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The United Kingdom and Brazil: Hofstede's Dimensions Bringing Cultures Closer

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The ways in which national cultures influence organizations has become a major topic of concern for managers in the globalized world. Globalization brings cultures together and erases geographical boundaries. As a result, managers are expected to develop cross-cultural awareness and adopt practices that will enable culturally diverse employees to meet their professional objectives. Diversity is being praised for the amount of creativity, innovative ideas, and fresh looks it brings to organizations. However, it is quite amazing to see how people in various cultures behave and interact. As a result, better knowledge of national cultures must become part of managers' professional agenda. The goal of this paper is to compare the United Kingdom to Brazil, using Hofstede's cultural dimensions. The results of this analysis will inform managers' practices in cross-cultural environments and facilitate companies' transition to a new, global level of performance.

United Kingdom vs. Brazil: Turning Cultural Difference into Advantage

Hofstede's Model of Cultural Analysis

The study of national cultures and their impacts on management, leadership, and employee behaviors has become extremely popular. With the growing cross-cultural awareness, more managers want to learn the basic elements of different cultures and be prepared to the problems and conflicts in their relations with diverse employees. It is no secret that global organizations bring together managers and employees from different cultures. The notion of culture does not have any single definition, but it is possible to say that it is an effective instrument of implicit mental programming, which creates an unconscious infrastructure that rules and directs individual beliefs and assumptions (McSweeney, 2002). Individuals may not be sharing all features of the most common subcultures, but they definitely display the most salient features of their national culture (McSweeney, 2002). This is why the study of national cultures is so important for effective leadership and management.

According to Hofstede (1983), the study of nationality and culture is important for three basic reasons. First, nationality is political, because all nations have their history and political interests (Hofstede, 1983). These formal institutional structures give rise to informal political realities, which are very resistant to change and, at the same time, alter the dynamics of organizational development and performance. Second, nationality has a sociological significance, because it is a vital symbol of one's identity (Hofstede, 1983). Most individuals perceive their cultural and national differences as a reality, and these differences may sometimes become a real obstacle to improving organizational performance and group cohesiveness. Third, nationality is important for psychological reasons, because everyone's thinking is partially conditioned by the influence of the national culture (Hofstede, 1983). All these arguments justify the analysis of the British and Brazilian cultures and their implications for organizations. Hofstede's dimensions are direct and make any culture measurable (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). They reveal tangible, although reconcilable, differences in the cultures of these two countries.

United Kingdom and Brazil: Measuring the Two Cultures

At present, the United Kingdom and Brazil are considered as two successful democratic countries, which display huge cooperation and business growth potentials. However, the cultures in these two countries are much more different than similar. In almost all dimensions, including individualism vs. collectivism and low vs. high uncertainty avoidance, the Brazilian and British cultures present entirely different scores. Managers in global organizations must be particularly sensitive to these differences and anticipate the risks of cross-cultural challenges.

Power distance. According to Hofstede and Bond (1988), power distance is an aspect of culture that measures the relationship between less and more powerful individuals and institutions. To a large extent, power distance is the degree, to which power inequality is accepted in the given culture (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). In Hofstede's model, power distance is determined from the bottom of the social hierarchy and shows how followers, not leaders, tend to endorse it (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). Brazil scores 69 on the power distance dimension, compared with 35 for the UK. The higher score for Brazil implies that inequality is inherent in its national culture. The Brazilian society strongly believes in the importance of inequality and hierarchy (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). Those who hold more power have greater and easier access to the benefits that are not available to those at the bottom of the society's hierarchy. This is why respect for the elderly is one of the fundamental elements of Brazil's national culture. This is also why a Brazilian company is usually led by a single leader, who assumes full responsibility for its future success (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.).

Brazil differs considerably from the United Kingdom, since the latter does not accept inequality and wants to minimize it. Britain is a country with one of the lowest power distance scores (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). That, however, does not mean that British citizens do not respect their leaders or the elderly. At first glance, Hofstede's low scores on power distance seem to be incompatible with the historical class structure in the United Kingdom. However, the fact that the British individual is born near the bottom of the class structure does not mean that he (she) cannot move up the social ladder. The message of the power distance sent by the British culture is that everyone has the full freedom of personal growth in life (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). Everyone has fair and equal chances to achieve success. It is the belief in fairness and equal opportunities that predetermines UK's low scores on Hofstede's power distance scale.

Individualism vs. collectivism. Individualism vs. collectivism is one of the essential indicators of national cultures. According to Oyserman, Coon and Kemmerlmeier (2002), the core assumption of individualism is that individuals do not depend on each other. Consequently, individualistic nations are focused much more on rights than duties and pursue individual autonomy and self-fulfillment rather than collective work (Oyserman et al., 2002). European Americans are commonly regarded as a gold standard of individualism, and the United Kingdom displays one of the highest scores among other countries in terms of its individualistic values. At present, the UK ranks the third most individualistic country in the world, after the United States and Australia (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). The British people are highly private and individualistic. Since the early age, children learn how to define their life purpose and achieve it. Personal fulfillment is claimed to be the foundation for everyone's success. Unfortunately, excessive commitment to individualism reduces the chances of U.K. employees to become effective team members. Being exclusively individualistic, they can easily lose the sight of the most essential strategic objectives and categories.

Brazil is located at the opposite end of the individualism vs. collectivism scale. Its score is 38, compared with 89 in Britain (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). This is why Brazilians are so close to each other and grow up in extended families. Family loyalty is a distinctive feature of the Brazilian culture. These collectivist influences transcend the boundaries of the family environment and have profound implications for the quality of Brazilians' performance in the workplace. Organizational communication usually takes place in a context-rich environment. It is unusual for Brazilian employees to bring their relatives to work in the same organization (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). They are productive workers and can succeed in their tasks, but they never forget about their relatives and friends. Their culture rests on a common assumption that individuals have mutual obligations, and their personal achievements are merely part of the broader social reality (Oyserman et al., 2002). Unlike their British colleagues, Brazilians will never betray their relatives or family members, but they also risk facing tough workplace challenges, if their commitment to family becomes excessively strong. 

Masculinity vs. femininity. The masculinity vs. femininity dimension is important because it shows the ways, in which gender roles are distributed in society (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). "Masculine" societies are more asserting, while "feminine" countries and cultures are more nurturing (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). "Masculine" countries display a greater difference in male and female roles, compared to the "female" cultures. Brazil scores somewhere in between the masculine and feminine extremes (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). Thus, men and women in Brazil do not engage in conflicts and may sometimes fulfill mixed roles. The national culture of Brazil does not establish any rigid boundaries on the female and male functions. However, Brazil is also perceived as being a caring and warm country.

This is not the thing with Britain, which exemplifies a purely masculine culture, where competition and assertiveness are praised over caring and nurturing. Britain is more success-oriented than Brazil (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). This strong emphasis on individual success directly contradicts the country's image of modesty. Yet, the culture of the UK is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, its people are known for their modesty. On the other hand, their visible modesty does not prevent them from being individualistic and success-driven. Overall, managers working with British employees must learn to read between the lines, because what the British say is not always what they mean (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.).

Uncertainty avoidance. The concept of uncertainty avoidance is related to the concept of truth. Hofstede and Bond (1988) write that uncertainty avoidance is essentially about searching for the Truth. Simply stated, the level of uncertainty avoidance indicates how uncomfortable an individual feels in an uncertain (or unstructured) situation (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). It also explains the ways, in which the society deals with the assumption that no one can know their future. Like other Latin American cultures, Brazil displays high levels of uncertainty avoidance. The country does everything possible and impossible to avoid future uncertainties (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). This is why Brazil constructs complex rules and legal systems to deal with future challenges. Brazilians are expected to follow all these rules. This is also why Brazil is well-known for its bureaucratic complexity: without it, Brazilians cannot be confident that they will manage to overcome future problems. High uncertainty avoidance scores in Brazil translate into high emotions, active body language, and a strong desire for personal satisfaction and relaxation (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). It is not uncommon for Brazilians to have long meals, when they talk to each other and learn about the changes in their environment (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.).

Everything is different with Britain, where citizens do not seek to overcome future challenges but take them for granted. The British set explicit goals but never specify how they will achieve them (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). They are constantly searching for something innovative and different (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). People in the UK do not have too many cultural rules. They do not have as much bureaucracy as in Brazil. They may take the advantage of flexibility and innovation on their way to strategic goals, but the fact that they ignore long-term challenges may become a serious impediment to their smooth growth.

Long-term orientation. Long-term orientation is the fifth dimension of Hofstede's cultural scale. It measures the degree, to which culture is future-oriented and pragmatic. Brazil is the only non-Asian country that scores high on long-term orientation (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). However, Brazilians are open to changes and can accept more than one truth. By contrast, the UK is short-term oriented, and its strategic short-sightedness may also be related to the low scores on uncertainty avoidance. The British simply do not look ahead of them and do not want to think about future problems. Consequently, not too many British are willing to give up their present possessions (material and intellectual) for the sake of a more profitable future (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). Most British organizations are focused on short-term results, which do not allow building and implementing long-term investment projects. Consequently, UK employees may face difficulties with long-term planning to anticipate future problems and avoid potential economic and human losses.

Conclusion/Recommendations

That the British and Brazilian cultures are so different does not mean that British and Brazilian employees cannot work as a team. Even despite the dramatic cultural differences, many common management practices can be readily applied in cross-cultural business environments (Javidan, Dorfman, Luque & House, 2006). Finally, many organizational cultures are shaped by management practices rather than cultural values, which means that they can and should be managed (Hofstede, 1999). In all these situations, the main purpose of management is to reduce the cultural limitations or use them for the benefit of the global organization.

The culture of Brazil is characterized by openness, high levels of uncertainty avoidance and power distance. As a result, in order to work better, Brazilian employees need to have a perfect understanding of their place in the organizational hierarchy and the rules, which govern their workplace decisions. They grow in a collectivist environment and can be perfect team players; their culture is more feminine and nurturing than that of Britain, which implies that Brazilian employees will be more team-oriented and less prone to betray the common organizational mission for the sake of self-fulfillment. Simultaneously, the British need greater flexibility and fewer rules. They are more likely to succeed in individual tasks than their Brazilian colleagues. They need to pursue short-term goals that will contribute to achieving the organization's long-term objectives. Meanwhile, Brazilian employees will monitor the organization's long-term progress and develop rules and structures to face and avoid future uncertainty.

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