A Look at Collectivism vs. Individualism in Organizational Culture

While some organizations promote teamwork, others value working independently as more important. Deciding which approach you take - or a combination of the two - can help you create the workplace culture you desire. Let’s start by defining the main terms here.

What is Workplace Individualism?

Working alone has its merits, including excelling in projects and taking responsibility for the set tasks. A person who thrives in this type of work environment likely prefers being independent and autonomous.

A workplace culture that is individualistic is one that encourages people to do their best and understands the importance of self-motivation. However, this work culture can have its downsides, too, as it can bring a lot of competition between employees. Also, the drive to work at their full potential can leave some workers feeling burned out.

The Definition of Collectivism

Collectivism is in many ways the opposite of individualism. For example, a collective culture is one that encourages employees to be excellent team players. Rather than focusing on what the individual accomplishes, the collectivist workplace puts the highest value on the achievements of the team as a whole.

Thus, the organization rewards the entire team, rather than specific workers, for a task well done. In this type of environment, workers receive equal opportunities and come together to meet goals. But, as with individualism, collectivism is not perfect. For example, not everyone may want to work hard as they don’t feel their individual efforts are being recognized.

Organizational Culture and Society

Societal culture influences how companies manage their employees. That makes sense, given that businesses do not exist in a vacuum but instead as part of a larger society.

Countries like Japan and China are collectivistic cultures. As for individualistic cultures, American society is an example.

Considering a Combination of the Two Cultures

While many people think a company culture must be individualistic or collective, the reality is that they do not have to be mutually exclusive terms. Instead, the best approach might be to use a combination of the two in your workplace.

Furthermore, given that each company is unique, the exact culture you and your HR team choose to promote will be different than another organization. Creating a good balance between collectivism and individualism is something that HR professionals can help todo as part of their duties.

HR and Organizational Culture

The Human Resources department can influence work cultures positively. For example, HR experts can adjust recruiting strategies to align with the company culture and ask questions during interviews to find those who will be a good fit.

HR professionals can also ensure that the work culture stays relevant to potentially attract top talent. For instance, they may update policies to set the tone for what the organization values, such as anti-bullying.

A Few Last Words

Ideally, organizations adopt a combination of the two cultures to bring out the best in each of them. With the help of your HR team, your organization can evolve into a culture that improves its overall performance and meets goals.

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