Improving the cooperation of a mixed US-Turkish project team

An analysis based on cultural theory and practical examples

Seminar Paper, 2015

18 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of content

Register of Illustrations

Index of abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Definition of culture

3 General information about the USA and Turkey

4 Hofstede’s cultural theory

5 Analysis of the Turkish and US American culture
5.1 Power Distance
5.2 Long-term Orientation
5.3 Individualism vs. Collectivism

6 Conclusion


Appendix 1

Register of Illustrations

Figure 1: The iceberg model

Index of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

The world has changed significantly over the past decades which resulted in a world that is globally connected like it is known today. In times of Facebook, Skype and reasonable plane tickets not only private communication and recreational travelling has spread throughout the globe but also businesses have changed noticeably due to globalization. Countries all over the world have transformed to an interdependent economic system. Especially, rising economic powers, such as Turkey[1], and the largest economic powers in the world, like the USA[2], face an increasing collaboration due to their economic importance to each other. Institutions, such as ‘U.S. – Turkey Business Council’ (USTBC), furthermore encourage Turkish and US American business and governmental decision-makers to collaborate in order “to establish partnerships and to advocate for economic, legal and political policies that expand bi­lateral trade”.[3] Subsequently, there will be an increasing number of mixed US-Turkish project teams in the future.

Looking at these two countries, prejudices would lead to the opinion that these countries could not be more different. While the US stands for liberty, equality and progress, Turkey is said to be very traditional, conservative and hierarchical. Thus, a project team consisting of Turkish and American[4] team members would have many problems to interact smoothly. This shows that if a culture is only analyzed by prejudices concerning the surface of a culture, as the iceberg model describes it[5], it may lead to many avoidable misunderstandings. Moreover, it is essential to be aware of a country’s peculiarities before working with people from this country.

The aim of this paper is the improvement of the cooperation of a mixed US-Turkish team by giving the reader an understanding about these two apparently very different countries.

In order to give profound information about the cultures cultural theories have to be used. After collecting several data the author decided to focus on Geert Hofstede, and his so-called ‘Cultural dimensions’ because they best fit to the similarities and differences that were found. Especially because Hofstede’s dimensions include several aspects that are not found in dimensions of other scientists such as Edward T. Hall. By using only one cultural theory overlapping and confusion between different cultural theories are avoided.

In order to understand the foundation of a cultural comparison a definition of culture is given. Then, some general information about the countries are given getting a general overview over the countries. After explaining Hofstede’s cultural theory including information about his person, his general understandings and his dimensions, the Turkish and US American culture are analyzed according to three of Hofstede’s dimensions. Due to the scope of this paper and because of the aim of giving not only surface information it focuses on the dimensions ‘Power distance’, ‘Long-term orientation’ and ‘Individualism vs. Collectivism’ which are most important to a project team. These dimensions show not only differences but also similarities as a common base. Personal experiences[6] and quotes from scientific literature underline the differences or equalities. The cultures are directly compared in each dimension and advices to the project team are given in the end of each dimension.

2 Definition of culture

Although there has not yet been one definition that all scientists have agreed upon it is tried to give the idea of what culture is since this is essential to the understanding of this paper.

Because of its elusiveness and ambiguity ‘culture’ is a word that is often used without specification of its meaning. Already, the origin of the Latin worsd ‘colere’ (to cultivate, to foster) and ‘cultura’ and ’cultus’ (growing and cultivation) show the core of all definitions of culture. It is human made and not given by nature.[7]

Hofstede defines culture as the “collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another”.[8] Although not all scientists agree on this definition it shows the common understanding of culture as collective behavioral patterns and norms. These ‘mental programs’ explain different values and make human behavior predictable to some extent.[9]

3 General information about the USA and Turkey

The United States of America was established on July 4, 1776, by issuing the Declaration of Independence. Within this Declaration the idea of the American Dream is anchored and protected. This will be proven to significantly influence the American culture. Due to a large part of immigrants there are many ethnic groups in the US that all contribute to the American culture. Nowadays, it consists of 50 different states and one federal district. The US is the 4th largest country in the world and with its 316,000,000 inhabitants it is 3rd in the world. As mentioned above it is beside China the world’s largest economic power. The political system is called ‘Federal presidential constitutional republic’ with its current president Barack Obama.

Turkey was founded in 1923 after the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22). The first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk transformed the old Ottoman-Turkish country into republican, nationalist and secular country[10]. Since then the population increased to 77,000,000. Turkey, as the only country that belongs to two continents, builds the bridge between West and East. Turkey is already a member of the UN (1945) and NATO (1952) and is still a candidate for membership in the European Union. Turkey’s political system is called ‘Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic’ with its current head Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The capital is Ankara although the biggest city is Istanbul.

4 Hofstede’s cultural theory

Gerard Hendrik Hofstede, better known as Geert Hofstede, was the founder of comparative intercultural research with his studies about how culture influences values in a work environment.[11] Hofstede’s approach acknowledges cultural elements within international economics, cooperation and communication.[12]

Hofstede’s empirical model of cultural dimensions is based on his study with IBM employees from over 40 countries.[13] Using the scoring method (0-100) it is possible to order and compare value systems of different countries.[14] Based on research of Michael Harris Bond Hofstede added a fifth dimension in 1991, called ‘Long-term orientation’, to his original four dimensions (Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism versus Collectivism and Masculinity vs. Femininity). With his book ‘Cultures and Organizations – Software of the mind’ (2010), Hofstede introduced a sixth dimension called ‘Indulgence versus Restraint’.[15]

Hofstede’s first dimension ‘Power Distance’ describes “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally”.[16] Inequality is multidimensional and can occur in many different ways such as in social status and physical and mental characteristics.[17] This dimension is of much importance to an international project team because the team members differ in age, team position, knowledge and social status.

The second dimension is called ‘Uncertainty Avoidance’ and refers to “the extent to which a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations”.[18] This dimension could be important to a project team because it gives hints how risks and chances are handled.

‘Individualism vs. Collectivism’ is the third dimension and is “the degree to which individuals are supposed to look after themselves or remain integrated into groups, usually around the family”.[19] This is a very important dimension that has to be regarded in a project team because it indicates if team members think in terms of “I” or in terms of “we” as a team.

The last original dimension is called ‘Masculinity vs. femininity’ and describes “the distribution of emotional roles between the genders”.[20] This dimension might be important because it gives further hints if team members think competitively or cooperatively.

The fifth dimension is ‘Long-term orientation’ which refers “to the extent to which a culture programs its members to accept delayed gratification of their […] needs”.[21] It shows the focus for people’s effort: the future or the present.[22] This dimension is important since it indicates what role customs might play in the solution finding process and if goals have to be achieved in a short-term or a long-term view.

The newest dimension is called ‘Indulgence vs. Restraint’. Indulgence is the “tendency to allow relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun”[23] while a restraint culture “reflects a conviction that such gratification needs to be […] regulated by strict social norms”.[24]


[1] Cp. Soner Cagaptay, The Rise of Turkey: The Twenty-First Century’s First Muslim Power (Nebraska, Potomac Books, 2014), p. 1ff.

[2] Frank Jiang and Nake M Kamrany, “China's Rise to Global Economic Superpower,” Huffington Post, February 2, 2015,, accessed April 2015.

[3] U.S. - Turkey Business Council, “Welcome to the U.S.-Turkey Business Council,”, accessed April 2015.

[4] In the following paper ‘America’ and ‘Americans’ are synonyms for the United States of America and its people.

[5] See Appendix 1for further information about the iceberg model.

[6] Comment of the author: The author has stayed in Pennington, NJ, USA for 10 months (2010-2011) participating in an exchange program which included living in a host family and going to an American high school. Furthermore, the author has stayed and worked as an intern of Siemens in Istanbul, Turkey for seven weeks during her apprenticeship (2014).

[7] Cp. Ansgar Nünning, „Vielfalt der Kulturbegriffe,“, accessed June 2015.

[8] Geert Hofstede, Cultures Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations, 2nd Edition (Thousand Oaks, CA, 2001), p.9.

[9] Cp. Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, p. xix ff.

[10] Cp. „Atatürk’s principles,“ The Atatürk Society Of Canada,, accessed June 2015.

[11] Cp. Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, p. 596.

[12] Cp. The hofstede centre, “Geert Hofstede,”, accessed March 2015.

[13] Cp. The hofstede centre, “Geert Hofstede”.

[14] Cp. Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, p. xix.

[15] Geert Hofstede, and Gert Jan Hofstede, “Dimensions of national Cultures,”, accessed May 2015.

[16] Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, p. xix.

[17] Cp. Ibid., p. 81.

[18] Ibid., p. xix.

[19] Ibid., p. xx.

[20] Ibid., p. xx.

[21] Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, p. xx.

[22] Cp. Ibid., p. 29.

[23] Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd Edition (New York, NY, 2010), p.281.

[24] Ibid., p.281.

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Improving the cooperation of a mixed US-Turkish project team
An analysis based on cultural theory and practical examples
University of Applied Sciences Essen
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Kommentar des Dozenten: Eine schöne Arbeit: gut strukturiert, gut analysiert, gut argumentiert, gut zu lesen. Sie machen alles richtig: ein guter Theorieteil, Analysen, die auf dem Theorieteil basieren und gute Schlussfolgerungen, die auf den Analysen aufbauen. Und gut zu lesen noch dazu. Lediglich eine zusammenfassende Darstellung der Werte in den Dimensionen, z.B. als Graphik habe ich vermisst. Das hätte die Lesbarkeit noch einmal deutlich erhöht. Sie sind auf einem guten Weg, weiter so!
USA Turkey, globalization, cooperation, usa, turkey, business, cultural studies
Quote paper
Maike Seifert (Author), 2015, Improving the cooperation of a mixed US-Turkish project team, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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