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Understanding Workplace Culture

Understanding Your Workplace Culture (Individualism vs Collectivism)

To praise… or not to praise? Should we praise the individual or the entire organization is the question. When it comes to societal norms, culture is a dominant influence. It also turns out that culture in the workplace significantly influences the overall performance of an organization. Two important cultural ideologies managers ought to be privy of are individualism and collectivism.

The works of social psychologist and professor of international management, Geert Hofstede, has shown that people’s self image impacts their surroundings. Whether they think of themselves as individuals or part of a group will reflect on the culture of an organization. Understanding this dynamic helps employers to strategize effectively among their employees.

Individualism is the concept in which the individual is seen as the most important factor. This idea breeds high levels of self-sufficiency, autonomy, and uniqueness. In the workplace, people are praised for being self-starters and their expressiveness is more tolerated. Incorporating new ideas and creativity flourish in this type of environment. This ideology best suits an organization that desires to be ahead of their competition, or focuses on innovation as a goal.

On the flipside, employees can suffer from more work-related stress and anxiety because they feel a higher sense of competition with their coworkers. They may even feel unappreciated if they do not receive that sole recognition.

Collectivism places value on the group. This idea expects members to be self-sacrificing, and contribute to the group as an entity separate from the individual (Morris). The environment found among collectivists is more interdependent, harmonious, and cohesive. It best suits organizations that thrive on teamwork and need clearly defined hierarchies. Here, you will find tightly-knit groups that expect the same amount of loyalty from the company that they put in. Success is celebrated, not by individual effort, but by everyone holistically.

While communities and families have a higher importance, personal values and opinions are obsolete. People within collectivist culture tend to shy away from speaking up when they disagree, and just go with the flow.

It is rare to have an organization that is strictly one or the other, so considering aspects of both individualism and collectivism is vital. Understanding the culture in your workplace helps you to navigate behaviors in either portion. It makes it easier to not exacerbate the high levels of domestic competition found among individualists, or the unseen value of collectivists. Balancing the negatives will create a positive environment, no matter which ideology is dealt with, producing better work performance.


Morris, L. (2022, March 17). Workplace culture: Collectivism vs. individualism - toughnickel. ToughNickel. https://toughnickel.com/business/Culture-and-Influence-in-the-Workplace-Part-I

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