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Are societal-level values still relevant measures in the twenty-first century businessworld? A 39-society analysis

A Correction to this article was published on 16 June 2022

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Abstract

Since the days of Hofstede (1980), cross-cultural comparisons of countries based on societal-level work values have been a norm. This approach has been represented more recently in Ronen and Shenkar’s (2013) 11 clusters of country cultures. However, more contemporary research found within-country heterogeneity of values/behaviors is substantial and growing exponentially across today’s twenty-first century businessworld. We investigated, across a sample of 39 societies, whether work values variance within societies was greater than work values variance across societies, and whether individual work values differences contributed more to predictions of behavioral performance criteria than the society in which the individuals lived. Both sets of analyses addressed how work values conceived at societal-levels are relevant in understanding the twenty-first century businessworld. Our findings revealed first that there was substantial within-society values heterogeneity, which resulted in the failure to replicate Ronen and Shanker’s (2013) societal cluster aggregations. Second, we found individual-level values contributed significantly to the prediction of employees’ behaviors, while societal-level values contributed substantially less. These findings strongly suggest that cross-cultural studies of work values predictive power are most relevant when conducted at the individual-level. Finally, we also make available for future investigators a 51-society database containing 11,780 individual-level records.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Carolyn Egri for her assistance in developing the database for this study.

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Correspondence to David A. Ralston.

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The original online version of this article was revised due to corrections in Tables 1 and 2, Appendix B and D, and supplementary information.

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Excel Database File of BVD and SIE Dimensions (XLS 4.49 MB)

Appendices

Appendix A. Cronbach’s Alphas for the BVD Measures

Society Sample size* (N) Ethical achievement Power Other-oriented Globally responsible innovation Universal order
Algeria 100 0.628 0.516 0.611 0.605 0.579
Argentina 96 0.853 0.760 0.819 0.772 0.672
Australia 198 0.763 0.780 0.837 0.765 0.739
Austria 105 0.673 0.774 0.704 0.509 0.634
Brazil 399 0.749 0.701 0.751 0.740 0.711
Bulgaria 88 0.618 0.674 0.648 0.588 0.756
Canada 265 0.730 0.765 0.798 0.734 0.668
Chile 72 0.819 0.663 0.625 0.817 0.780
China 552 0.818 0.722 0.797 0.768 0.788
Colombia 183 0.784 0.697 0.811 0.628 0.747
Costa Rica 68 0.731 0.755 0.789 0.759 0.722
Croatia 268 0.655 0.656 0.718 0.711 0.669
Cuba 564 0.719 0.669 0.706 0.684 0.640
Czech Rep 295 0.626 0.685 0.682 0.610 0.670
Dubai 99 0.520 0.451 0.662 0.512 0.454
Egypt 125 0.347 0.407 0.680 0.483 0.277
Estonia 150 0.727 0.723 0.722 0.613 0.648
Finland 131 0.714 0.752 0.738 0.572 0.562
France 200 0.666 0.609 0.688 0.661 0.658
Germany 199 0.729 0.764 0.770 0.729 0.586
Hong Kong 153 0.848 0.818 0.766 0.790 0.695
Hungary 122 0.625 0.630 0.678 0.622 0.680
India 268 0.833 0.610 0.795 0.735 0.780
Indonesia 131 0.835 0.772 0.793 0.801 0.829
Israel 129 0.783 0.765 0.692 0.704 0.646
Italy 288 0.673 0.710 0.746 0.574 0.642
Japan 135 0.545 0.734 0.704 0.620 0.581
Lebanon 97 0.719 0.688 0.808 0.701 0.698
Lithuania 311 0.733 0.728 0.747 0.678 0.749
Malaysia 325 0.638 0.595 0.746 0.648 0.637
Mexico 298 0.799 0.720 0.739 0.714 0.630
Netherlands 205 0.766 0.716 0.787 0.765 0.643
New Zealand 122 0.653 0.744 0.737 0.696 0.639
Pakistan 338 0.799 0.693 0.717 0.707 0.714
Peru 375 0.789 0.772 0.775 0.735 0.708
Portugal 547 0.704 0.701 0.765 0.709 0.690
Russia 214 0.695 0.661 0.679 0.652 0.705
Singapore 465 0.798 0.789 0.808 0.774 0.772
Slovenia 299 0.693 0.703 0.683 0.636 0.726
S. Africa 201 0.737 0.760 0.839 0.683 0.763
S. Korea 275 0.736 0.689 0.697 0.664 0.668
Spain 82 0.780 0.766 0.666 0.628 0.581
Sri Lanka 114 0.812 0.709 0.813 0.785 0.773
Switzerland 368 0.664 0.735 0.673 0.650 0.597
Taiwan 277 0.868 0.759 0.835 0.780 0.847
Thailand 279 0.571 0.655 0.664 0.608 0.600
Turkey 123 0.788 0.708 0.794 0.740 0.636
UK 254 0.740 0.715 0.791 0.753 0.715
USA 209 0.697 0.725 0.802 0.666 0.672
Venezuela 134 0.850 0.781 0.755 0.741 0.708
Vietnam 190 0.756 0.710 0.777 0.706 0.723
All Societies 11,505 0.771 0.718 0.774 0.706 0.711
  1. * sample size on which coefficient alpha was computed across the scale

Appendix B. Dimensions of the BVD and items in questionnaire format

The five business values dimensions

The five BVD dimensions, which are comprised of 34 items, measure latent individual work values, which have been shown to exhibit a common measurement model across cultures (Ralston et al., 2018a, b). The BVD dimensions include (Ralston et al., 2018a, b, pp.1196–97):

  • Ethical achievement. This 7-item dimension captures “the desire to take the honorable and efficient path to prosper and flourish. Effective integrity and responsible behavior towards one’s self and others through personal competency is the emphasis of this values set.”

  • Power. This 6-item dimension captures “a self-centered need for the approval of others, domineering control of the situation and personal supremacy. A Machiavellian-like influence over other people, without reference to ethical standards, is the emphasis of this values set.”

  • Other-oriented. This 10-item dimension captures “other-oriented, deferential demeanor with self-effacing-predisposition to follow social rules aimed at harmony and minimizing conflict. Consideration for others with the purpose of serving these others with humility, which is tantamount to a collectivistic-orientation, is the emphasis of this values set.”

  • Globally responsible innovation. This 6-item dimension captures “embracing innovation in ways that respect the environment. The adventure of imaginative exploration of the unknown in a responsible manner is the emphasis of this values set.”

  • Universal order. This 5-item dimension captures “a need for a dependable, peaceful social environment. These items describe the value as being applied at all social levels (i.e., world, society, interpersonal).”

BVD items presented in questionnaire format

Instructions: We are interested in your views. There are no “correct” answers.

Below is a list of 34 phrases, each expressing a different (unique) individual value. After reading each phrase, please indicate how important each is to you in leading your life.

In the space before each, write the number (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) that indicates your view of that phrase. Try to distinguish as much as possible between the phrases by using all the numbers. You will, of course, need to use numbers more than once.

figure a

(Ralston et al., 2018)

Appendix C. Cronbach’s alphas for the SIE measures

Society Sample size* (N) Pro-organizational Malicious intended
Algeria 99 0.667 0.689
Argentina 87 0.785 0.740
Australia 195 0.794 0.697
Austria 105 0.738 0.748
Brazil 400 0.682 0.773
Bulgaria 88 0.087 0.757
Canada 258 0.758 0.746
China 552 0.734 0.742
Colombia 178 0.679 0.805
Costa Rica 67 0.738 0.610
Croatia 272 0.661 0.697
Czech Rep 294 0.662 0.702
Dubai 99 0.470 0.623
Egypt 125 0.531 0.527
Estonia 255 0.778 0.730
Finland 131 0.706 0.766
France 200 0.849 0.731
Germany 197 0.796 0.817
Hong Kong 92 0.757 0.723
Hungary 126 0.698 0.695
India 256 0.783 0.809
Indonesia 129 0.614 0.670
Israel 132 0.751 0.657
Italy 288 0.704 0.775
Japan 135 0.672 0.723
Lebanon 94 0.701 0.762
Lithuania 311 0.532 0.646
Malaysia 328 0.704 0.659
Mexico 306 0.756 0.863
Netherlands 205 0.595 0.662
New Zealand 123 0.761 0.812
Pakistan 336 0.694 0.694
Peru 376 0.649 0.729
Portugal 550 0.676 0.785
Russia 213 0.677 0.726
Singapore 463 0.753 0.815
Slovenia 299 0.551 0.703
S. Africa 196 0.779 0.753
S. Korea 275 0.778 0.732
Spain 79 0.789 0.751
Sri Lanka 121 0.759 0.746
Switzerland 361 0.590 0.769
Taiwan 281 0.663 0.720
Thailand 278 0.574 0.624
Turkey 124 0.510 0.693
UK 259 0.671 0.777
USA 209 0.650 0.694
Venezuela 131 0.754 0.720
Vietnam 199 0.621 0.604
All Societies 10,389 0.752 0.748
  1. * sample size on which coefficient alpha was computed across the scale

Appendix D. Dimensions of the SIE and items in questionnaire format

The four subordinate influence ethics behaviors

The four SIE dimensions measure subordinate perceptions of behaviors they engage in attempting to influence superiors (Ralston & Pearson, 2010). Items consist of short scenarios describing actual behaviors reported by businesspeople of their coworkers’ behavior in business organizations. Ralston and Pearson (2010) described the iterative item development and construct validity evidence supporting the cross-cultural validity of these dimensions. SIE dimensions include (Karam et al., 2013, pp. 401–402):

  • Pro-organizational ethics behavior. This 6-item dimension “may be defined as the ‘organizational person’ approach to gain influence in that these behaviors reflect those that are typically prescribed and/or sanctioned by organizations for their subordinates. These may be viewed as behaviors that tend to be directly beneficial to the organization” (Karam et al., 2013, p.401).

  • Image management ethics behavior. This 5-item dimension “may be defined as subtle actions that an individual may use to influence his/her superiors with the objective being personal gain (Karam et al., 2013, p.402). They capture the ‘get others to like me’ approach to gain influence as they are non-confrontational (e.g., ingratiatory), while still having a self-orientation. Image management behaviors are less aggressive than those found in the Self-Serving dimension.

  • Self-serving ethics behavior. This 6-item dimension “may be defined as the ‘it’s me first’ approach to gain influence in that these behaviors show self-interest being of paramount importance, and thus being above the interests of others and the organization. Whether these behaviors help or harm the organization is subject to interpretation and may be determined by the situation” (Karam et al., 2013, p.402).

  • Maliciously intended ethics behavior. This 5-item dimension “may be defined as the ‘burn, pillage, and plunder’ approach to gain influence in that they are intended to directly hurt others and/or the organization, to facilitate personal gain. These behaviors are the extreme of self-serving behaviors, and in many industrialized societies these behaviors would also be considered illegal” (Karam et al., 2013, p.401).

SIE items presented in questionnaire format

Instructions: We are interested in your views. There are no “correct” answers. Below is a list of 24 strategies that individuals might use to try to get ahead at work. After reading each strategy, please indicate how ethically acceptable you think that your co-workers would consider each strategy as a means of influencing superiors.

In the space before each item, write the number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) that indicates how ethically acceptable you believe that your co-workers would consider each strategy. Try to distinguish as much as possible between the items by using all the numbers, if possible. You will, of course, need to use numbers more than once.

figure b

(Ralston & Pearson, 2010).

Appendix E. Within-subject standardization of scale scores

  1. 1.

    Individual respondent raw score averages were calculated for each dimension.

  2. 2.

    Individual overall means and standard deviations for all BVD and SIE items were calculated based upon the following equation:

    $${\text{SS}}_{i} = [{\text{S}}_{(i)} - \mu ]/\sigma$$

Where

SSi:

the respondent’s standard score for dimension i,

Si:

respondent’s raw score for dimension i,

μ:

overall mean of the BVD or SIE item scores, and.

σ:

overall standard deviation of all BVD or SIE items.

Appendix F. Variables of the excel database table

Variable name Variable description Values of the variable
SOCIETY Society of data collection See Appendix G (Society Codes)
YEAR Year of data collection  
AGE Age Numerical age of participant
GENDER Gender 1 = Male
2 = Female
EDUCATION Highest level of education attained 1 = 4 or fewer years completed
2 = 5 to 8 years completed
3 = 9 to 12 years completed
4 = 13 to 16 years completed [Bachelor’s degree]
5 = Master’s degree
6 = Doctorate degree
POSITION Position level in organization 1 = Non-supervisory staff
2 = First level manager
3 = Middle level manager
4 = Upper level manager
YRSWKD Number of years of full-time employment (all jobs) Numerical number of years
COSIZE Company size 1 = Less than 100 employees
2 = 100 to 1000 employees
3 = More than 1000 employees
INDUSTRY Industry in which respondent worked 1 = Agriculture, mining, forestry, fishing
2 = Construction
3 = Manufacturing
4 = Transportation, communication, utilities
5 = Wholesale and retail trade
6 = Finance, insurance, real estate
7 = Services (example: hotel, restaurant)
8 = Public administration
9 = Healthcare
10 = Other
NATIONALITY Society nationality of respondent See Appendix G (Society Codes)
BIRTH Society of birth of respondent See Appendix G (Society Codes)
LIVED_15 Society in which respondent lived the longest (5 years or more) before the age of 15 See Appendix G (Society Codes)
BVD_EA Raw data score for the BVD Ethical Achievement dimension Numerical score
BVD_P Raw data score for the BVD Power dimension Numerical score
BVD_OO Raw data score for the BVD Other-Oriented dimension Numerical score
BVD_GR Raw data score for the BVD Globally Responsible dimension Numerical score
BVD_UO Raw data score for the BVD Universal Order dimension Numerical score
BVD_EA_STD Standardized by individual score for the BVD Ethical Achievement dimension Numerical score
BVD_P_STD Standardized by individual score for the BVD Power dimension Numerical score
BVD_OO_STD Standardized by individual score for the BVD Other-Oriented dimension Numerical score
BVD_GR_STD Standardized by individual score for the BVD Globally Responsible dimension Numerical score
BVD_UO_STD Standardized by individual score for the BVD Universal Order dimension Numerical score
SIE_PRO_O Raw data score for the SIE Pro Organizational Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_IMAGE Raw data score for the SIE Image Management Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_SS Raw data score for the SIE Self-Serving Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_MAL_I Raw data score for the SIE Maliciously Intended Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_PRO_O _STD Standardized by individual score for the SIE Pro Organizational Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_IMAGE_STD Standardized by individual score for the SIE Image Management Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_SS_STD Standardized by individual score for the SIE Self-Serving Ethics dimension Numerical score
SIE_ MAL_I_STD Standardized by individual score for the SIE Maliciously Intended Ethics dimension Numerical score

Appendix G. Numeric codes for the societies in numerical order

1 USA 47 Bolivia 93 Belgium
2 Hong Kong 48 Lebanon 94 Norway
3 China 49 Turkey 95 Ireland
4 Russia 50 Peru 96 Luxembourg
5 Japan 51 Hungary 97 Lichtenstein
6 India 52 Bangladesh 98 Ghana
7 Germany 53 New Zealand 99 Senegal
8 Canada 54 Cuba 100 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
9 Mexico 55 Colombia 101 Cyprus
10 Vietnam 56 Philippines 102 Ivory Coast
11 Greece 57 Pakistan 103 Afghanistan
12 Macau 58 Dominican Republic 104 Sri Lanka
13 Portugal 59 Egypt 105 Armenia
14 Chile 60 Czech Republic 106 Madagascar
15 Fiji 61 South Korea 107 Cameroon
16 UK 62 Kuwait 108 Burkina Faso
17 Brazil 63 Libya 109 Rwanda
18 Israel 64 Saudi Arabia 110 ‘Asian’
19 Ecuador 65 Bahrain 111 Kazakhstan
20 France 66 Oman 112 Tanzania
21 Netherlands 67 U.A.E 113 Uzbekistan
22 Bulgaria 68 Nigeria 114 Kyrgyzstan
23 Slovakia 69 Iran 115 Moldavia
24 Indonesia 70 Nepal 116 Latvia
25 Switzerland 71 Dubai 117 Belarus
26 Slovenia 72 Qatar 118 Scotland
27 Romania 73 Abu Dhabi 119 -—-
28 Yugoslavia 74 Lithuania 120 Ethiopia
29 Montenegro 75 Barbados 121 Zaire
30 Ukraine 76 Algeria 122 Trinidad
31 Poland 77 Costa Rica 123 Mauritius
32 Croatia 78 Iraq 124 Papua New Guinea
33 Argentina 79 Estonia 125 Macedonia
34 Australia 80 Jordan 126 Albania
35 Thailand 81 Morocco 127 Kenya
36 Singapore 82 Syria 128 Jamaica
37 Malaysia 83 Tunisia 129 Myanmar
38 Finland 84 Sudan 130 Tatar
39 Italy 85 Palestine 131 Zambia
40 Taiwan 86 Denmark 132 Zimbabwe
41 -—- 87 Sweden 133 Swaziland
42 Azerbaijan 88 Angola 134 Namibia
43 South Africa 89 Mozambique 135 -—-
44 Bosnia 90 Venezuela 136 -—-
45 Serbia 91 Puerto Rico 137 Cape Verde
46 Spain 92 Austria 138 Iceland

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Ralston, D.A., Russell, C.J., Terpstra-Tong, J. et al. Are societal-level values still relevant measures in the twenty-first century businessworld? A 39-society analysis. Asia Pac J Manag (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10490-022-09822-z

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Keywords

  • Individual-level analysis
  • Societal-level analysis
  • Business values dimensions (BVD)
  • Subordinate influence ethics (SIE) behaviors
  • Cluster analysis
  • Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM)