Individualistic cultures appreciate the self, while collectivistic cultures focus on the group. For example, people who grew up in the United States, and most parts of Europe, are individualists. They are independent, self-reliant and motivated by what is good for them personally. People who grew up in Japan (and most Asian cultures) are thought to be collectivists. They are motivated by the good of the community and rely on other people in the group.
Both ideologies have an impact on leadership, organisational management and team performance. Let’s review which are the key traits of the two cultures, in the context of business organisations.
In an individualistic culture, focus and value are on the individual employee and his specific needs. Individualistic cultures emphasise personal goals, freedoms, self-expression, and autonomy. Individuals are praised and urged to think for themselves.
The lines between managers and subordinates are blurred, thus promoting less definitive organisational structures, empowering employees to challenge current systems, and share new ideas and creativity. Expressiveness and uniqueness are tolerated and even encouraged.
Individuals are expected to do things in their self-interest because management believes autonomy and personal incentives are what people need to be happy within the organisation.
The employees pursue personal success outside of the group. Moreover, society, within and away from the organisation, support this mindset.
Unfortunately, increased individual attention has some unwanted effects. Bringing positive attention to an individual alienates their peers. Not receiving the deserved recognition may leave members feeling unappreciated. Members within such an organisation may feel an overwhelming sense of competition between themselves and their co-workers, igniting insecurities, stress, and anxiety.
Attempting to operate at a high level in such a company, might be hard. If you want your team to succeed, you have to bring people together into a team-oriented frame of mind, which can be challenging in a group of individualists.
Collectivism values the group, expecting members to sacrifice things and contribute to their group. As a result, employees are less independent and more interdependent.
Decision making is through collaboration and consensus, stressing the importance of group goals, rights, and needs. As a result, individual decision making is strongly discouraged. Members are strongly encouraged to embody the values, views, and motivations of the collective, suppressing their values, beliefs, and motivations if divergent from the group.
Management clearly defines power hierarchies and gives positive reinforcements to those whose behaviour represents collective and harmonious attitudes.
Collectivists are judged based on their loyalty and sacrifices to the community, group, and organisation. Loyalty to the organisation is paramount, and in return, the organisation returns an equal amount of commitment.
The overall success or failure of the collective is one and is congratulated or criticised as one. Finally, there is little to no competition within a collectivist environment as competitiveness does not support a harmonious environment.