Examining the Impact of Culture on
by Justine Di Cesare and Golnaz Sadri
Motivation is fundamental to human behaviour. Bartol and Martin (1998) define motivation as the force that energises behaviour, gives direction to behaviour, and underlies the tendency to persist. Similarly, Greenberg and Baron (1997) define motivation as “the set of processes that arouse, direct, and maintain human behaviour toward attaining some goal”. There are three key parts to this definition: arousal, drive, and mobilisation of effort. Arousal is the initial feeling of interest that a person has toward attaining a particular goal. The second aspect of the definition, direction, is what people will do and actions they will take to get closer to attaining the end result. For instance, in the American culture, if an individual is trying to get the next promotion, he will probably stay at work late to do additional work and develop excellent relationships with the key decision-makers. The third element of this definition of motivation, mobilisation of effort, refers to the persistence or maintenance of the behaviour until the goal is attained. This means that the candidate desiring a promotion will continue the aforementioned behaviour until promotion is reached.
There are a number of popular motivational theories that are commonly studied and often used by companies in the United States. Among these are Abraham Maslow’s Need Hierarchy (Maslow, 1954), Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. The purpose of the present article is to examine the relevance of each of these theories to two important yet different global business cultures: the United States and Japan. Abraham Maslow’s Need Hierarchy, Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory represent three different approaches to the topic of motivation. Maslow’s theory focuses on individual needs. Herzberg examined worker job satisfaction and developed a work-focused theory while Vroom examined motivation from the perspective of the interaction between the individual and his/her work. As such, this article aims to provide multiple perspectives on the topic of motivation.
Hofstede’s Dimensions of Culture
Although many similarities can be seen in human motivation, more recently, researchers have turned their attention to the differences that might exist in human behaviour. Hofstede’s study of 160,000 employees working in 40 different countries represents one of the most comprehensive pieces of research in the field of cross-cultural dimensions of behaviour. Hofstede Volume 26 Number 1 2003 29
Justine Di Cesare and
Golnaz Sadri can both
be contacted at the De-
partment of Manage-
ment, College of Bus-
iness & Economics,
California State Univer-
sity, Fullerton, Fuller-
ton, CA 92834, USA.
identified four different dimensions of culture that he suggested explained differences in work-related values and behaviours: 1) individualism/collectivism, 2) power distance, 3) uncertainty avoidance, 4) and masculinity/ femininity. These dimensions are of particular relevance to the study of employee motivation because “while the principle of leadership, motivation, and decision making may be applicable almost everywhere, their success or failure depends heavily on ways in which managers adapt to the local culture and work situation” (Chen, 1995, p.17). The following discussion further explains and details the differences of the Japanese and United States motivations described through Hofstede’s theory.
1. Individualism versus Collectivism
The primary difference between individualism and collectivism is the way that members of different cultures identify themselves as an individual or a member of a group. Individualism is a term that is described by a person’s drive to serve himself and his immediate family. It can also be described as “the ideal that men and women are most...