Individualism versus Collectivism – Differences in Psychological Perspectives
Individualism versus Collectivism – Differences in Psychological Perspectives
With the rise of globalization and increased intensity of global competition, it has become quite difficult for managers to manage every business activity. To serve more customer base for attainment of more competitive edge and market share, businesses are challenged to manage all of their resources effectively and efficiently. One of the most important resources which the management of every organization has to deal with concerns the human resource management. This is probably true in case of all those business entities which employ personnel from diverse cultures coming from different societal backgrounds.
Different values are particularly embodied by specific cultures, ideas or thoughts which the inheriting people view as most important in their daily lives as well as activities. Such cultural values are an important aspect of human life because they play a fundamental role to determine if any given cultural setup is individualistic or collectivistic. In the broad world of business, the study of cultural outlook is of critical importance because such knowledge helps understand how a particular cultural value directly or indirectly influences the communication process. Therefore, this section is dedicated to make a detailed discussion about the possible difference between cultures of individualistic and collectivistic nature. All this is done by investigating into one of the five cultural dimensions concluded by a researcher in the field of management named Geert Hofstede. This section also makes some important discussion about what such cultural differences communicate to outsiders.
Therefore, experts of comparative management and psychology divide the culture of different societies into individualist and collectivist setups . Individualist cultures are often found in many influential societies such Western Europe and the United States. These cultures particularly emphasize more on personal achievement irrespective of the expense at which such goals are achieved that leads to strong sense of rivalry among members of the society. In complete disagreement, Collectivist cultures are probably found in those economies that have influence in trade as well as commercial activities such as Japan, Korea, and China. The society of these cultural economies stress more on family and workgroup goals and emphasize less on individual goals, desires or needs .
In its true essence, Collectivism represents a society or social setup where people, since their birth, become integrated into strong cohesive groups. Such cohesiveness probably lasts throughout the lifetime of every person where those groups continue to protect their members for unquestioning loyalty in exchange. In contrast to the society that follows collectivism; individualistic society represents a cultural setup where social ties among individuals and their families are loose. This is a cultural setup where every individual (regardless of the gender) is expected to care for him/herself as well as the immediate family members only.
Cultural values play a critical role in development of different communications style for human resource management in particularly in different cultural settings. Therefore, studying the individualistic versus collectivistic cultural dimension facilitates managers to understand the psychology of people belonging to diverse cultures. Important to note is that a society that strictly follows individualistic culture values the independence and freedom of its members. Comparatively, societal setups that represent collectivistic approaches in daily activities tend to emphasize more on social consensus and group harmony.
If human resource managers compare the individualistic and collectivistic cultural dimensions, as proposed by Geert Hofstede, it will be easier to observe that both of these social setups have their own failings. Amazingly, people living in an individualistic culture tend to witness or be victim of loneliness. In contrast, people who are cohesively bound together with group harmony may be more susceptible to strong fear of being ignored or rejected. As opposed to people belonging to collectivist social setups, people from social settings concerning individualism happen to be more independent in their activities and are more self-assured than others to intense competition between members. People following individualistic cultural dimension enjoy improving their skills and competence to become more competition and surpass the social rivalry. Apart from continuously improving their productivity at work, members following individualism display impulsive as well as natural behavior and follow their inspirations.
The dimensions of individualism and collectivism pointed by Geert Hofstede usually brought about a revolution in cultural psychology. Through research, he found that individualistic cultures stress more on priorities of an individual whereas collectivist cultures emphasize more on group identity. The former social setup is found in Western societies whereas the latter psychological makeup could easily be observed in East Asian nations .
In individualistic cultures, individuals believe that their rights and preferences cannot be violated or infringed by any other individual including group and the government. The individual’s success or betterment is considered paramount and not of the family members. Collectivist cultures value reputation and name as important. Issues and concerns are considered private as any form of public display of family problems may destroy the name of and reputation of the family. A person is harshly punished in a collectivist culture if he commits any wrongdoing or does not fulfill a responsibility.
Individualism versus Collectivism – Examples from Some Cultural Economies
Social setups following individualism, such as United States and France, contain members who emphasize more on individual achievements because they want to differentiate themselves from the crowd and are stress increasingly on their self-centered behavior. People in individualistic cultures follow “I” identity and focus on their individuality to keep their appearance distinctive from other members of the same society. People who adore individualistic approaches in their daily lives maintain a distance between in-groups and out-groups or all those whom they communicate with. From coming from United States have preferences for clarity in conversation and come straight to the point for effective communication while negotiating.
Though they follow the same individualistic cultural outlook, yet the German communication style is completely different than pursued by American and French businesses. Germans hold the psychology to firstly specify negotiation details and discuss the agenda later on. This communication style of Germans may annoy Americans and French people since they follow the opposite communication style.
People belonging to individualistic cultures have a psychological makeup to focus more on individual achievements to secure better jobs. This is especially true in case of people from United States who competes with each other to get a job through competition for climbing up or advancing in their career ladder as well as corporate success. They care less for others left behind in the competition. In order for gaining more value, people from individualistic cultures socialize to get noticed in the society. Their goal of socializing with other is not for the sake of achievement of any established common goal or relationship. Psychologists and experts of comparative management may find that in individualistic societies as United States, Germany and France, people pursue their self interests instead of commonly shared goals.
In the same manner, cultures that follow collectivist approach to social life emphasize greatly on group cohesiveness and harmony. Loyalty to the social group is considered crucial which should be maintained and any form of disagreement between members should be avoided at all costs. The names of China, Japan and Korea are of prime importance in this regard. In all those societies that follow collectivism, disagreeing publicly to someone’s opinion is avoided and is done more privately in a personal atmosphere. This is done for protection of one’s self-respect in front of others while ignoring the social confrontation.
People tend to use phrases or expressions to describe a negative statement or disagreement instead saying no to someone directly in front of others. In collectivist cultures, if social confrontation is not ignored or avoided, it has a potential to destroy the group harmony and cohesiveness in no time. From a psychological perspective, both the employer and employee have trust on each other and such an employment relationship is based on deep understanding of group harmony as well as moral values followed by everyone.
In collectivist societies or cultures, every person is encouraged to play an active role in the society through “we” identity and serve the commonly shared goals instead of focusing on individual achievements or advancements. The rights of social community, family and cohesive groups are more important than those pursued by an individual. Rules in such a culture are formulated for promotion of selflessness, brotherhood and unity. Individuals belonging to collectivist cultures have a psychological makeup to cooperate as well as work with others and support each other.
Examples of Countries following Cultural Collectivism
Those countries whose social setup consists of collectivist cultures includes Argentina, Armenia, China, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey, Vietnam, Poland, Philippines and Japan.
Cultural Traits of Individualistic Cultures
However, in society following individualistic approach to cultural life, pursue individual or “I” identity where most of the emphasis is placed on individual achievements, initiatives and goals. Rights of every individual member supersede those of families and communities where rules are formulated to promote individualism and self-importance. Independence in individualistic cultures is highly valued where citizens as well as communities are less determined to help and cooperate with each other. Further, in individualistic cultures, it is considered shameful for members of the society to become dependent or rely on others. People in this culture are encouraged to do everything on their own by relying solely on themselves.
Examples of Countries Pursuing Individualistic Approach to Cultural Makeup
Countries that strictly follow individualism in their lives includes Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States and United Kingdom.
Personality Types found in Individualistic and Collectivistic Cultures
After a careful comparative analysis of the psychological perspectives of individualistic and collectivist cultures, it come to the front that both of these societal setups shape the daily activities of their members. These two cultural dimensions dictate how individuals in the society are bonds tied to one another. It is observed that people in individualistic cultures tend to emphasize more on individual achievements and initiatives. Comparatively, it is also found in this paper that collectivist cultures focus more on group cohesiveness and achievements.
This paper has specified that in individualistic cultures, bonds between members are loose where every person is expected to take self-care and immediate family members. These members refrain from helping others since everyone focuses more on surpassing social competition. In contrast to this, cultures following collectivist approach to life expect its members to protect each other, not just their immediate families. There is less emphasis on competition rather individuals and their communities/families protect each other.
This study has found that members of individualistic culture become differentiated from one another because majority of the focus in such society is on individual identity instead of a social group harmony. Although involvement in family and community is considered important, yet the individuality of every member is never compromised through intervention in any way. The opposite of individuality is collectivism which dictates that the individual identity stems from the primary affiliations in cohesive groups .
Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2012). Culture and Psychology. Cengage Learning.
Samovar, L., Porter, R., McDaniel, E., & Roy, C. (2012). Communication Between Cultures. Cengage Learning.
Sanderson, C. A. (2009). Social Psychology. John Wiley & Sons.
Thies, K. M., & Travers, J. F. (2006). Handbook of Human Development for Health Care Professionals. Jones & Bartlett Learning.