Are you an individualist or collectivist? How does this influence your work relationships?
Most experts agree that individualism is the belief that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. No person should be sacrificed for the sake of another. This view does not deny that people benefit from living in societies, but it sees a society as a collection of individuals.
Collectivism views the needs of the individual to be subordinate to those of the larger group, and should be sacrificed for the collective good. The group is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. One’s identity is determined by one’s group.
Western cultures, such as those found in Europe and North America, tend to be individualistic. Eastern and Asian cultures are usually collective.
There is, however, variation in the extent to which individuals are representative of cultures. Demographics are important. Studies suggest that the well educated are more likely individualists than the less educated. City dwellers are more individualistic than rural residents. Men are more individualistic than women, and young more than old.
Thus, we need to consider peoples’ experiences when interacting with them. A 43-year old Japanese executive with a Harvard MBA, who worked in England, will probably be more individualistic than a 55-year old Japanese who has worked for the same organization in Japan.
Are you an individualist or collectivist?
Agree or disagree:
1. I prefer being direct when speaking with people.
2. My parents influenced my career choices.
3. Winning is everything.
4. I like sharing things with colleagues.
5. I enjoy competitive situations.
6. What happens to me is my own doing.
7. My aging mother lives with us.
8. I like being different.
9. My successes are usually the result of hard work and abilities.
10. I enjoy exploring.
11. I’m free from group influences.
12. When making work decisions, I try to please others.
13. I have friends from different cultures.
14. I have a university degree.
15. I have lots of traditional education.
16. I grew up in a large family.
17. My leisure activities allow me to do my own thing.
18. I like working alone.
19. I value privacy.
Scoring. 1 for each agree to items 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18 & 19; and disagree to items 2, 4, 7, 12, 15 & 16.
14 – 19. You’re individualistic. You’re independent, like giving opinions, enjoy doing your “own thing,” and value privacy.
7 or lower. You’re a collectivist. You like maintaining harmony, respect authority, are interdependent, and value tradition.
8 – 13. You balance individualistic and collectivist traits.
Many North Americans combine characteristics of both orientations. However, North America is becoming more diverse and collectivist as a result of waves of immigration.
The Pew Research Center reported (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/10-demographic-tr…) that Immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S. As the Baby Boom generation heads toward retirement, growth in the nation’s working-age population (those ages 25 to 64) will be driven by immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, at least through 2035.
Without immigrants, there would be an estimated 18 million fewer working-age adults in the country in 2035 because of the dearth of U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents. However, immigrants do not form a majority of workers in any industry or occupational group, though they form large shares of private household workers (45%) and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (46%).
Working with individualists and collectivists
To be successful, we should know the culture, demographics, and experiences of individuals with whom we’re interacting.
Most organizations now offer training programs that show employees how to respect diversity, and encourage leaders how to draw on the multiple strengths of a diverse workforce.
Examples of programs offered include cultural awareness and sensitivity training courses designed to help employees respond to diverse issues and enhance communication. Employees learn how to treat others with respect, and honor and value peoples’ differences.
In many organizations, employees enjoy sharing diversity by having “pot luck” lunches in which employees take turns bringing sample foods of their culture for others to taste.
Dr. Geert Hofstede, who researches workplace values, provides a model of five cultural dimensions which can help business personnel better understand intercultural differences. He advises people not to approach others from their own, but from others’ perspectives.
The degree of inequality which the population considers normal.
Individualism versus collectivism.
The extent to which people feel they should care for or be cared for by themselves versus the group.
Masculinity versus femininity.
The extent to which a culture is oriented toward dominance, assertiveness and materialism versus people and quality of life.
The degree to which people prefer structure over unstructure.
Long-term versus short-term orientation.
Long-term values oriented towards the future versus short term values oriented towards the past.
Check Hofstede’s Analysis of different countries (www.cyborlink.com/besite/hofstede.htm), and select the country about which you want to learn more. Discuss the culture with colleagues, and brainstorm how you can apply knowledge acquired to a work situation.