Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most significant studies on how culture influences workplace values. Hofstede’s most recent publications included 93 countries. He emphasizes and studies five dimensions of culture:
- Power Distance (PDI) – Power distance is the extent to which less powerful people in an organization will accept and expect power to be distributed differently. China ranks 80 on PDI which is very high. This means there is a lot of power distance between subordinates and superiors, but that it is accepted and normal.
- Individualism/Collectivism (IDV) – This is whether or not people think with the mentality of “I” or “We.” The American culture is very “I” focused, meaning that we focus more on furthering ourselves and careers versus furthering our department or group. On the other hand, China ranks 91 on IDV, meaning that they are highly collectivistic and think as a group versus individually. This can be seen with the high amount of in-groups and out-groups.
- Masculinity/Femininity (MAS) – This is the first dimension where the Americans and the Chinese rank similarly. China ranks 66 for this dimension, meaning they are very driven by successful, competition, and achievements. The Chinese will often put work before family or leisurely activities. This dimension can be seen in the fact that Chinese workers will leave their families to go work at factories for 11 months out of the year, proving how important work truly is to them.
- Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) – This is the second dimension where Americans and Chinese rank similarly as well. China ranks 40, meaning they accept ambiguous situations and are not deterred by them. It may seem like China has a lot of rules and regulations in place to avoid ambiguous or uncertain situations, however they are willing to bend and changes the rules as situations require it. The Chinese language is also very ambiguous; the Chinese characters are hard to interpret or understand if it is not your native language.
- Long-term/Short-term Orientation (LTO) – The Chinese rank extremely high on long term orientation at 118, meaning they focus on persistence and perseverance, and that they will dedicate however much time is required to achieve their goals. This is seen in the very time consuming Chinese negotiation process, the time required to build trust and long-term relationships, and their focus on long term results versus short term goals.
These cultural dimensions are deeply embedded in a country’s culture and are difficult to understand unless you are born and raised there. The Chinese culture needs to be studied and taken into consideration before entering any binding contracts. Not understanding these cultural dimensions can be damaging to any relationship you are trying to build with the Chinese.