Cultural Differences in Managing Cross-Cultural Interaction between German and Chinese Employees

Hausarbeit, 2012

19 Seiten, Note: 2,0



1 Introduction

2 Hofstede`s Dimensions
2.1 Power Distance
2.2 Uncertainty Avoidance
2.3 Individualism vs. Collectivism

3 Cross-cultural managing

4 Conclusion

5 References



1 Introduction

In today`s more and more globalizing world almost every employee in a multinational company has come in contact with foreign cultures: “ Cross-cultural dialogue has become the foundation on which global business succeeds or fails ” (Adler 2002: 133f.).

The Chinese market is one of the most successful developing regions of the world. Today, it offers enormous possibilities for (German) companies to invest in this market i. a. though the delegation employees to China as well as the integration of Chinese employees in Germany. Due to the skill shortages it will become more necessary than ever to recruit high potentials, to transfer and to share knowledge about a certain business unit.

Integrity and commitment are the most essential factors for a successful cooperation and teamwork within the company as well as for company`s success. Therefore it will be necessary to have a cooperative atmosphere with a mutual cultural understanding. Every employee “ must use cross-cultural skills ” (Adler 2002: 136). As Adler mentioned, organizations consist of work groups which form the organization structure. The quality of these teams depends on cultural heterogeneities and its productivity and performance “ depends on how well the team works together and uses its resources to accomplish the task ”

(Adler 2002: 139). This goal can only be reached by understanding foreign cultures and using diversity. Diversity implies differences in “ preferences, habits, languages and cultures ” (Guirdham 2005: 305). Multinational working groups und cultural diversity can be the key for a much higher effectiveness and success than homogenous teams. There are advantages but also disadvantages. To ensure a successful integration there is need for a mutual understanding of cultural norms, values, attitudes, beliefs and behavioral patterns.

To develop an understanding for this purpose, Hofstede`s dimensions will be considered and analyzed, esp. against the background of Doing Business . Although, Hofstede`s concept of culture will be the basis for this work but moreover, the works of Adler, Guirdham, Beamer/Varner and Hall/Hall will play an additional role in this paper. This work will focus on multinational companies only, since the importance of intercultural business and cultural diversity is very high in contrast to domestic, multidomestic or multinational companies (cf. Adler 2002: 134). The following work shows the different cultural concepts in China and Germany and its relevance for a successful business, good collaboration and teamwork. Hofstede`s dimensions will be explained and applied in different contexts, by way of using different examples of employee participation, work-related behavioral patterns and conflict solving in organizations of different cultures. The examples refer to settings in organizations in Germany and China.

Nonetheless, there are further cultural, influential differences in work situations in each dimension, which cannot all be mentioned here.1 For the analysis only three dimensions will be considered. Furthermore historical, political and economical influences will not be considered due to the limitation of this paper`s framework.

2 Hofstede`s Dimensions

“ Culture is the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others ” (Hofstede 2006 ² : 9).

The Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede sees “ culture as the collective programming of the mind ” (Hofstede 2005: 264), which helps cultures to distinguish themselves from one another. As Hofstede mentioned, nations are “ political units into which the entire world is divided ” (Hofstede 2005: 18). Therefore every human being is supposed to belong to a certain group of people. Throughout lifetime, people learn and carry certain patterns, i. a. on a national or ethnic level as well as regional, linguistic or social class level (cf. Hofstede 2005: 2f, 11): “ Every group or category of people carries a set of common mental programs that constitute its culture ” (Hofstede 2005: 10). Similar studies by Hall/Hall and Trompenaars identify similar, slightly modified dimensions. Hall is regarded as the founder of the Iceberg model. For the first time cultural elements are interpreted like an iceberg. Thus, there are visible und invisible culture elements, like music, language and rituals as well as values like the acceptance of power uncertainty and conceptions about beauty and truth (cf. Hall 1976). In addition to Hall, Hofstede created the onion model which is quite similar: The core of the onion is the basis of culture: values. Values are invisible and will be detected in the “end”. In his interpretation values are “ the deepest manifestation of culture ” (Hofstede 2005…6). All other layers (rituals, heroes and symbols) are visible but their cultural meaning may be invisible. Hofstede subsumed these under the term of “practices” (cf. Hofstede 2005: 6ff.). Another researcher, Trompenaars, added categories to his further study. His model with seven dimensions and three categories builds on Hofstede`s and Hall`s research results (cf. Trompenaars 1998).

Since Hofstede`s dimensions are most widely known, most validated and most important categories there will be a focus on these dimensions in the following parts. In his study Culture`s Consequences he describes his IBM-study about cultural differences (cf. Hofstede 2006²). To follow Hofstede, national cultures explain the “ differences in work-related values ” (Adler 1991: 46) and “ highlight the most important differences for organizations ” (Adler 1991: 60). He identifies four (later five) categories for his analysis and creates six dimensions of practices2 which will not be subject to the following analysis (cf. Hofstede 2005: 292). The dimensions can be seen as cultural aspects which are in relation to each other (cf. Hofstede 2005: 22ff.):

- Power Distance,
- Individualism vs. Collectivism,
- Uncertainty Avoidance,
- Masculinity vs. Femininity, and
- Long-Term- vs. Short-Term-Orientation (5th category was later added).

Especially power distance and uncertainty avoidance can be related to each other and correlate positively (cf. Hofstede 2006²: 150). These dimensions have an influence on the mutual view of organizations and are affected by organizational processes, especially decision making and power as well as determination of (written) rules (cf. Hofstede 2005: 242).

There are differences between “cultures” as such and organizational cultures. Organizational cultures act on each other. Thus, organization, or corporate, or company cultures are different values, norms and beliefs, dependent on particular orientation of the company. As Hofstede said, its members “ have learned to think, to feel and act ” (Hofstede 2005: 35). As mentioned above, one culture can be seen as a “ shared mental software ” (Hofstede 2005: 35) of people. Accordingly, organizational cultures include values, beliefs, thinking as well as rituals, heroes (as a leader) and symbols, which are used to be within this organization. Furthermore organizations can be seen as social systems but rather in a different way than a national system. Last but not least should be mentioned here that people are only involved in organizations during working hours. The culture they live outside working hours will be another kind of culture.

In principle, Germany can be classified as an individualistic country. Masculinity and uncertainty avoidance is also quite high. Details are required to avoid uncertainty as well as systematic overviews of certain topics. However, Germany is a more short-term orientated country. The power distance index is low compared to China (cf. Hofstede 2006²: 166).3 Although Austria is a German-speaking country and very close to Germany, it has the lowest power distance index of the study. This seems to indicate that coexistent living cultures can vary strong (cf. Hofstede 2006²: 87).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Abbildung 1: Hofstede`s Dimension - Germany;

China has the same masculinity index as Germany. In principle, China belongs to the category of collectivistic countries, in which people often act in and for the group they belong to. It has a very high long-term orientation index. In contrast to Germany, China has a low uncertainty avoidance score, which means Chinese people feel more comfortable with unknown situations than the Germans. The power distance in China is higher

than in Germany. In this context, Chinese accept inequalities in a social group.4 However, collectivistic cultures tend to control their members which is generally accepted and correlates with a high power distance index like in China.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Abbildung 2: Hofstede`s Dimension - China;

By means of these dimensions, cultural differences can be defined. Nonetheless, one should mention, that there is a wide variety in these terms of dimensions. For the topic of this work the first three dimensions will be elaborated upon in order to point out cultural differences between Germans and Chinese. The power distance index correlates with and within different aspects of uncertainty avoidance. Additionally, the index and the extent of individualism will be explained to support both other dimensions.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Abbildung 3: Comparison Hofstede`s Dimensions China - Germany;


1 cf. Hofstede 2006²: 107f., 169f., 244f.

2 Following Hofstede (cf. HOFSTEDE 2005: 292) the terms are: process (means)- vs. result (goal) oriented; employee (people)- vs. job oriented; parochial (Identity from organization) vs. professional (identity from job); open vs. closed system (referred to newcomers & outsiders); loose vs. tight control (referred to rule & keeping with them); normative (rule oriented) vs. pragmatic (market oriented).

3 cf. HOFSTEDE, Geert:, 20.04.2012.

4 cf. HOFSTEDE, Geert:, 20.04.2012.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 19 Seiten


Cultural Differences in Managing Cross-Cultural Interaction between German and Chinese Employees
Technische Universität Carolo-Wilhelmina zu Braunschweig
Topics in Intercultural Communication
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
511 KB
Hofstede, Germany, China, Deutschland, interkulturelle Kommunikation, intercultural Communication, Business Communication
Arbeit zitieren
Laura Schiffner (Autor:in), 2012, Cultural Differences in Managing Cross-Cultural Interaction between German and Chinese Employees, München, GRIN Verlag,


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