“It’s all about me” vs “I need to trust you”
This week we will explain how the Individualism cultural dimension affects business and how you can avoid conflict.
Individualism vs Collectivism
Whether people are focused on their personal interests or their group’s interests.
Individualism <—————-> Collectivism
Individualism = individuals take care of themselves and their immediate family
Important values: individual well-being, personal achievement, self-fulfillment
Collectivism = Individuals expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.
Important values: group well-being, strong sense of duty, group achievement
In the business context, differences in individualism vs collectivism can cause significant problems.
In collectivist cultures, business is based on trust, and trust is based on relationships. If you are doing business with someone you don’t know, it is important first to get to know each other. When the people involved change, the nature of the business relationship changes.
In individualist cultures, business is based on contracts. It is not important to have a relationship with the person you are doing business with. When the people involved change, the nature of the business relationship doesn’t change.
Most cultures in the world are collectivist. The most strongly individualist cultures are those of western and northern Europe and most English-speaking countries: UK, Ireland, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa.
Here are some tips to help you adjust when doing business with people from a different point on the Individualism scale.
1. Understand what your own culture is.
Are you like most people in the world, from a culture that values relationships highly, including in business? Or are you from a strongly individualist culture that believes “business is business”?
2. Remember that the other person’s behaviour and attitude are cultural, not personal.
3a. If you are from a more collectivist culture, don’t be offended if the other person wants to “get down to business” immediately and shows no interest in discussing other topics. You could explain that spending some time getting to know each other will help you to establish the trust that is necessary for you to do business.
3b. If you are from a more individualist culture, don’t get frustrated if the other person shows no interest in “getting down to business” and wants to talk about topics that you consider “irrelevant”. You could explain that your superiors have given you limited time to come to an agreement, and ask how that can best be done. Be prepared to spend time establishing trust through personal connection.
Have you ever experienced a clash between individualist vs collectivist perspectives? What happened? How did you handle it? Tell us on the BECC Academy LinkedIn page.
|The understanding of this cultural dimension is from the book Cultures and Organizations by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov.|