Hofstede’s Theory of Cultural Variations: Clear Cut Example

I have continued to see leadership struggles occur within the organization this week, especially after the Board meeting last Sunday when a lot of issues were brought to the surface in an open letter. The situation reminded me a lot of Hofstede’s Theory of Cultural Variations that we learned about in Theories and Models this year. As I mentioned numerous times before, the Body-Mind Centering Association is an international organization. Therefore, it is no surprise that members of the Board and BMCA committees are from all over the world. It is interesting to see the difference in the ways that they communicate with each other and the dynamics of the group as a whole as they interact with one another.

The most blaring power struggle taking place right now is between the President (who is from Brazil) and a Committee Chair and Board member (who is from Canada). They have been having many issues stemming from the fact that the Committee Chair is trying to make the committee be more autonomous and independent and get things done quickly without checking in with the President and looking at the more macro view at the organization as a whole and what they realistically have time for. As a result, this makes the President feel slighted but when she expresses this the Committee and the Chair then feel angry, defeated, and untrusted by the President and the Board and it becomes a vicious circle of mistrust. 

Hofstede’s Theory of Cultural Variations shone very brightly at the Board Meeting and I saw the ways in which their cultural norms and differences could have had a great deal of influence in their poor communication with each other. Culture in Brazil and in Canada differ on many fronts. For example, Brazil is more collectivist than Canada, where they are very individualistic, in a similar respect to the United States. Therefore, instead of the member of the Committee talking from the perspective of the organization’s wellbeing, it was very much a “me versus you” mentality. This was shocking to the President who felt as though as all members of the organization they should all be on the same team and thinking about the collective group.