With the growth of globalization and multinational organizations, there has been an increased need for executives to effectively manage in multi-cultural settings with least possible difficulty. Increasingly expatriate managers are struggling to manage a group of people who are completely unlike the group he managed back in his country. In this era of globalized business environment has become increasingly important to understand different cultures and try to ascertain the difference between ‘them and us’. There are various areas of culture which need require special attention for mangers to control and motivate employees. That is why the study of culture of different countries is important.
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The journal article under study is Measuring Russian Culture using Hofstede’s Dimensions (Naumov & Puffer, 2000). This article uses Geert Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture model to understand the Russian culture in the mid and late twentieth century Russia. The article tries to understand the dimensions of Russian culture in respect to the respondent’s age, occupation, years of experience, occupation, and number of subordinates. Thus study also compares their results with previous studies on Russian culture using Hofstede’s model and shows an analysis as to the time difference of the study conducted and difference in the results.
This paper is a review of the above mentioned journal article. So the paper will concentrate to understand the background of the study and provide a critique to the article. This paper will also show the strengths and weaknesses of the article. The paper will first discuss the theoretical background of the article, i.e. Hofstede’s five dimensional model of culture and then summarize the article. Then the paper provides the strengths and weaknesses of the article analysing their results critically.
Hofstede devised a model based on five dimensions of culture which helped explain the varied characteristics of national cultures. Hofstede agrees that no model can be applied to portray the uniqueness in all the cultures, but a generalized difference can be brought out (Hofstede, 1993). Hofstede’s models had increasingly helped organizations to run multinational multicultural organizations. He used a large database on employee attitude and studied the cultures in 40 different countries.
Hofstede shows that organizational theories and organizations are culture bound which is closely related to the national culture. According to Hofstede, people are under a social, cultural discourse which is established in their minds throughout their lives. These discourses affect the mental frame of the individuals’ perceptions, ideals, aims, belief, and behaviour in predictable manner. His dimensions which portrayed a culture are: uncertainty avoidance, individualism, power distance, paternalism, and masculinity. In the following section we will describe each aspect properly.
Power Distance: This aspect shows the degree to which a culture accepts power in an organization or institution to be distributed equally or unequally. As noted by Hofstede, in countries like Mexico or Philippines the power distance is high which leads to highly centralized organizations, taller organizational structures, close supervision, and less participative management style (Hofstede, 1980). So it can be deduced that countries with high power distance adhere to more control from the institution. They are not open to an institution which does not make strict rules and commands then to work under it. And the situation will be vice versa in case of low power distance cultures where there are high need for less dominating institution, and one which gives freedom.
Uncertainty Avoidance: This indicates the lack of a culture’s acceptance of uncertainty or ambiguity. A culture which scores high on this dimension shows a greater need for structured activities with rules being properly formalized with individuals willing to take less risk while making decisions. But a nation which scores high on this implies the individuals are ready to experiment and take high risk decisions and need greater freedom and empowerment in work environment.
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Individualism: This aspect shows the tendency of the culture to be individualistic or collective. An individualistic culture like the United States or Australia need not have an institution which takes care of them and they are emotionally independent from groups, organizations, and other collectivities. Whereas collectivist societies are one where the need to be looked after by an institution is higher and the attachment with a group or organization is greater. So cultures that score high on this dimension show that the involvement of the individuals with others is usually calculative, and policies and practices must be based on individual initiative rather being passed on loyalty or a sense of duty.
Masculinity: This dimension measures the degree of masculine values like assertiveness, money, etc. prevail in a culture as compared to feminine values like nurturance, quality of life and people. This aspect actually shows the nature of the culture which consequently shows how equal opportunity can be dispersed in any culture. According to Hofstede a culture high on masculinity like Japan will have difficulty to have female officials in the organization. Further a masculine culture will also mean a decision making process and body which will be less nurturing and more controlling.
Paternalism: This indicates that the institution or the organization is protective like a family or not. A nation with high paternalism indicates that the institution or state protects the weaklings in the society just as the father protects a child. Here Hofstede implies that when the family values are translated into national values then the culture become high on paternalism and vice versa.
Summary of Article
Using this model by Hofstede, Naumov and Puffer did the study on Russian culture. This section will present a brief summary of the article which described the study. The article assessed Russian culture using Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture. They conducted a survey on 250 Russians and the results were categorised on the basis of age, work experience, occupation, number of subordinate, and geographical region. Then this result was compared with other studies on Russian culture using Hofstede’s dimensions. Apart from this the Russian results were compared with other nation’s scores on the five dimensions. Before we understand what the result of the study showed, we will first understand the methodology used by the authors to conduct the study.
Method: The method used by the authors to conduct the study was that devised by Hofstede in his study to measure the dimensions empirically. The study used a 29 item questionnaire covering the five dimensions from Hofstede’s model. The survey was conducted on Russian respondents from October 1995 to June 1996. The respondents came from various work area like there were managers and professionals, students, and faculty members from business schools. The responses were taken on a five-point scale and the mean of the responses were calculated for each cultural dimension as was done by Hofstede (1980). There were five items for uncertainty avoidance and masculinity, individuality and power distance had six items each, and paternalism had seven items in the questionnaire. The responses were converted to 100 point scale as Hofstede (1980) had done in order to compare the results with other studies.
Results: The results were then discussed and compared with the findings of Hofstede’s study of Russia (1993), Bollinger (1994), and Veiga et al. (1995). They also compared the results with estimates of countries like USA, China, Germany, France, and Japan as presented by Hofstede (1988, 1993). The mean score of the results were computed along with the confidence interval in which 50 percent of the response fell i.e. P< 0.05 level. Then they discussed the results of each dimensions separately.
Uncertainty avoidance for the Russian culture in the mid-1990s was found to be relatively high at a mean score of 68 which was close to that of Austria, Taiwan, Arab countries, Ecuador, and Germany (Hofstede, 1980). Though the score for Russians differed substantially in comparison with Bollinger’s study (1994) where Russia scored 92 points for his study of 1989 Russia. The authors think that the difference in the scores and a substantially higher score in case of Bollinger’s study was due to the economic and political condition of the time in the country. As the Russian citizens were guaranteed a job during the communist era, there was a high need for rule and order among individuals. But in the post communist era this need subsided as people became more prone to uncertainty and was forced to make individual decisions. Their theory was supported by Veiga (1995) who suggested that the uncertainty avoidance among Russians was declining. Their study did not find any variance in uncertainty avoidance due to age, work experience, number of subordinates and geographic region. But the dimension was stronger among managers and businessmen while lower among university faculty and students. The reason for which this difference is attributed by the authors is fewer rules in educational institutes.
Russians were found to be low in individualism at 41 point. Their score was at par with other countries like Iran, Jamaica, Spain, and Greece. Hofstede estimated the score for this dimension in Russia to be 50 which is marginally different from what the authors found. The result is much higher than what Bollinger (1994) found and almost same as was found by Veiga etal. (1995). Due to such varied differences in results, no sure conclusion could be reached by the authors as to the Russian’s individualism. They provided a general summary saying that overall the Russians were “communal collective” because they had communism in the country (Naumov & Puffer, 2000, p.715). They provided a general scenario where they believe that the Russians would try to bring down a prosperous neighbor to be his equal instead of trying to become like him. But once the communism was gone, Russian society became more individualistic.
The items for paternalism were taken from the study by Hofstede and Bond (1988) and the average score was 59 points for this dimension, which were 10-points higher than what Hofstede found for Russia. Further, there was a significant difference found for this dimension with greater occurrence among older respondents, employed business students showed least paternalism, and individuals with no subordinates were less paternalistic. This dimension was not compared with that of Bollinger (1994) and Viega et al. (1995) as they did not report the dimension of paternalism.
The mean score on masculinity was higher than that of Hofstede’s, Bollinger’s and Viega et al.’s estimate of the Russian society. In case of subgroups, the score was higher among respondents who had five years or less experience.
The study presented by the authors cannot be generalized as the results present only to a certain group of the Russian society and does not uniformly represent every parts of the Russian society. The study blindly followed the process that Hofstede devised and used them to measure the cultural dimensions of Russia. Though the study identified some of the changes and alteration in the Russian society from what was found by other researchers, they failed to present any support for their findings. For instance, when they were discussing the changes in the score of uncertainty avoidance from the study of Hofstede and Bollinger, as a support for their argument they only present Veiga et al.’s (1995) assumption that it was probably declining in post communist era in Russia. Further for an alteration of the score for masculinity and individualism. The reasons for discrepancy in scores were pertained to a logic which had or was not provided with any constructive academic support. Thus, the authors failed to explain the reasons for the alteration of scores to a great extent. Apart from this, the authors did not try to develop a rule for Russian society that it is probably high on one dimension and low on the other because they could not have generalized the results. What they should have done, which Hofstede too had suggested (1980, 1988, 1993), to study a group who have similar character just business school students from various regions and subcultures in Russia. This study could have been more useful to generalize the cultural dimensions in the Russian society.
Given the above drawbacks, the study provided a very simplistic explanation of Hofstede’s model and showed how easily the model could be adopted for studying a national culture. The study also provided an analysis of the subgroups of the demographics which demonstrated that the cultural dimensions could be higher or lower depending on age, education, occupation, number of subordinates, or work experience. The study further detailed the difference in Russian society and the changes it had undergone in the pre and post communist era. The implication of the study is that with a change in the governing style, there is a change in the cultural dimensions of a nation. This implication can be furthered to a business environment wherein a change in the culture of the organization can be brought about by changing the management style of the company.
The article is useful for studying the culture of Russia. It will be useful to businesses that intend to start up venture or are already in the country. The study has many advantages as well as disadvantages, but is a storehouse of information for understanding how Hofstede’s model can be used to understand the cultural dimensions of a nation. The article also provides an answer to the differences in scores from previous studies, though some are not well supported. The study take as too simplistic approach to the model and provides and completely ignores the most important thing that Hofstede mentions in using his approach i.e. to use it on a group which is alike meaning study a group who are from same background like same school or same course but not necessarily from the same country. Well as the authors themselves admit, this study cannot be generalized for whole of Russia the results lose a lot of its significance. The study should have studies one of the subgroups from different subcultures and factions in Russia. This article fails to say anything beyond what Hofstede had already found about culture and Russian culture except a few variations in the mean score. Further, even if we consider that the authors wanted to replicate Hofstede’s study and see what differences they find due to the change in timeframe, the objective was never mentioned earlier. Apart from this, the replication of Hofstede’s method was simplistic as the number of items in the questionnaire was reduced than what was used by Hofstede. The article followed the same pattern of explaining the results as was used by Hofstede (1980). But the article provides useful insight regarding post-communism Russian culture.
Bollinger, D., 1994. The four cornerstones and three pillars in the ‘House of Russia’ management system., Journal of Mnagement Development 13(2), p. 49-54.
Hofstede, G. & Bond, M., 1988. The Confucian connection: From cultural roots to economic growth., Organizational Dynamics 16(4), p. 14-21.
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Hofstede, G., 1993. Cultural constrains in management theories., Academy of Management Executive 7(1), p. 82-97.
Hofstede, G., 1980. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverly Hill, Calif.: Sage Publication.
Naumov, A.I. & Puffer, S.M., 2000. Measuring Russian Culture using Hofstede’s Dimensions., Applied Psychology: An International Review 49(4), p. 709-18.
Veiga, J., Yanouzas, J. & Buchholtz, A., 1995. Emerging Cultural Values among Russian managers: What will tomorrow bring?, Business Horizons, p. 20-27.