What Are Some Cultural Drivers? Introduction to Achievement

Too many people who teach about this dimension talk about Quality of Life vs. Achievement incorrectly.  Learners come back with – hey I care about my quality of life and I also want to achieve.  They have a difficult time getting the distinction between what Geert Hofstede initially called Masculinity/Femininity.

Which of the following describes you best?

Achievement Orientation
Quality of Life Orientation
  • Performance society ideal; support for the strong
  • Live in order to work
  • Stress what you do
  • Assertiveness, competitiveness and ambition are virtues
  • Resolution of conflicts by a show of strength or by fighting
  • Welfare society ideal; help for the needy
  • Work in order to live
  • Stress who you are
  • Modesty, solidarity, and helping others are virtues
  • Resolution of conflicts by compromise and negotiation

When you focus on assertiveness, competition and ambition vs. modesty, solidarity and helping others, it is easier to understand these orientations.  I like to help people by using this example.

A US American is relocated to work at Saab in Sweden.  For the first couple of days a colleague of his drives them both to work.  They arrive quite early each morning and park in a spot near the outer edge of the parking lot.  On the third day, while walking across the empty parking lot, the US American asks his Swedish colleague, “Do you have assigned parking spots?”  The Swede is confused and asks why his colleague is asking that question.  The American says, “Well when we come to work there are lots of empty parking places very close to the door…”  The Swede replies (showing his Quality of Life Orientation) with this statement, “We arrive with plenty of time to walk across the parking lot.  Don’t you think it makes more sense for those who arrive closer to the time work starts to have the spaces closer to the door?”

This clearly demonstrates two approaches, one that is competitive and the other that focuses on helping others.

I have an acquaintance who applied for a position in a European culture.  She went through 8 or 9 interviews for the position and each time she told herself that she needed to be more positive about what she had achieved.  She did not get the job.  When she asked she was told that she seemed to be bragging (they were looking for someone more modest).