What is a culture? How does it affect the behaviour of an individual?

Authors Avatar


What is a culture? How does it affect the behaviour of an individual? Does it play a major role in determining the response of an organisation, to its routine and unexpected situations?

 Management today is all about getting things done through people (Hofstede, 1980). In order to do this effectively one has to understand and know the people who have to do them. And here the notion of culture has its significance. Culture here is seen as the predicted behaviour and the shared ways of thinking of an individual in a group. Here culture is not a property of individual, but of group.  This group can be a nation, region, ethnic group or a work organisation. As various authors have shown (Hofstede, 1980; Hall, 1990; Robbins, 1993) that national differences-that is, national cultures- hold a key significance for managers in order to understand the behaviour of a worker, as it is inherent and hence affects the behaviour of an individual the most. But how much does it affect the nature of an individual? If you know somebody’s national culture can you predict his/her behaviour? To a certain extent yes, but the accuracy of your prediction is not guaranteed (Mead, 1998). However if this prediction is not certain then what impact will it have on the organisational culture? IKEA, a global player in furniture industry, has established itself successfully in all parts of Europe, Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, is renowned for their strong and living culture. Ingvar Kamprad, the company's founder, believe that their organisational culture binds them together and is strongly rooted in Swedish culture. But is it really reflecting the national culture. Is the national culture only factor that affects the organisational culture?

This paper tries to answer these questions by looking at:

  • the concept of national culture and how it affects the organisational culture, in section 2.
  • In section 3, national culture of Sweden is described using some theories and research done by Hofstede, Hall and Trompenaars (2000).  
  • In section 4 notions of organisation culture and its importance for organisations is discussed.
  • Section 5 defines the organisational culture of IKEA and compares it with Swedish culture to see how much is it affected by national culture.
  • Section 6 looks at the other factors, which affect the organisational culture; due to limited space, this paper has limited itself to see the affect of founders personality and stage of development on corporate culture.  


2.National culture

    National culture is somewhat, which is instilled from birth. It has to do with what is considered proper, civilized behaviour in that country. It include for instance how to act towards strangers, colleagues, family, how to address somebody (Hofstede).

 Commonly used words regarding national culture emphasize one of its vital aspect-the idea that certain manners in that nation are held in common (Trompennars, Mead).  As one learns his national culture very early in childhood and is unconscious it becomes his/her second nature. Given that it’s deeply rooted, it influences ones behaviour in work life also. Since organisations behaviour is determined by their employee's values and beliefs, national culture plays a very crucial role in determining the corporate culture. National culture differs in their perception of for whom the firm exist. For example, American based companies put importance on the benefit of shareholders, whereas for Germans and Swedes, emphasis is more on employee (Schneider, 2003).

Join now!

3.National culture of Sweden

      Sweden, as described by the four-dimension model of Hofstede, has a low power distance (47), weak uncertainty avoidance (49) culture. Swedish culture shows the characteristics of high femininism and that of a high individualistic country. Hierarchies in this culture are just an inequality of roles, established for convenience. Consensus based decisions are preferred over the individual one as in a low power distance culture but employees are encouraged to take initiative (high individualistic). Managers make their decisions after consulting the subordinates. There is a healthy and informal relation between managers and superiors. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay