The Cultural Relativity of Organizational Practices and Theories Author(s): Geert Hofstede
Source: Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, Special Issue on CrossCultural Management (Autumn, 1983), pp. 75-89 Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals
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THE CULTURALRELATIVITY F ORGANIZATIONAL
Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation (IRIC)
Abstract. This paper summarizes the author's recently published findings about differences in people's work-related values among 50 countries. In view of these differences, ethnocentric management theories (those based on the value system of one particular country) have become untenable. This concept is illustrated for the fields of leadership, organization, and motivation.
* A key issue for organization science is the influence of national cultures on management. Twenty or even 10 years ago, the existence of a relationship between management and national cultures was far from obvious to many, and it may not be obvious to everyone even now. In the 1950s and 60s, the dominant belief, at least in Europe and the U.S., was that management was something universal. There were principles of sound management, which existed regardless of national environments. If national or local practice deviated from these principles, it was time to change local practice. In the future, the universality of sound management practices would lead to societies becoming more and more alike. This applied even to the poor countries of the Third World, which would become rich as well and would be managed just like the rich countries. Also, the differences between management in the First and Second World (capitalist and socialist) would disappear; in fact, under the surface they were thought to be a lot smaller than was officially recognized. This way of thinking, which dominated the 1950s and 60s, is known as the "convergence hypothesis."
During the 1970s, the belief in the unavoidable convergence of management practices waned. It was too obviously in conflict with the reality we saw around us. At the same time supranational organizations like the European Common Market, which were founded very much on the convergence belief, had to recognize the stubbornness of national differences. Even within existing nations, regional differences became more rather than less accentuated. The Welsh, the Flemish, the Basques, the Bangladeshi, the Quebecois defended their own identity, and this was difficult to reconcile with a management philosophy of convergence. It slowly became clear that national and even regional cultures do matter for management. The national and regional differences are not disappearing; they are here to stay. In fact, these differences may become one of the most crucial problems for management-in particular for the management of multinational, multicultural organizations, whether public or private.
Nationality is important to management for at least 3 reasons. The first, very obviously, is political. Nations are...
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