INDIVIDUALISM AND COLLECTIVISM

INDIVIDUALISM AND COLLECTIVISM

Of the many values studied across cultures, the five summarized in Exhibit 2.7 are by far the most popular. This exhibit also lists countries that have high, medium, or low emphasis on these values. Two seemingly inseparable cross-cultural values are individualism and collectivism. Individualism is the extent to which we value independence and personal uniqueness. Highly individualist people value personal freedom, self-sufficiency, control over their own lives, and appreciation of the unique qualities that distinguish them from others. Americans, Chileans, Canadians, and South Africans generally exhibit high individualism, whereas Taiwan and Venezuela are countries with low individualism. 9°

Collectivism is the extent to which we value our duty to groups to which we belong and to group harmony. Highly collectivist people define themselves by their group memberships, emphasize their personal connection to others in their in-groups, and value the goals

LO6

individualism

A cross-cultural value describing the degree to which

people in a culture emphasize independence and personal

uniqueness. Chapter Two Individual Behavior, Personality, and Values

  • connections 2.1

55

Infosys Bridges the Cross-Cultural Divide 89 Infosys Technologies, a technology outsourcing firm in India, was prepared for cross-cultural differences when it acquired an Australian company. Sean Fernando, Infosys general manager

of human resources in Australia, provides a vivid example of one of these cultural differences: When asked to travel on

business, Infosys employees in India would pack their bags

without hesitation and be ready to go even though they lacked

details about the trip. Australian staff, on the other hand,

wanted to know about the accommodation, allowances, and

project specifics before they felt at ease. In other words, employees

from India had noticeably lower levels of uncertainty

avoidance. Another difference was that staff in India expect the boss

to give them instructions on what to do, whereas Australian employees expect to be consulted. In other words, Australian employees have much lower power distance. Fernando recalls an incident where an Australian project manager met

with a project team from India. He described the project and then suggested that they share ideas about how to successfully complete the project. “They didn’t know what he meant,” says Fernando. “Then one of the people just said:

‘We were wondering when you are going to tell us what the plan was. —

To minimize cross-cultural conflict, Infosys Australia holds three-hour sessions in which employees from both countries learn about their cultures and discuss how they can manage employees with these different values. Infosys is training its managers to be aware of cross-cultural differences when working with employees from other countries. and well-being of people within those groups. 9’ Low collectivism countries include the United States, Japan, and Germany, whereas Israelis and Taiwanese have relatively high collectivism.  Contrary to popular belief, individualism is not the opposite of collectivism. In fact, an analysis of most previous studies reported that the two concepts are unrelated. 92 For example, cultures that highly value duty to one’s group do not necessarily give a low priority to personal freedom and uniqueness. Generally, people across all cultures define themselves by both their uniqueness and their relationship to others. It is an inherent characteristic of everyone’s self-concept, which we discuss in the next chapter. Some cultures clearly emphasize uniqueness or group obligations more than the other, but both have a place in a person’s values and self-concept.  Also note that people in Japan have relatively low collectivism. This is contrary to many cross-cultural books, which claim that Japan is one of the most collectivist

countries on the planet! There are several explanations for the historical misinterpretation, ranging from problems defining and measuring collectivism to erroneous reporting of early cross-cultural research. Whatever the reasons, studies consistently report that people in Japan tend to have relatively low collectivism and moderate individualism (as indicated in Exhibit 2.7).” a connect

How much do you value individualism and collectivism? Go to www.mcgrawhillconnect. corn to assess your individualism and collectivism, as well as assist your learning about the topic of cross-cultural values. collectivism

A cross-cultural value describing the degree to which people in a culture emphasize duty to groups to which they belong and to group harmony.

High: United States, Chile, Canada, South Africa Medium: Japan, Denmark

Low: Taiwan, Venezuela Defines self more by one’s uniqueness; personal goals have priority; decisions have low consideration of effect on others; relationships are viewed as more instrumental and fluid. Individualism

VALUE REPRESENTATIVE BELIEFS/BEHAVIORS IN “HIGH” CULTURES SAMPLE COUNTRIES

Uncertainty Avoidance High: Belgium, Greece Medium: United States, Norway

Low: Denmark, Singapore Prefer predictable situations; value stable employment,

s rict laws, and low conflict; dislike deviations from normal behavior.

High: Austria, Japan Medium: United States, Brazil Low: Sweden, Netherlands

Focus on outcomes (versus relationships); decisions based on contribution (equity versus equality); low empathy or showing emotions (versus strong empathy and caring). Achievement Orientation Collectivism High: Israel, Taiwan

Medium: India, Denmark Low: United States, Germany, Japan Defines self more by one’s in-group membership; goals of selfsacrifice and harmony have priority; behavior regulated by in-group norms; in-group memberships are viewed as stable with a strong differentiation with out-groups. Power Distance High: India, Malaysia Medium: United States, Japan Low: Denmark, Israel Reluctant to disagree with or contradict the boss; managers are expected and preferred decision makers; perception of dependence (versus interdependence) with the boss.  EXHIBIT 2.7 Five Cross-Cultural Values uncertainty avoidance A cross-cultural value describing the degree to which people in a culture tolerate

ambiguity (low uncertainty avoidance) or feel threatened by ambiguity and uncertainty (high uncertainty avoidance). achievement—nurturing orientation

A cross-cultural value describing the degree to which people in a culture emphasize competitive versus cooperative relations with other people.

56 Part Two Individual Behavior and Processes Sources: Individualism and collectivism descriptions and results are from the meta-analysis reported by D. Oyserman, H. M. Coon, and M. Kemmelmeier,

“Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism: Evaluation of Theoretical Assumptions and Meta-Analyses:’ Psychological Bulletin 128 (2002), pp. 3-72. The

Other information is from G. Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences, 2d ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA:

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