with time management. In synchronic cultures the emphasis is on the number of activities taking place in parallel. People place great value on the targets and not on the way and sequence an objective will be reached. Consequently, deadlines are untypical as the schedule is open for unplanned incidents. In general, relationship is more important than tight schedules. In sequential societies events which are often slated in a plan pass step by step. Tight order, punctuality and deadlines are of paramount importance.

As a result, people are unable to act in turbulent environments and dislike unanticipated situations. Relationships serve as instruments and thus are inferior to schedules. 4 Last but not least the dimension Internal Control vs. External Control is about human’s relation to nature. This can be transcended to human’s relation to an organization, government and the market. In internal controlled cultures people have the conviction to be able to control their environment even if they have to use aggressiveness. Nature is equivalent to a complex machine which can be controlled if someone could develop an expertise.

Therefore success and failure should be put down to the individual endeavors rather than to environment and general-set up. However, in external controlled societies environment is taken more into account because people consider themselves to be a part of nature. As external forces can strongly influence one’s life people try to be in harmony with their environment. They adapt to their surroundings, e. g. to customers, to their colleagues or they react flexibly to market forces. Afterwards they try to react in an appropriate way. 3.

Analogies or identities of the cultural dimensions Trompenaars and Hofstede filtered out the same dimension Individualism vs. Collectivism. These ideologies are the platform for political and economic systems. China is a textbook example for a collectivistic country whereas the United States represent an individualistic country. In China ‘we’ occupies center stage and members of a group experience improvement of their life by taking care of each other and by maintaining harmony. Consequently, pay-for-performance of a single person is rejected in collectivistic cultures.

Bonus payment to one person does not reflect the fact that the whole group contributes to success of each single group member. Reward of a single person would only destroy harmony within the group and would demotivate essential teamwork. However, in the US people rather concentrate on their own life. Each person takes the responsibility to improve one’s situation by working hard on one’s own. Bonus payment stimulates the propensity to perform better and to stand out against workmates. Trompenaars dimension Universalism vs. Particularism goes hand in hand with Individualism vs. Collectivism.

Americans being universalists and individualists emphasize equal treatment of everyone according to the law. E. g. If the best friend killed someone the universalist giving testimony would tell the truth in order to adhere to the law. The relationship to the friend would be neglected just to restore order as killing someone is immoral. As opposed to this, in China relationship is superior to law. The Chinese friend would lie to protect the friend who is in real trouble. The dimension Specific vs. Diffuse reveals some analogies with regard to the dimension Individualism vs. Collectivism.

In specific countries or low context countries, e. g. America, business is done even if both parties haven’t established a relationship. Long communication is not necessary as the contract contains every little detail. This demonstrates that the emphasis is put on the task and on the achievement of the individual representing the company rather than on the relationship. Whereas in China companies would only strike a deal if a relationship was established successfully. In diffuse/high context cultures privacy sphere is only marginal and confidence decides on business operation.

In other words, relationship and group orientedness is superior to task. 5 Individualism vs. Collectivism also correlates with Short-Term-orientation/Long-Termorientation. In East-Asian countries, e. g. China, Hong Kong, Taiwan the relationship between workers and management in a company is vital. This fact can be put down to Confucianism and the concept of reciprocal obligation. Bosses protect their workers and offer them a life-time employment. In return, their subordinates are loyal and respectful. Everyone (the whole group) is responsible to contribute to the long-lasting success in the company.

In Western countries, e. g. the United States people are not keen on life-time employment. They want to change their job if they have an opportunity for a better career. Managers siphon off high bonus (short term) payments if the company’s profits and numbers in the last business year are excellent. As a result, managers are not interested in sustainability but in short-term profit. Individualism vs. Collectivism influences Trompenaars dimension Internal Control/External Control. The political system collectivism goes hand in hand with the economic system command economy.

Even if China is a mixed economy government controls life of its citizens and of each individual e. g. via censorship. Consequently, Chinese people are externalistic as government (metaphor for environment) actively shapes their lives and people haven’t had control over government. Contrary to this, Germans living in individualism and market economy are internalistic. Companies can function as lobbyists and can actively influence governmental activities. Another two dimensions which have similarities are Hofstede’s Power Distance and Trompenaars Achievement vs. Ascription.

The Indian Caste system reflects High Power Distance. If someone was born into the lowest group (Shudra) of the caste system (let alone the Untouchables) this person will always belong to this caste. Shudras have to accept the fact that they will always be inferior to people belonging to the upper castes. The caste determines the quality of life including the profession. A Brahmin, belonging to the highest caste, will always be respected and occupies the most powerful standing in society. This fact equates with Ascription as the Indian cadre originates from a renowned family background and has normally reached a decent age.

Subordinates are loyal and respectful as they can only survive with the help of the upper castes and thus are highly dependent on them. Hence, superiors dictate the conditions and take responsibility for everything. The hierarchy within the caste system is reflected in a steep hierarchy in companies and institutions. Germany being a Low Power Distance country can be considered as the opposite. Family background could help to find a job but doesn’t decide on the career track of a person. If someone distinguishes oneself from the mass because of excellent performance and great talent this person will probably climb up the career ladder.

This example can be clearly associated with Trompenaars dimension achievement. It is also very important to remark that both staff and bosses should be treated almost equally as the roles and positions can be changed very fast due to achievement. Even if some analogies match with my example this doesn’t mean that the two dimensions compared have similarities in all areas and situations. I extracted some points of intersection. 6 4. Differences of the dimensions The other dimensions not mentioned in the prior passage may sometimes have minor similarities which are notwithstanding outweighed by the differences of their meanings.

I deliberately turned my back on the analogies between the dimensions of the same author. Geert Hofstede concentrated on the subject how cultural differences influence organization, management and relationship between people whereas Trompenaars shed some light on people’s relationship to time, nature and other human beings. Trompenaars neglected the topic gender which deals with a substantial question how the roles in the family are defined. This also manifests itself in the management structure of a company. In female oriented cultures, e. g. n Scandinavian countries men go on parental leave and women equally occupy leading positions. Whereas in a male- oriented culture like Germany a dog-eats-dog society has been generated, in Norway a woman striving for her own benefit and thus threatening cooperation and harmony will be looked down upon. Trompenaars did not deal with search for Truth. Hofstede’s Uncertainty Avoidance indicates how people try to grapple with unstructured situations. United States e. g. ranking low on Uncertainty Avoidance are not risk averse. The current financial crisis was triggered by hazardous behavior.

American banks granted credits to people who couldn’t afford them. Germany ranking high on the uncertainty avoidance is often criticized for its bureaucracy. Elaborate rules and regulations should avoid uncertainty, can however cause a lot of paper work. One can also find some topics Hofstede did not have a focus on. Firstly, Hofstede did not consider the range of feelings expressed (neutral vs. emotional) which of course determine communication and behavior of people. Secondly, Hofstede did not describe the dimension dealing with range of involvement (diffuse vs. specific).

Last but not least Hofstede did not mention explicitly time management (sequential vs. synchronic). 5. Advantages and Risks seeing the world and cultures with dimensions It is safe to say that dimensions can help people (that have never been to a certain country) to become more sensitive for intercultural understanding. Not until people are aware of idiosyncrasies of their own culture they can easier get to know other cultures. If someone (e. g. an expatriate) is undetermined in which country to go dimensions can help to get a first impression and contain the number of possible destinations depending on the criteria.

After having chosen a country the expatriate should acquire theoretical knowledge about important symbols, rituals and common manners. Being abroad he/she can try to apply dimensions practically especially during the first days in the new surrounding as the person does not know how to behave properly. Most notably at the first meeting people need a first point of orientation to avoid big no go’s. 7 However, getting to know other cultures means learning by doing and trial by error. According to the iceberg model visible and expected occurrences account for only 10%. Consequently, 90% of our experiences with other cultures happen unsuspectedly.

That’s why we should not overestimate and read too much into dimensions. A risk which arises when applying dimensions is to misunderstand and misuse them. The peculiarity of a dimension is highly dependent on the situation and on the counterpart’s personality. Dimensions do not reflect individual cultural preferences but convey an average and general behavior of the population living in a culture. An adverse effect is also that stereotypes are created and reinforced. Another problem point is that Hofstede carried out his studies (which serve as basis for the dimensions) at the end of the 60s.

These studies are only a snapshot and did not take into consideration that culture evolves over time. Especially changes in economic or political environment, e. g. the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe or globalization, heavily affect transformation of cultures. Apart from that, both authors assumed that there is a one-to-one correspondence between culture and nation state which is sometimes not the case. In some countries, e. g. Canada, more than one culture can be found. There are even major differences of behavior between regions of a country. 6.

Effects on practice operation Before going abroad expatriates should grasp how much preparation is required to cope with the difference between the own and the foreign culture. Even if an expatriate cannot prepare for the unexpected situations abroad preparation should lead to willingness of flexibility and adaption while interacting with foreigners. However, an expatriate should know the future task in the foreign country which indicates the role and needed appearance of the expatriate. This depends on the target and the way of the company how to expand internationally.

If a company opts for setting-up a new subsidiary abroad, the so called greenfield start, optimally a group of expatriates is sent to a foreign country. The task of the expatriates is to find out whether the strategy and the culture of the company can be reconciled with the foreign culture. They experience intensively foreign norms and values and try to recruit suitable locals in order to build up the new plant together. The difficulty is to decide if it is worthwile to establish a company in this country. It is evident that this decision should not be made on the basis of the dimensions.

Secondly, the foreign members should be conscious of the fact that national values and norms have to be brought in line with the native corporate culture. This will only happen if the expatriates and the foreign workers could successfully build confidence so that the foreigners feel also loyal to a foreign company. My initial example with Wal-Mart showed that the company failed to apply a right strategy. If a company plans an acquisition with a foreign country expatriates should first analyze the business culture of the own and the future company. Moreover, expatriates should consider also the foreign culture!

There is a high potential of conflicts as normally the managers of the foreign company are made redundant and are superseded by expatriates. The question is if those expatriates will be accepted by the national workers and if they are capable of doing successfully business in the foreign surrounding. 8 Irrespective of the distinct possibilities to enter a foreign market intercultural sensitivity (both of the own and the foreign country) is the be-all and end-all. Therefore it is of paramount importance to go abroad as prepared and unprejudiced as possible.

If expatriates succeed internalizing these facts they can close the distance gap between two companies operating in distinct countries. 7. Personal meaning and consequences of the dimensions My next job abroad will be as an intern not as an expatriate. That’s why I will refer to my internship in China. Generally speaking it would be easier for me to do my internship in countries where I can speak the language (German, English, French, Polish, Spanish). It is obvious that mainly Western countries are involved (e. g. America, European countries). All of them embrace democracy and in large part stress individualism. The frame’ would be alike and I could concentrate on concept of time, privacy, and way of life. However, in countries were political and economic systems are at odds with democracy almost everything is different like in China. Dimensions confirm this statement. I deliberately chose a country which is unfamiliar to me as this poses a considerable challenge. The problem point is that I am permanently influenced by Western media. This leads to the fact that my subconsciousness would like to dictate that the opposite culture is different and thus ‘wrong’.

I personally do not think that the other culture is ‘wrong’. I am more afraid of putting my foot in it in momentous situations. Firstly, I am used to sharing my experiences with others and of being in a group, but in a smaller one. The size of the group (especially the quantity of people on the street) will be a change. Secondly, I am used to voicing my opinion freely and saying ‘yes or no’ even in team work. This will not be possible anymore as I should not take someone’s face and indirectly the face of the group. I should get used to going around in circles particularly during discussions.

Apart from that it is normal for me to solve problems when they arise. However, I have to adapt the fact that I should circumvent it. Ignoring these factors could lead to tensions which would have detrimental effects on the relationship between the staff and me. I am dependent on their explanation! Even if I think that in a special case the ‘German’ way of doing it would be more appropriate and efficient these thoughts should not prevail! My individual target and opinion should not be on top anymore! In general, I am a optimistic person and I like it to smile.

In China people smile even if they are angry. It will be a challenge for me to estimate the feelings correctly and to deal with it. Also the perception of time and structure pose risks to me as I will certainly be confused if deadlines are not met and order is neglected. These are only few situations and points which could cause trouble and uncertainty. My examples reflect some of the dimensions, e. g. individualism vs. collectivism, diffuse vs. specific, uncertainty avoidance,… Despite everything I look forward to my experience abroad and consider this seminar paper as a minor part of my preparation. 9

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