CQ – How are we different? Part Five – Competitive versus Cooperative Cultures

In the past few weeks, we have looked at what is culture and what cultural dimensions are. We also looked at two different cultural dimensions: individualism versus collectivism, and power distance. Today, we will look at the dimension that compares cooperative cultures and competitive cultures.

Cooperative-Competitive (also known as feminine/masculine cultures) refers to how you prefer to accomplish results. Someone from a cooperative culture believes the best way to accomplish results is by getting people to work together. Someone who is cooperative builds trust by focusing more on relationships. People from this culture are often nurturing, compassionate, and empathetic.[1]

However, someone who is from a competitive culture believes people will be most motivated to accomplish results when there’s competition involved. This person builds trust based on achievement, putting tasks first, and tends to be more independent and assertive.[2],[3]

Notice that you can be both collectivist and competitive. It’s just that if you are collectivist and competitive, you want your team/group to win. And you can be cooperative while also being individualistic.

Also, there can be a lot of misunderstanding. “Both orientations are concerned about results and both care about relationships. But there’s a different priority in how to most effectively get things done.[4]

Look at the comparison of these three countries in Cooperative and Competitive dimensions. (Please note: in Hofstede’s discussion of this dimension, he uses “feminine” instead of cooperative and “masculine” instead of competitive.) Here the higher the number, the more competitive the culture.[5] China is blue; Hungary is in the middle with purple; and the US is on the right with green. Their numbers out of 100 are 66, 88, and 62. I am always a bit surprised that the US is closer to the middle than I would expect. And I am also surprised how high Hungary is in the competitive culture.


In these helpful tips, notice the difference here: relationship vs task.

When working with people from a cooperative culture,

  • Establish relationship before task, taking time to get to know your colleagues and staff before jumping into what “needs to be done.”
  • Communicate with your colleagues to build rapport before, during, and after the task at hand.

When working with people from a competitive culture,

  • Focus on the task first.
  • Communicate to report information.

Here is a line continuum. Where do you fall?

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­|______________|_______________|________________|______________|

Cooperative                                                                     Competitive

Please remember, there is no right or proper way here. One end or the other is not more or less correct.

If you have ideas or questions or stories about competitive or cooperative cultures, or have an example of a culture clash you wonder about, please write me at lesliepjohnson@lesliepjohnson.com and I will try to address that issue at some point in this blog.


[1] Livermore, D.A. & Slagter, J. (2015). CQ Ministry Kit. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[2] Livermore, D.A. & Slagter, J. (2015). CQ Ministry Kit. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[3] Cultural Intelligence Center. (2019). Developing CQ Workshop: Facilitator Manual. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[4] Cultural Intelligence Center. (2019). Developing CQ Workshop: Facilitator Manual. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[5] Taken from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/ where you can put in up to three countries to compare cultural dimensions.

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