Kenyan and Korean management orientations on Hofstede’s cultural values

Kenyan and Korean management orientations on Hofstede’s cultural values

Gray, Kenneth R

Considerable attention has focused on the relationship of Hofstede’s national cultural values to the skills of managers, management practices and industrial and entrepreneurial development. Hofstede’s cultural values consider orientations toward authority, uncertainty avoidance, individualism collectivism and masculinity – femininity as relevant attributes. This research applies logistic regression analysis to responses of Kenyan and Korean university graduates to test the ability of Hofstede’s cultural value dimensions to distinguish between managerial workers in countries at different levels of industrial development. Findings hold implications for management practices of multinational firms.


Considerable attention has been paid to the relationship of national cultural values to the skills of managers, management practices (Hofstede 1975; 1980; 1991; Schneider, 1989; Jaeger, 1990; Schneider & DeMeyer, 1991; Peterson et al, 1995) and industrial and entrepreneurial development (Franke, Hofstede & Bond, 1991; Hofstede & Bond, 1988; Shane, 1994; Yeh & Lawrence, 1995). Hofstede’s work measuring cultural values associated with relationship to authority, uncertainty avoidance, individualism- collectivism, and masculinity femininity orientations has been particularly influential (Hofstede 1975; 1980; 1991; Hope, 1990). However, research in this area has not been integrated with sociological literature on industrial development and changes in core values. This research applies logistic regression analysis to responses of Kenyan and Korean university graduates to test the ability of Hofstede’s cultural value dimensions distinguish between managerial workers in two nations at different levels of industrial development. The findings have implications for managerial practices of multinational firms.

Theoretical and Research Background

The current interest in the implications of national cultural values for management practice, and Hofstede’s approach in particular, have roots in two fundamental themes of late l9th century social science: functionalism and social evolution. Influenced by Darwin’s theories of biological evolution that stirred intellectual thought in the late 1800’s, and by the cultural exposure of western Europe to non-western societies in Africa, South America, and the Pacific rim (through mercantilism, economic imperialism, and colonial development), Western European sociologists and anthropologists developed theories of cultural and social evolution (Martindale, 1960).

Under the cultural blinders of enthnocentrism, a view of social evolution developed that implicitly cast western style societies such as England, France, and Belgium as examples of the “progress” of social evolution. Never mind that Darwin’s theory of natural selection did not depend on a value – or self-serving laden – concept of progress. The intellectual climate of western Europe at that time embraced a form of social and cultural “Darwinism” that cast comparisons of western Europe and less industrial nations as polar opposites, while seeking a view of culture in which social and cultural traits were seen as functional for the maintenance of the society as a whole. Today, a more enlightened view may forego the implicit notion of “progress” in social development, but may still benefit from the polar typologies derived in that intellectual period of western thought.

Two influential social theories of the last half of the 19th century were the GemeinschaftGesellschaft theory of Ferdinand Tonnies ( 1887; Parsons et al. 1961) and the mechanical versus organic solidarity theory of Emile Durkheim (1893; Parsons et al. 1961). While we now recognize that social systems are more complex and cannot be explained by simplistic notions of natural evolutionary progress, these concepts may still help today’s international managers anticipate how cultural values that motivate individual behavior may vary with differences in social structures and with industrialization in particular. Both the Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft and the mechanical-organic solidarity distinctions differentiate societies on the basis of the development of industrial systems and related social infrastructures consistent with the nature of work. They also view the fundamental nature of society and the person as grounded in social relationships. Lastly, they also view the fundamental problem of society as social control and solidarity. Values, norms, and personal expectations of members of the society are inculcated through social interaction and adapt the individual to the form of society. Martindale (1960) characterized Tonnies’ Gemeinschaft society as founded on the bases of social relationships. The “Gemeinschaft” society is grounded in expressive experiences of fellowship, kinship and neighborliness. Wealth was based in land. Social control was exercised by informal consensus, folkways, mores and religion. Law was based in the family. The basic mentality was characterized by feminine characteristics of sentiment. The family and the extended kin group were the central institutions. At the opposite end of the continuum, “Gesellschaft” society was characterized by social relationships involving rationally planned exchanges, wealth was money (as a standardized and formally recognized medium of exchange). Social control was based on convention, legislation and public political opinion. The basic Gesellschaft mentality is described as masculine in that it is based on “calculation and conscious behavior” (Martindale, 1960:84).

In Emile Durkheim’s distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity, the bases of social relationships – and therefore social solidarity – are grounded in the division of labor of a society (Martindale, 1960; Durkheim, 1893). Mechanical solidarity characterizes a society in which people are not differentiated economically or technologically. Social order in such societies is based on similarities among people developed through “friendliness, neighborliness, and kinship” (Martindale 1960:88). Pressures to conform are high and an individual’s sense of identity is grounded in acceptance by family and immediate community. Informal social controls and legal sanctions are strong and repressive in that they seek punishment for non-conformity and discourage individuality, innovation and risk.

Organic solidarity characterizes societies in which the technology of work leads people to be highly differentiated. Whereas under mechanical solidarity social cohesion – and thus individual identity – is rooted in the mutual resemblance of the members of the group, under organic solidarity social cohesion results from interdependence and exchange of necessary but specialized goods and services. The mutual interdependence of the members of the society replaces the need for conformity as a basis of social order, and contractual, restitutive (as opposed to penal, repressive) law to govern exchanges comes to dominate. Under these circumstances, the individual’s social value, sense of self-worth and belonging is freed to seek individual attainment through differentiation, specialization and exchange driven by self interest (Durkheim 1893).

Modern development efforts and multinational business enterprises are concerned with the transfer of technological innovations from industrially developed to industrially lessdeveloped and developing nations. If Tonnies’ and Durkheim’s distinctions are applicable to societies characterized by the extent of industrial development, then international managers and economic development programs will benefit from consideration of the structural bases of social solidarity, work and exchange in that these may influence how workers respond to alternative forms of management and rewards. The question then becomes whether there are values and motivations related to work that are associated with the level of industrial development of a society.


Hofstede (1980) has identified four dimensions of work-related value differences believed to have cultural bases. These correspond closely to the Gemeinschaft-mechanical and Gesellschaftorganic characterizations of societies. Hofstede’s four dimensions are 1) power distance, 2) uncertainty avoidance, 3) individualism versus collectivism and 4) masculinity versus femininity. Power distance refers to the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations accept that power is unequally distributed. In Gemeinschaft and mechanical solidarity types of societies, social position involving status and power is based in family and kinship patterns and traditional acceptance of values. Pressures toward conformity may lead to strong acceptance of the prevailing distribution of power and authority (high power distance) and authoritarian management styles may be more accepted. In industrially developed societies characterized by Gesellschaft and organic solidarity, power is seen as more arbitrarily determined by exchange factors in the marketplace and reinforced by contract law. Social worth is more heavily determined by functional performance. In this circumstance, low acceptance of power distance may be expected. Preferred management styles may be more democratic and collaborative.

Hofstede’s ( 1980) dimension of uncertainty avoidance may also be logically related to the Gemeinschaft-mechanical solidarity Gesellschaft-organic solidarity continuum. The uncertainty-avoidance dimension relates to individuals’ tolerance for ambiguity and risktaking. In Gemeinschaft and mechanical solidarity circumstances pressures toward conformity are penal as opposed to restitutive. Sanctions lead individuals to be risk adverse and to seek well defined work tasks. Again in contrast, individuals in a Gesellschaft – organic solidarity form of society, with interdependence based on occupational specialization and technical expertise, may accept and even prefer ambiguously defined work roles in which individual autonomy and unstructured decision making is required. Under these circumstances individuals may seek occupational variety, continuing technical challenges and education, opportunities to act on individual judgements.

The Hofstede (1980) dimension of individualism – collectivism may also distinguish workers. Workers in a Gemeinschaft-mechanical solidarity society would be expected to maintain a more collective orientation with high concern for the welfare of the work group since such a society – in ideal type – would be characterized by informal kinship and friendship pressures toward acceptance of position, commitment to the current task and position, conformity and common good. In a Gesellschaft/organic solidarity form of society, workers are differentiated by occupational specialization and the value of exchanges between themselves and others in the group – or even with the group or organization itself. Achievement is therefore defined in more individual terms and desires for personal advancement may be expected to be more prevalent.

Hofstede’s (1980) fourth dimension, masculinityfemininity is also related to the Tonnies and Durkheim conceptualizations. Femininity may be characteristic of Gemeinschaft – mechanical solidarity societies. Social relations, including those at work, have intrinsic value in themselves and work satisfaction derives in some measure from these relations. Work becomes a form of self-rewarding personal expression and there is a sense of pride in the product of work. Masculinity may correspond to the Gesellschaft and organic solidarity forms of society expected under higher levels of industrialization.

The present research assesses Hofstede’s scale items regarding differences between individuals’ work related values and motivations in a less developed country (Kenya) and a newly developed country (South Korea). Four exploratory propositions are presented:

Proposition 1: Individual orientations favoring authoritarian styles of management will be more strongly associated with workers in a less industrialized society (Kenya) than among workers in a more highly industrialized society (S. Korea).

Proposition 2: Individual orientations toward uncertainty avoidance in work related situations will be more strongly associated with workers in a less industrialized society (Kenya) than among workers in a more highly industrialized society (S. Korea).

Proposition 3: Individual orientations emphasizing personal achievement rather than individual achievements will be more strongly associated with workers in a more highly industrialized society (S. Korea) than among workers in a less industrialized society (Kenya).

Proposition 4: Masculine orientations toward work life will be more strongly associated with workers in a more highly industrialized society (S. Korea) than among workers in a less industrialized society (Kenya), and feminine orientations toward work life and family concerns will be greater among workers in a less industrialized society (Kenya) than among workers in a more highly industrialized society (S. Korea).


The propositions stated above were operationalized by using sixteen of Hofstede’s national cultural value indicators (Hofstede, 1980). These items ask respondents to report on aspects of personal and work lile that reflect their personal preferences, goals, values and feelings. We excluded one of Hofstede’s items that asked respondents to report on observed behaviors of others because we are here addressing explicitly personal orientations. Table I provides a listing of the Hofstede items used in this study (in abridged form) and the hypothesized directions of influence of each item corresponding to the four propositions. Two types of analysis were carried out. The first tested is the hypothesized directions in differences in means (Norusis, 1994) of student workers in Kenya and South Korea. The second analysis used Hofstede’s cultural value items to classify of student-worker nationalities using logistic regression analysis (Norusis, 1994; Agresti, 1990; 1996). One-tail (p

Individual items are used in the analysis of each of Hofstede’s value dimensions are assessed rather than summated scales because Hofstede’s four aspects of national cultural values are multidimensional constructs. Cronbach’s Alpha reliability coefficients are computed for the items Hofstede assigns to each dimension. Only for the Masculine-Feminine set did an Alpha coefficient result (.8231) that was greater than .5. In this form of analysis, an Alpha of .6 is deemed the minimum level needed to declare that a scaled set of items is sufficiently reliable for exploratory analysis (Nunnally, 1978; Peterson, 1974). Similar results occurred when factor analysis was used to classify items. In those analyses items assigned by Hofstede as indicators of specific dimensions intermingled with items from other dimensions to produce four factors that did not conform well to Hofstede’s assignments. Given the face validity of Hofstede’s items as dimension indicators, it was deemed more appropriate here to consider the individual items as indicators of multidimensional constructs. By identifying the specific items that best distinguish worker perspectives in a rapidly developing nation from those in a less developed nation, we contribute to future efforts to develop reliable scales to reflect these individual representations of national cultural values.

Population and Sample

South Korea and Kenya were chosen to represent a highly industrialized nation and a less industrialized nation respectively. South Korea, because in a relatively short time, it has grown to be the eleventh largest industrialized economy. Kenya represents a developing African nation not traumatized by war over the last thirty years and an African nation that has followed a more capitalistic political philosophy than most other Sub-Saharan African countries. In 1975 the GDP per capita for Kenya and Korea were $220 and $560 respectively. In 1995 the respective GDP for each country to be $385 and $6300. Over that 20 year period, Kenya has seen no real increase in GDP where Korea has substantial increase. From adult literacy and life expectancy to passenger cars and televisions per person, Korea has undergone a substantial degree of development (World Bank, 1996).

Country Information – General Environment KENYA-KOREA

Kenya is an East African nation that gained its independence from United Kingdom in 1963 with an underdeveloped economy. At the time of independence, the economy was characterized by the existence of a large traditional sector, dependence on primary exports, heavy dependence on international trade, and other associated structural features. In more recent times, Kenya has been categorized by the World Bank as a low income economy that is less technologically developed. Modern sector employment accounts for only 16 percent of total employment in Kenya, while over 80 percent of the Kenyan working population are in agriculture, the rural non-farm and urban informal sector (Gray, 1991). Seventy-five percent of the country’s exports are primary commodities (mainly agricultural).

Kenya did better than most other Sub-Saharan countries over the last decade (1984-1994), however, it still was greatly affected by deteriorating terms of trade, mounting external debt, and decreasing net flows of public and private resources. Subsequently, the country entered its own turning point in its approach to development. Structural adjustment policies are ushering in privatization and self employment as an important aspect in the overall development strategy.

Korea was a colony of Japan from 1905 to 1945. Upon the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, the country was split into two zones of temporary occupation, for the purposes of overseeing the orderly dismantling of Japanese rule and establishing a new Korean government. With the Soviet Union assisting the North of the peninsula and the United Nations led by the United States supporting the southern half of the peninsula, war developed which divided the territory into two countries. The tension between the two governments resulted in the elimination of trade and other contacts across the new border. This was difficult because the Japanese had developed industries in the North while the South had remained primarily agricultural. Autocratic rule, not unlike that of the colonial Japanese, has been the norm in both North and South Korea until recently when democratic leadership has emerged in the South.

South Korea, bolstered by massive infusions of economic and military aid from the United States, has pursued a capitalist strategy. The result of this choice has been dramatic. South Korea today is often said to be the fastest growing economy in the world; by the year 2010, it is expected that per capita income for South Koreans will equal that of European economies. Manufacturing accounts for 30 percent of the GDP.

In each nation university students and recent university graduates were asked to respond to the Hofstede national cultural value indicators. The Kenyan sample is composed of several classrooms of graduating students from Jomo Kenyatta University in Kenya. The Korean sample is composed of recent graduates of Seoul National University in Korea. The Korean graduates were gathered in the placement office at the university. In Kenya, the questionnaire was administered in English (there, the language of instruction is English) but in Korea the questionnaire was translated (with reverse translation to assure accuracy) into the Korean language (Hangul, the written language of that country). Approximately ten percent of the questionnaires were not usable due to incomplete responses. A total of 93 usable questionnaires suggest that the more extrinsic goals associated with masculinity (earnings and advancement) could be playing a greater role in the Korean data.

However, two items (V8 – Higher earnings, V10 – Advancement) are significant but in the opposite direction from that anticipated. For the Kenyans, opportunity for higher earnings and advancement are extremely important. This may result from harsh economic conditions in Kenya, where less than one percent of the population has the opportunity to participate in tertiary level education. By eliciting a sample of university students we may have self-selected people who aspire to advance.

The power distance and the uncertainty avoidance items do not show significant differences in mean responses between the two countries. This finding might be explained by other characteristics of the two societies. From our results, Korean respondents seem relatively intolerant of ambiguity as compared to Kenyans. This may be explained by the homogeneous nature of the Korean population versus the heterogeneous nature of the Kenyan population. Kenya is composed of over forty distinct ethnic groups, a product of the colonial legacy of gerrymandering national borders in Africa. Whereas in Korea for someone to be different is for a person to be very different; in Kenya, personal diversity is common.

Logistic Regression Analysis Table 2 displays the logistic regression models that test our hypothesized directions of influence. The logistic regression procedures used here allow us to assess how much each of the sixteen Hofstede items considered in this study were obtained from the Kenyan sample and 110 from the Korean sample.


Table 1 displays the differences in means of all variables. Nine out of sixteen of the items produced means that are significantly different. Five of the masculinity-femininity dimension questions have a significant result. This would contributes to distinguishing between Korean and Kenyan students by considering how each item contributes to the correct classification of students by nationality. Three models were developed. The first model, referred to as the “full model” considers all sixteen items. The second model, referred to as the “reduced model” considers only those items found to be statistically significant in the full model. These items were determined by a backward stepwise procedure in which items were dropped from the full model one at a time based on the least contribution to accurate prediction as indicated by their Wald coefficients (Agresti, 1990; 1996). In the third model, referred to as the “reduced-holdout model” the variables from the reduced model were applied to two random samples of 105 and 93 respondents. New coefficients were computed using the sample of 105 respondents (the computational sample). These new model coefficients were then used to classify the 93 respondents (the holdout sample) who were not included in the calculation of the coefficients. Using the coefficients of the computational sample to classify respondents who were not used to compute the coefficients allows the assessment of the generalizability of the reduced model.

All models produced Chi-square coefficients indicating statistically significant improvements in classification of respondent nationalities over a random assignment model. The full model was very successful in that it correctly predicted the nationality of the respondents with 79% accuracy. However, only 9 items were statistically significant. The nine variables were then included in the reduced model. These are: V2 (Time for self and Family), V3 (Freedom to adopt job related goals); V4 (Challenging Work); VS (Job religion, the intensification of urbanization, and the development of mass communications. These changes are accompanied by changes in social norms and cultural values. This is reflected in the Gemeinschaft – Gesellschaft distinction of Tonnies and the mechanical – organic solidarity distinction developed by Durkheim. Our research supports Hofstede’s claim that a factor of economic development should emerge as a correlate of changes in social norms and cultural values. The use of MBO (management by objectives) common today is one good example. Where work values, autonomy, freedom to adapt the job to suit oneself and personally challenging work as was found in today’s Korea, MBO could be very successful; while in present day Kenya, the use of MBO might be viewed with distrust at least, or confusion at most. Another example is the use of individual employee contribution with merit based pay and promotion. This would improve performance in the more individualistic country (in this case Korea) and not in the more collective society (here, Kenya).

From our analysis, another dichotomy can be drawn. That is the distinction between employment as task-oriented versus relationship oriented. The Gemeinschaft society, as exemplified by Kenya, is more relationship oriented, while the orientation of present day Korea is more Gesellschaft. This affects the concept of quality. In Kenya, quality may mean pleasing the boss. In Korea, quality may mean achieving task oriented goals.

Essentially, if cultural values differ with levels of industrial development in a systematic manner, then managers of multinational firms may be better able to anticipate worker orientations and motivating values and so may beneficially adapt job designs and supervision styles. Our research has shown that in a comparison between an industrially developed society and an industrially less-developed society, items drawn from questions used to derive Hofstede’s national cultural values can be used to distinguish societies where there is rapid change and economic development. However, more research is needed before firm generalizable implications for managers can be drawn. This study was limited in scope in several ways, the first being that only two countries were examined, and a limited range of variables were investigated. Also the investigation focused on college graduates rather than rank and file workers. The integration of the sociological perspective of,Tonnies and Durkheim with that of Hofstede contributes toward bridging the gap in interdisciplinary research in this area.


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Kenneth R. Gray Florida A & M University

Kimball P. Marshall Jackson State University

Copyright College of Business Administration. University of Detroit Mercy Fall 1998

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