of small-group ties
and the importance
of group allegiances
In-group collectivism refers to the expression of pride, loyalty and cohesiveness in one's family or organization. It's concerned with the strength of small-group (family, close friend) ties.
In-group collectivism (IngC), also known as “family collectivism,” is one of two collectivism (COLL) dimensions measured by Project GLOBE among the 61 societies for which data are available. In-group COLL refers to the strength of ties to small groups, such as friends and family. In fact, it's sometimes called "family" collectivism, as well as "individual" collectivism or "COLL II."
Project GLOBE’s other COLL dimension (Institutional COLL) differs from in-group collectivism in that it refers to group integration and organization within the larger society.
Collectivism: Starting with Hofstede
Among social researchers as well as workplace managers familiar with cross-cultural psychology and research, the Collectivism (COLL)-versus-Individualism (IDV) dichotomy is the most familiar because it was the most salient dimension to emerge from the work of Geert Hofstede, Ph.D. Hofstede is a Dutch sociologist who became the first social scientist to derive comparative metrics for societies. His original work, conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was based on his own analysis of employee attitude survey data from IBM divisions throughout the world.
Hofstede conceptualized IDV as the inclination to look primarily after oneself and one’s immediate family. COLL, generally positioned as the opposite of IDV, referred to being less concerned with oneself and one’s family and more concerned with important group allegiances, such as one’s extended family and one’s employer. Perhaps not too surprising, the U.S. ranked highest in IDV.
Are individualism and collectivism really opposites?
One of the chief controversies regarding IDV versus COLL is whether the two are really opposites – or more specifically – whether they are each unipolar constructs – or, instead, are opposite poles of the same construct. Full-versus-empty is an example of unipolar construct because more of one equals less of the other and vice versa. Happy and sad, in contrast, are each separate (bipolar) constructs because they can co-exist to varying degrees within the same entity at the same point in time.
The distinction between unipolar and bipolar opposites and constructs is not a trivial one for academics. In fact, it's really not trivial in practice either – because workgroups, organizations and societies are complex blends of both. A practical approach, during change interventions, may be to start off by considering the implications of collectivist norms within key stakeholder groups. Perhaps tactical efforts need to be modified in order to accommodate norms; or at the other extreme, norms could be so strong that they might suggest the failure of the intervention itself.
Project GLOBE's In-group Collectivism
Project GLOBE researchers operationalized (defined for measuring) IngC as an expression of pride, loyalty and cohesiveness with regard to one’s family or organization. In high-IngC societies, prevailing norms reinforce small-group ties (e.g. ties with family and close friends). For example, in these societies, children generally live at home with their parents until marrying, and aging parents generally live at home with their children.
Human resources practitioners – specifically benefits administrators who work for multi-national corporations – should see great relevance in the preceding paragraph. For example, on-site child-care or subsidized child-care may be an important offering in high-IDV societies – but perhaps not so much in high-IngC societies, where older generations may be able to provide care in the home. In those societies, benefit options relevant for the care of elderly adults may be more appealing.
Hofstede’s analysis found that the U.S. ranked highest in IDV. By the way, his IDV correlated very strongly and negatively with GLOBE’s IngC practices. Project GLOBE surveyed practices (as is) and values (should be), and the two sometimes correlated negatively with one another.
Before we leave "collectivism," it's important to emphasize that it is a group- or organizational-level construct. It should not be used to describe an individual.
For a more in-depth treatment of this post (with bar charts) see:
Project GLOBE's In-Group Collectivism
Articles are available for all nine Project GLOBE dimensions:
Image: Zsolt Zatrok, M.D.
Jan is the author of The Cultural Psyche of India: Guidance for the U.S. Marketer. She is a member of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology and an associate member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She holds a master's in organizational psychology from the University of London and has written as a consultant for the life sciences industry since 1993.