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Management: perspective and practice
Management: perspective and practice

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3.6.2 The Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner framework

This framework built on the work of Hofstede by broadening the definition of national cultures in recognising that wider historical, political and social factors in a country may affect ‘business values’. Their model is therefore a useful tool for understanding and dealing with cultural differences. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner suggest that national cultures vary in how their members solve problems by identifying three major types:

  1. The relationships with people – five major cultural differences were identified (see Table 3 below).
  2. Attitudes toward time – suggests that societies view time differently, as well as how the past, present and future interrelate.
  3. Attitude towards the environment – relates to whether individuals are considered either a part of nature or separate from it; also how much individuals are a master of their fate.

The Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner framework further identify five major cultural differences in how relationships with other people are handled, and these are expressed as pairs of binary opposites (see Table 3).

Table 3 Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner cultural dimensions
1 Universalism versus the particularA culture’s application of principles. Universal: emphasis is on rules and regulations regardless of individual circumstances. Particular: emphasis on relationships and flexibility.
2 Individual versus collectiveA culture’s focus on either the group or the individual. An individual focus is on the needs of the individual, freedom and responsibility. A collective focus relates to group emphasis and consensus.
3 Neutral versus affectiveNeutral: emphasises objectivity and detachment. Affective: emphasises displays of emotion.
4 Specific versus diffuseA culture’s blending of work and personal life. Specific: emphasises separation of the two. Diffuse: blends them.
5 Achievement versus prescriptionA culture’s way of assigning status. Achievement: emphasises performance. Prescription: emphasises that status comes from age, education, gender and personal characteristics.

This framework is useful in helping you link the dimensions of culture to other aspects of organisational behaviour. Two very important points that this framework brings up are, first, that increasingly, operating in a global environment where people and goods move to and fro one needs to be aware of cultural differences in order to avoid potential problems. Second, this framework also suggests that there is no single formula for reconciling cultural differences and it encourages viewing each culture on its own merit with no culture superior to another.

Whatever your experience of different cultural contexts, even the simple models considered in this section should have made you aware of the extent of cultural variation around you. Cultures can vary at the level of the individual workgroup, the department or the organisation. Overlaying this will be the influence of national cultures, whether because an organisation is operating multi-nationally or because it draws on a multi-cultural workforce.