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Culture and influence in the workplace: Individualism vs Collectivism
Organizational Cultures

Culture and influence in the workplace: Individualism vs Collectivism

Sharon Monteiro
March 18, 2024

"East vs West"

"Community vs the person"

"Collectivism vs Individualism"

Ever wondered why some people prefer working solo while others thrive on teamwork? Imagine the workplace as a playground of diverse preferences. Some crave solo adventures, savoring the freedom of individual triumphs, while others seek the thrill of teamwork, thriving in the power of collective synergy. So, whether it's a solo expedition or a team escapade, the workplace caters to every adventurer's desires.

What is individualism and collectivism culture?

Culture is a singular factor that can have an influence on people's behaviour at the workplace. The notions attributed to collectivist and individualistic cultures are well recognised and frequently pitted against one another. These two cultures may seem different, but they're not enemies! Cross-cultural psychologists study how people work together, finding both unique traits and surprising similarities.

When comparing the United States and China, there is a huge difference in Hofstede's individualism-collectivism dimension. On the individualism index, the United States has an index number of 91 out of the full score of 100, whereas China has a significantly lower index score at 20.

In the clash between Western collectivism and Eastern collectivism, the former prioritizes the group, while the latter emphasizes the individual. Western collectivism focuses on the group, while Eastern collectivism emphasizes the individual. Both influence leadership and organizational management. In reality, leadership combines both styles, creating a cultural mosaic of diverse approaches. It reflects the complexity of leadership in our globalized world.

Geert Hofstede and the Cultural Dimensions Theory

In today's interconnected global world, cultural differences in leadership have taken the spotlight in discussions everywhere. Professor Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory, a renowned framework for cross-cultural interactions, revolves around six key dimensions and sheds light on culture's impact on workplace values. Among these dimensions, individualism versus collectivism in business stands out as a crucial factor in Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Index. 

Hofstede defined culture as, “The collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others.”
Culture is a dynamic subject of research and discussion. An organization's culture is shaped by its perception, evaluation, and response to internal and external factors, impacting behavior and overall performance.

What is Collectivism?

Collectivism vs Individualism I peoplehum

China, South Korea, Japan, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Indonesia have highly collectivistic cultures valuing conformity to societal ideals and in-groups.

In collectivist workplaces, team and company goals take precedence, fostering a supportive environment.

The downside is the potential homogeneity, which discourages individual expression.

However, working together to achieve a goal is a fundamental aspect of human nature. Cooperation has driven human progress across corporations, democracies, and communities, shaping our modern era for the better.

Collectivism in business need not restrict individualism since the workplace is diverse and nuanced.

What is Individualism?

Collectivism vs Individualism I peopleHum

In an individualistic workplace culture, the "me-first" mentality with the individual employee in the spotlight. It's like a fiery competition, with employees fueled by the belief that their personal success is the key to unlocking their professional dreams.

Productive and self-motivated employees are encouraged to be unique and expressive. The drawbacks include potential alienation, reduced collaboration, stress, anxiety, and burnout among employees.

The solution to a healthy individualistic work culture is to understand how to positively integrate it into the workplace. Leadership can offer training to show employees how harmony and collaboration in the workplace can help everyone reach their individual goals.

The influence of two

Although collectivism vs individualism are often observed, the reality is that communities, societies, nations and organizations cannot be defined as purely collectivistic and individualistic. Organizational cultures don’t fit into neat square boxes. They evolve, change shape and form, are nuanced, and exist between blurred lines.

Also read : How to tell if the company culture is right for you

What are the differences between collectivism and individualism?


  • Focus on the group and community interests.
  • Emphasis on cooperation, interdependence, and harmony.
  • Hierarchy in social structure with conformity to societal norms.
  • Close, long-lasting relationships within the group.
  • Shared success and failure, downplaying individual recognition.
  • Encourages teamwork and loyalty in the workplace.


  • Focus on individual needs and goals.
  • Valuing personal freedom, self-reliance, and independence.
  • Flatter social structure promoting uniqueness and personal paths.
  • Emphasis on personal accomplishments and self-sufficiency.
  • Attributing success and failure to individual efforts.
  • Emphasizes personal achievements, competition, and individual growth.

How is collectivism vs individualism measured?‍

The Culture Orientation Scale is one technique to assess collectivism vs individualism. This is a 16-point scale that assesses whether people regard themselves as members of a group or as fully autonomous beings. It also assesses whether they believe each member of the group is equal or if inequality exists.

Individualism or Collectivism? Which works well for your workplace.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Although individualism increases self-assurance, encourages personal excellence and fosters creativity, it can also result in resistance to change, a lack of teamwork, and an increase in confrontations.

People that are unwilling to adhere to or follow set standards and processes may also have an impact on a team's success.

These problems can still exist even though they might not be the main ones in a collectivist organization. Employees may feel less engaged or driven to succeed when individual efforts are (for the most part) disregarded. Because of the goal to serve the group, this attitude may stifle innovation and creativity.

What are the Common factors affecting Individualism and Collectivism in the workplace?

1. Cultural Background

The prevailing cultural norms and values of employees influence their orientation towards individualism or collectivism.

2. Leadership style

The leadership approach and management practices in an organization can either promote individual autonomy or emphasize team cohesion and collaboration

3. Organizational Structure

The way an organization is structured and operates can either encourage individual decision-making or prioritize group consensus.

4. Performance Measurement

Performance evaluation and reward systems can either focus on individual achievements or team contributions.

5. Communication and Feedback

Open and transparent communication channels can support individual expression or foster collective input and feedback.

6. Employee Diversity

Workplace diversity can impact the level of collectivism, as employees from various backgrounds may bring different cultural perspectives.

7. Employee Motivation

Employee preferences and motivations may vary, influencing their inclination towards individualism or collectivism.

8. Company Goals

The organization's goals and mission can shape the emphasis on individual performance or collective success.

What are the examples of Individualism vs Collectivism?

In a workplace setting, the contrast between individualism and collectivism becomes evident in the decision-making process within a team. In an individualistic team, each member leans towards making decisions independently, focusing on personal goals and interests. On the other hand, in a collectivist team, collaboration and cooperation take precedence. Members aim to achieve consensus and unity within the group, prioritizing harmony and the well-being of the entire team.

Is collectivism better than individualism?

The question of whether individualism or collectivism is better doesn't have a clear answer. Individualism encourages employees to pursue personal goals and take ownership of their work. It's like being the captain of our own ship. On the flip side, collectivism is like one big team, promoting cooperation and looking out for each other. It's like being part of a tight-knit family, where everyone's got your back.

The effectiveness of each approach depends on cultural context, organizational goals, and task requirements. Finding a balance between both is probably the sweet spot. It means we get the best of both worlds. We can work together, bounce ideas off each other, and enjoy diverse perspectives through collectivism. We can also express ourselves, be creative, and take the lead with individualism.Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; the choice depends on the context and objectives at hand.


The interplay of individualism and collectivism in the workplace culture can shape a dynamic and thriving environment. Each perspective plays a vital role, like pieces of a puzzle coming together to form a thriving and harmonious workplace. Employees feel empowered as unique individuals while working together towards common goals. It's like a symphony of productivity and collaboration, where everyone's playing their part, and together, they hit all the right notes to achieve success

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