U05: Three people walk into a bar – one is American, one is Indian, and one is Russian…

Okay, this isn’t a bad joke based on stereotypes. Nor does this blog post take place in a bar. But it is an analysis of these three cultures working together in the workplace.  To begin, take a look at these three country’s culture scores according to Hofstede:

 

Power distance Individualism Masculinity Uncertainty Avoidance Long-term Orientation Indulgence
India 77 48 56 40 51 26
Russia 93 39 36 95 81 20
U.S.A. 40 91 62 46 26 68

(Hofsteded, n.d.)

 

Based on these culture scores, you would expect that the American is having a few too many while the Indian and Russian look on in disgust (high on indulgence).  Whoops sorry, back to the workplace! In all seriousness, there are some big differences in these cultures and this is a reality I work in daily. In my workplace, we have multiple individuals from each of these cultures and these ratings help highlight some of our similarities and differences at a generic level.

First, these countries are all over the spectrum for power distance.   The Russian employees I work with are far more comfortable with leadership separation and the inequity of power compared to their American counterparts who want to see power dispersed more evenly throughout the team – with employees from India falling somewhere in between (Hofstede, n.d.).  This is something that I feel I experience daily – the Indian and Russian employees do tend to seem much more nervous when approaching me with questions and are much more hesitant to speak up or interrupt, which I see less of in the American employees.

Additionally, American employees tend to feel much more comfortable working independently and as they see fit, whereas employees from both India and Russia tend to be more in tune with the collective needs of the group and not pushing their individual bounds (Hofstede, n.d.).  Uncertainty avoidance is also one I witness daily in our workplace as we work on projects that are often ambiguous and ever-changing.  This ambiguity seems to be far more comfortable for our American and Indian employees than it is for our Russian employees. I frequently see much more stress and a more urgent search for answers from Russian employees than I do from American employees, something that can be both great and hard on them.

Now there are any number of other explanations for behavior as this is a small, uncontrolled sample, but it is something that I have noticed.  My goal for myself is to avoid assuming I understand why a person behaves a certain way, but to take note of patterns and do what I can to support the person in the way they like to be supported.  I also watch how I respond; someone from a large power distance country doesn’t necessarily want me to spread out power and responsibility to them or others as it could be improper or uncomfortable. But again, asking them would be the best policy before acting.  While I think information like that provided by Hofstede is interesting and informative, it should never be used as a sole input to any situation.  Based on the small differences outlined above and the many I experience daily, I know I have a better team and better end product because of these differences.  In our increasingly globalized world, I look forward to more and more opportunities to work on diverse teams.

 

References:

PSY 533. (2017). L12 Globalism/Multiculturalism. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796/pages/l05-overview?module_item_id=21902172 .

Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G.J. (n.d.). What is culture?. Retrieved from http://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/definition-culture/ (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G. J. (n.d.). 6-D model of national culture. Retrieved from http://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/6d-model-of-national-culture/ (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G. J. (n.d.). Dimension data matrix. Retrieved from http://geerthofstede.com/research-and-vsm/dimension-data-matrix/ (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

Global Policy Forum. (2015). Globalization. Retrieved from https://www.globalpolicy.org/globalization.html (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

 

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