Workplace Culture: Collectivism vs. Individualism

Updated on May 5, 2020
lani81 profile image

MBA graduate Lani has spent the past 8 years, researching, discussing and writing about major concepts relating to business and leadership

Delve into Geert Hofstede's research on workplace culture, such as collectivism compared to individualism.
Delve into Geert Hofstede's research on workplace culture, such as collectivism compared to individualism. | Source

The Research of Geert Hofstede

After a decade of research conducted in fifty countries, Professor Geert Hofstede published his six dimensions of national culture, which was a comprehensive study on culture and its influence on values in the workplace. Culture, as defined by Hofstede, is the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others.

The concept of culture has made its way to the forefront of modern attention. From the global culture of humankind to the obscure nuances of rural lifestyles, the cause and effect of culture are continuously researched, theorized, discussed, and redefined. The perception, evaluation, and reaction of an organization to internal and external factors shaping the environment are a representation of the culture present within a company. Dominant societal culture influences employee behaviors and, therefore, is a significant component of the overall performance of an organization (Arikan & Enginoglu, 2016).

My Interest in Culture and Influence

When writing about culture and influence, I seek to acknowledge and compare the differences between individualistic and collective societal cultures on the performance and behavior of employees. My articles will discuss the relationship between the collective values of a society and its influence on the individual to alternating degrees of risk aversion, intolerance to uncertainty, and acceptance of power distance.

Hofstede's six dimensions of culture
Hofstede's six dimensions of culture | Source

Individualism Versus Collectivism

Individualism values the individual, while collectivism focuses on the group. Both ideologies have substantial influence over leadership and organizational management. However, in practice, organizations are neither entirely one or the other; instead, representations of individualism and collectivism are present in some capacity in every company and every leader.

Traits of Individualism
Traits of Individualism | Source


Within an individualistic culture, focus and value are on the individual employee and his or her specific needs. Individualistic cultures emphasize personal goals, rights, freedoms, self-expression, financial stability, and autonomy. Individuals are praised and urged to think for themselves while taking initiative and being self-starters (Musambira, & Matusitz, 2015).

The lines between managers and subordinates are blurred and undefined, promoting less restrictive organizational structures, empowering employees to challenge current systems, and volunteer new ideas and creativity. Expressiveness and uniqueness are tolerated and encouraged as a means to open the floor to the next big idea, potentially springing the organization ahead of the competition.

Individuals are expected to do things in their self-interest because management believes autonomy and personal incentives are what individuals need to be happy within the organization. The organization does not define the individual (as the individual sees it), but rather, each person defines and identifies him or herself by how their talents contribute to the organization.

Individualistic employees pursue self-reliance and personal success outside of a group or collective. Moreover, the society within and away from the organization supports and encourages this mindset. Thus, those who achieve individual success receive awards, accolades, and public recognition. Standout performances, even in a group setting, are praised and announced to the masses.

Unfortunately, increased individual attention has some unwanted effects. Bringing positive attention to an individual alienates his/her peers. Not receiving sole public recognition may leave members feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Members within such an organization may feel an overwhelming sense of competition between themselves and their co-workers, igniting insecurities, stress, and anxiety.

Increased stress at work
Increased stress at work | Source

Attempting to operate at a high level may leave members feeling stressed and unsafe within the organization if their performance is determined to be sub-par. Employees will continuously judge and feel judged based on their efforts compared to the efforts of those in the same capacity. It is challenging to bring people together into an exact team-oriented frame of mind. Each employee's loyalty is to themselves and keeping their interest secure and protected from the efforts of others.


Collectivism places value on the group, expecting members to sacrifice and contribute to the group as an entity separate from the individual. As a result, employees entering the workforce are less independent and more interdependent. Decision-making is through collaboration and consensus, stressing the importance of group goals, rights, and needs. Consequently, individual decision making is intensely discouraged, and outside of the organization members are taught harmony and cohesiveness as being the utmost goal of each individual (Musambira, & Matusitz, 2015).

Members are strongly encouraged to embody the values, views, and motivations of the collective, suppressing their values, beliefs, and motivations if divergent from the group. Management reinforces the outside culture by clearly defining power hierarchies and giving positive reinforcements to those whose behavior exemplifies collective and harmonious attitudes.

Understanding Collectivism
Understanding Collectivism | Source

Collectivist are valued and judged based on their loyalty and sacrifice to the community, group, or organization. Members are expected to mold their efforts, filling gaps as situations arise, ignoring individual success, and volunteering to contribute all resources towards the overall achievement of the group. Loyalty to the organization is paramount, and in return, individual members feel the organization returns an equivalent amount of commitment.

A company that fosters a collective culture may have smaller, singular sub-groups; however, each member's contribution, if in line with the consensus of the group, is not recognized. Individual standout performances are in the context of what said performance did for the group, and the member becomes an example for other individuals to follow. The overall success or failure of the collective is one and is congratulated or reprimanded as one.

Finally, there is little to no competition within a collectivist environment as competitiveness does not support a harmonious or cohesive environment.

What's Important

In reality, societies and organizations are not defined as purely collectivist or individualistic. The lines between the two may be blurred in some areas and rigidly defined in others. Culture as a whole is a ball on a pendulum string caught between multiple contradictions, capable of swinging from one pole to the other, full of nuance, full of circumstance and never set in stone.


To read more on Hofstede's six dimensions of national culture, visit:

Arikan, C. L., & Enginoğlu, D. (2016). How elements of corporate culture affect overall firm performance. International Journal of Business Management and Economic Research (IJBMER), Vol 7(3),2016,680-689. ISSN:2229- 6247

Musambira, G., & Matusitz, J. (2015). Communication technology and culture: Analysing selected cultural dimensions and human development indicators. International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Development Volume 14 Number 1 doi: 10.1386/tmsd.14.1.17_1

Textbook Recommendation

Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Third Edition
Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Third Edition
I basically studied this book for the better part of an academic year while in graduate school and it has taught me many things about culture and sociology in the workplace. This text provides in-depth examples and analogies in how culture is represented in the workplace and through leadership in the real world.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Lani Morris


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)