Independent Inquiry

During the course of my college career I have had the opportunity to explore different fields of study. The liberal arts program at Eastern Connecticut State University provides a course of study that enhances students to have a diverse concept of potential career paths. Prior to attending Eastern Connecticut State University I was a student at Johnson and Wales University where I studied Hospitality. Upon my university transfer I changed my course of study to business and became intrigued by social sciences within the business world. For my independent inquiry I will further research concepts I was exposed to in such courses that will enhance my understanding and ability to apply these concepts to m future professional career. The focus of this research is Individualism and collectivism in terms of workplace productivity.


Individualism and collectivism are two terms that relate to the manner in which humans identify themselves and prioritize their goals. The research being conducted is to determine whether promoting individualism or collectivism is more effective in the workplace. Taken into account, in an organizational setting, will be the nature of the work, workplace environment, morality, and task orientation.
Individualism is the condition in which personal interests are accorded greater importance than are the needs of groups. Individualists look after themselves and tend to ignore group interests if they conflict with personal desire. Collectivism occurs when the demand and interest of the group take priority over individual desires. Collectivists look out for the well-being of the group even if that requires personal interest’s to be disregarded (Wagner). Cultural background has a prominent influence determining how a person identifies themselves with these values.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences mean that people in different cultures have fundamentally different concepts of the self and others. For more collectivistic societies, interdependent concepts are the norm: The self is a part of a community, defined relative to others, concerned with belongingness, dependency, empathy, reciprocity and focused on small, selective in-groups at the expense of out-groups (Chan, Cheung). The interdependent self exercises control to the interior, so that cognition and representation involve attentiveness to others, and personal attributes and actions are situational bound. Autonomy becomes secondary, whereas relationships with others are emphasized, being ends in themselves. Thus, it is crucial to be aware of other people’s desires, needs, and goals and to work towards them to help the other, even read their minds. For more individualistic societies, independent concepts are the norm: The distinctiveness of people, the uniqueness of a person, autonomy, and independence are emphasized. This requires construing oneself as an individual and speaking one’s mind. Social responsiveness is determined by the need to assert and express the self, and thus the independent self exercises control to the exterior. The consequence is that larger, more inclusive but superficial in-groups are the norm, as opposed to the small, selective in-groups of the interdependent self concepts (Chan, Cheung).

Individualism and Collectivism in terms of the Workplace

Individualism in the workplace is defined as any initiative, work culture or directive that allows employees to make decisions individually. Individualism in the workplace can include an element of competition that rewards individual achievement over other individuals in the office. Collectivism, on the other hand, promotes teamwork, consensus and group decisions when performing company tasks. Both approaches have their downsides, but the right degree of individualism can jump-start creativity in the workplace
Promoting individual initiatives in the workplace can be an effective way to boost creativity. When you give employees time on their own to work on innovative projects, the task feels less like another work assignment. When employees work in groups, their ideas can be overlooked or disregarded by others. Allowing them free rein to express their ideas individually can lead to increased creative output (Brewer,Venaik).

Pros and Cons

There are several pros and cons of obtaining individualism and collectivism in and organizational setting. The pros of Individualistic employees include having a greater sense of responsibility for performance outcomes, while interpersonal competition may arouse a variety of diverse ideas for innovative change. Finally the link between personal effort and reward create a stronger sense of equity. However, cons to this set of values may lead to prioritizing personal gain at the expense of others, selfishness and less loyalty. Insecurity as a result of overdependence in one’s self and alienation are also common occurrences (Morris,Davis,Allen. Pg68).
While individualism can in fact promote creativity, some managers see it as a threat to workplace morale and productivity. The problem with individualism in the workplace that spurs creativity is narcissism. Employees who tend to be good at pitching creative ideas often also have a high opinion of themselves. These employees believe wholeheartedly in the ideas they are pitching. That’s not a bad thing, normally. But these employees tend to receive feedback poorly, becoming belligerent when criticized. Not only can this lead to less creativity in the long run, it can seriously damage workplace morale and productivity.
Organizational collectivism has several positive aspects that encourage higher levels of synergy from the combined efforts of different skills. Such employees have a greater concern for the welfare of others and take credit for success and failure equally. This may seem like the ideal environment but like individualism there is a downside to collectivism. Due to the group cohesion, a loss of personal identity can occur. Collectivist tend to take a longer time to come to a group consensus and are more likely to have issues with “group think” (Morris,Davis,Allen. Pg68).

Morality and Ethical Behavior

When hiring employees organizations aspire to find people with the ability to make ethical decisions that meet the needs of the company. To do so employees must have a certain level of morality, referring to a set of actions that are subject to judgments of wright and wrong, opposed to judgments of personal liking (Huested,Allen. Pg297). In an individualistic atmosphere subordinates are likely to identify practices affecting individual welfare as being within the moral domain. For example, employers in India generally will offer positions to children of employees when they are of age, this relates to the collectivist culture of the country. In the eyes of an individualist this would not seem moral because this causes a threat to autonomous individuals mainly those who are qualified but not the child of a current employee (Huested,Allen. Pg298). Collectivist decision makers are more likely to consider practices that affect the welfare of the in-group to be moral. Using the same example of India, because they value a collectivist culture with an emphasis on family, this would be moral.
Along with moral decision making ethical behaviors can be affected by individualistic or collectivist atmospheres. People in an individualistic culture exhibit a stronger consistency with moral reasoning and ethical behavior than collectivist cultures (Chan and Cheung). In collectivist cultures people may have personal beliefs that differ from that of the groups but will still act accordingly to the group norms. This causes people to accept and practice the behaviors of the group even though they don’t match personal beliefs and may not be ethical to them. Individualists tend to behave in accordance with their moral reasoning (Huested, Allen. Pg301).

Group Cohesiveness, Job complexity, and Motivation

Job autonomy, meaning the responsibility that falls on the group itself, can have an effect on how different groups act. Depending on the task groups may need to collaborate with outside groups in order to complete the assignment. Because collectivist groups place importance on the in group they may not work well with other groups that have a different set of norms. However individualists may have a greater positive outlook on such a situation, viewing the functional heterogeneity and diversity to lead to a better exchange of opinions and a successful performance. Within the group itself individualists will be more motivated. With increase job complexity individualists groups will thrive, they will become more strongly bonded with the motivation to complete the task lacking the concern of social relationships (Man,Lam).

Team Member Performance

Greater individualism has been shown to be associated with higher socioeconomic status, urban residency, higher levels of entrepreneurial behavior, stronger achievement values, and preferences for equitable, and personalized rewards. Greater collectivism has been found to be associated with prior success working in groups or teams, and to lead to outcomes including stronger work group commitment, higher levels of citizenship behaviors, and preferences for team rewards (Brewer,Venaik).
Theories suggest that individualistic concern with personal well-being should be associated with a focus on personal pursuits, thus direction of attention and motivated effort toward individualized tasks and related outcomes, and subordination of collective interests and concerns, in attention to shared pursuits and outcomes. Collectivistic concern with joint or collective well-being should be paired with the direction of attention and motivated effort toward shared tasks and gains, and in attention to individualized pursuits and outcomes. It follows that individualistic team members should be expected to perform at higher levels on individualized tasks than on shared tasks and that collectivistic members should be expected to perform at higher levels on shared tasks than on individualized tasks (Morgeson,Mannor).
Coworker interactions and collectivism impact an employee’s likelihood of engaging in taking charge behavior. Work group contextual factors examined include team-member exchange, coworker support and collectivism. Results show that team member exchange and collectivism are significantly related to an individual’s likeliness to engage in taking charge behavior. This study highlights the importance that one’s interactions with coworkers can have on an employee’s willingness to engage in taking charge behavior.
Several relevant studies have examined the effects of the differences in individualism/collectivism on free riding and social loafing in groups. Free riding is a reduction in the personal effort directed toward shared tasks that occurs in groups when members believe that they can reduce effort and, at the same time, that the others in the group will make up for effort they choose to withhold. Social loafing is a reduction in performance on shared tasks that occurs in groups because of beliefs that personal efforts are not easily identifiable or that such efforts are unimportant relative to group success (Morgeson,Mannor).
To summarize, research on the relationship between team member individualism/collectivism and performance indicates that individualism can increase the performance of team members on individualized tasks and reduce performance, increase free-riding or loafing on shared tasks, whereas collectivism can enhance the performance of team members on shared tasks and reduce performance on individualized assignments. In generalizing these results, researchers have interpreted them as indicating that collectivism increases performance in teams and that individualism decreases it.

Performance-Personal Interest

During the research I discovered a piece bout individualism and collectivism in the Hospitality Industry. In the future I aspire to have a career in human resources at hospitality establishments such as hotels and resorts. The findings relate to cultural differences I may face in the future. The purpose of this research is to test whether a hospitality worker’s degree of individualism and collectivism influences his or her organizational citizenship behavior, comfort with empowerment, and leader-member exchange in the workplace (Magnini,Hyun,Beom,Muzaffer 844).
This research first confirms the notion that hospitality workers in a collective culture are more apt to possess a collective mindset in their work environments than those in an individualistic culture. Moreover, this research finds that hospitality workers in a collective culture demonstrate more organizational citizenship behaviors, possess lower comfort levels with empowerment, and possess higher levels of leader member exchange than hospitality workers in an individualistic nation (Magnini,Hyun,Beom,Muzaffer 844).


Much of this research required prior knowledge of the topics at hand, I was lucky to understand most of the terms and information. I found this research to be extensive and extremely enlightening. Unfortunately it is difficult to make a decision whether individualism or collectivism a more productive culture to encourage in an organizational setting. This is due to the different structures of the organization itself. External organizational factors need to be taken into account when deciding which culture would be better to enforce. As an American I was influenced by many individualistic culture concepts such as pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and standing out from others for individual success. I can grasp the concept of individualism being productive in the workplace but as research proves collectivism had several pros and cons in productivity as well. I support both cultural values in the workplace and feel that integrating both in certain task situations can be productive for the company and promote organizational citizenship behavior (Fischer, 363).

-The information from this report was gathered from previous studies, please see references for direct sources.


Cultural Dimensions, Ethical Sensitivity, and Corporate Governance Alex W. H. Chan and Hoi Yan Cheung Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 110, No. 1 (September 2012), pp. 45-59
Fostering Corporate Entrepreneurship: Cross-Cultural Comparisons of the Importance of Individualism versus Collectivism Michael H. Morris, Duane L. Davis and Jeffrey W. Allen Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1 (1st Qtr., 2007), pp. 65-89
Humphrey, S. E., Morgeson, F. P., & Mannor, M. J. (2009). Developing a theory of the strategic core of teams: A role compo- sition model of team performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 48
Individualism, Collectivism, and Economic Development.Richard Ball Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 573, Culture and Development: International Perspectives (Jan., 2009) pp. 57-84 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. in association with the American Academy of Political and Social ScienceStable
Individualism—Collectivism in Hofstede and GLOBE.Paul Brewer and Sunil Venaik Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 42, No. 3 (April 2011), pp. 436-445
International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management . 2013, Vol. 25 Issue 6, p844-864. 21p.
Paradoxes of American Individualismc.Claude S. Fischer. Sociological Forum, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Jun., 2008)
Studies of Individualism-Collectivism: Effects on Cooperation in Groups.John A Wagner III The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 152-172
The Effects of Job Complexity and Autonomy on Cohesiveness in Collectivistic and Individualistic Work Groups: A Cross-Cultural AnalysisDerek C. Man and Simon S. K. Lam Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 24, No. 8 (Dec., 2003), pp. 979-1001
The Publication History of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management: An Objective Review and Analysis: 1998–2009Sarah E. VanStelle, Sara M. Vicars, Victoria Harr, Caio F. Miguel, Jeana L. Koerber, Richard Kazbour, John AustinJournal: Journal of Organizational Behavior Management 2012
Toward a Model of Cross-Cultural Business Ethics: The Impact of Individualism and Collectivism on the Ethical Decision-Making Process Bryan W. Husted and David B. Allen Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 82, No. 2, The European Identity in Business and Social Ethics: The Eben 20th Annual Conference in Leuven (Oct., 2008), pp. 293-305
Vincent P. Magnini, Sunghyup (Sean) Hyun, BeomCheol (Peter) Kim, Muzaffer Uysal, (2013) “The influences of collectivism in hospitality work settings”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 25 Iss: 6, pp.844 – 864

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