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National cultures

Hofstede Culture Model part 2

  • 15 June 2017
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Let's continue to discuss the Hofstede culture model. Individuality (or Collectivism) and Masculinity (or Femininity) also affect our thinking about people in organizations.


Individuality leads to doing your best, achieving as much as you can, investing in your education and “enlightened self-interest”. It stimulates freedom and autonomy, ownership, responsibility but may not always be favorable to teamwork. Collectivism means you derive your identity, status, and safety from your in-group. The group is taking care of you and you contribute to the group. It favors a focus on teamwork, relationships, but maybe also pressure to fit in and dependency on the group. The interest of your in-group (or department, organization) prevails over individual wishes. These dimensions are implied in the CVF - with a more collectivist/group focus on the internal-oriented Collaborate and Control Cultures whilst the external-oriented Create and Compete Culture offer more individual freedom and achievement.


Masculinity and Femininity refer not only to gender roles but also to values that are attributed to males and females. Masculine is being strong, assertive, competing, and providing for the family while feminine means being beautiful, caring, modest, and maintaining relationships.

In feminine societies, the so-called feminine values are accepted for men as well - and these societies aim to be collaborative, tolerant, social, and inclusive. In masculine societies, the gender roles are more separated and men should behave like real men. The societies are less inclusive and social- and more founded on competition and achieving results. In a way, “it’s every man for himself”.

In more masculine societies such as the USA and Germany, accounting systems stress the achievement of financial targets more than in feminine societies such as Sweden and the Netherlands. Hofstede’s findings also suggest that feminine countries tend toward more friendly workplaces whereas a masculine national culture may count more hostile, competitive, “tough guy” organizational cultures.

These dimensions can’t be placed in the CVF as a concept, but you can recognize them in specific organizations that you mapped in this framework. An example: you can have an organization with a dominant Control Culture that displays feminine values and cares for the organization members in its hierarchy - maybe even in a paternalistic way.

Check your National Culture

An important caveat arises from Hofstede’s work. Organizations are culture-bound, and so are organizational theories; often based on American and European practices and research. Leadership theories and behaviors that don’t take the expectations of employees into account are dysfunctional - as Hofstede states. For instance, empowerment and sharing decision-making with employees comes more naturally in countries with a low power distance. So, if your national culture is different than described above, you need to adjust the general advice from business books to better fit your national culture.

To wrap it up - when working with organizational culture it can be wise to understand more about national cultures. In today’s world, we encounter and work with people from many different cultural backgrounds. Culturally adaptive leadership is now a core competency for leaders, HR- and project managers, coaches, trainers, and other professionals.

In addition to Geert Hofstede, you can explore the national culture theories of Fons Trompenaars/Charles Hampden-Turner, Richard Lewis, Charles Handy, Edward Hall, Kluckholn and Strodtbeck, Shalom Schwartz, and Grid-Group Cultural Theory developed by Douglas, Thompson, Wildavsky and Ellis. A general resource on culture theories is David Straker’s website Changing Minds.

In this blog series, I compare other culture models with the Competing Values Framework. Feel free to let me know what you think!

Do you want to know how your organization scores on the Competing Values Framework? Do the free individual OCAI trial here. Or check out the paid Pro and Enterprise assessments for teams and organizations.

© Marcella Bremer 2017. All rights reserved.

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