Simplifying Business Strategies

Trompenaars cultural dimensionsTrompenaars Cultural Dimensions

Trompenaars’ cultural dimensions model was first introduced in the 1997 book “Riding the Waves of Culture”. The main takeaway is that people from different cultures are different in very specific ways, even predictable ways. 

Every team is composed of individuals with different cultural backgrounds and varied ways to communicate, approach problems, or solve crises. As a leader, it’s important to have an understanding of how international cultures are best managed to ensure team success. One effective way to do this is by using the Trompenaars Cultural Dimensions model.

This useful tool allows managers and leaders the chance to gain insight into different cultural views surrounding relationships, communication styles, conflict resolution approaches, and business practices.

Through a deeper appreciation of other cultures’ norms and expectations that inform their behavior within the workplace, people can build more successful teams with just one resource – Trompenaars Seven Cultural Dimensions! Keep reading to find out what they are; why you should use them; and what benefits they bring; plus all seven types explained in full detail!

What is Trompenaars’ Cultural Dimensions Model?

Trompenaar cultural dimensions model is a framework used to understand and explore cultural differences around the world. Developed by Dutch management consultant Fons Trompenaars, the model identifies several dimensions that reflect different values, attitudes, and beliefs across cultures.

These dimensions include universalism versus particularism, individualism versus collectivism, neutral versus affective, specific versus diffuse, achievement versus ascription, sequence versus synchronicity, and internal versus external control.

By recognizing these dimensions and understanding how they shape cultural norms and practices, individuals and organizations can better navigate cross-cultural interactions and build stronger relationships with people from different backgrounds.

Why Should you Use Trompenaars Cultural Dimensions model?

The Trompenaars cultural dimensions model is a tool that can help individuals and organizations navigate the complexities of cross-cultural communication and collaboration.

By understanding different cultures’ attitudes toward authority, individualism, and relationships, among other factors, we can better anticipate and handle different scenarios and avoid misunderstanding. By using the model, we can develop a deeper appreciation of different perspectives and create an environment in which all cultures feel valued and respected.

Ultimately, using the Trompenaars cultural dimensions model can help create a more inclusive and productive workplace where diversity is celebrated and every team member feels empowered to contribute to the group’s success.

Benefits of Trompenaars Cultural Dimensions

Cross-cultural communication can be a tricky terrain to navigate. However, understanding the Trompenaars cultural dimensions can help one effectively communicate and thrive in diverse environments.

The dimensions include universalism versus particularism, individualism versus collectivism, neutral versus emotional, specific versus diffuse, achievement versus ascription, and sequential versus synchronic time orientation.

Applying these dimensions ensures that one understands the communication patterns and preferences of different cultures. This, in turn, promotes mutual understanding, creates empathy and respect, and reduces misunderstandings that can hinder productivity.

Fostering cross-cultural awareness, using the Trompenaars cultural dimensions is beneficial for personal growth and development, and cultural competence and enhances collaboration and teamwork in the workplace.

Seven Dimensions of Culture

Universalism vs. Particularism

Cross-cultural communication can be a challenging task, particularly when it comes to understanding the differences between universalism and particularism. Put simply, universalism is the belief that rules and standards should apply consistently to all people, regardless of their circumstances.

On the other hand, particularism recognizes that context and personal relationships play a significant role in decision-making and that different people may be subject to different rules or standards depending on their circumstances.

Attitudes towards these concepts vary widely between different cultures and can cause misunderstandings and conflict in intercultural communication. However, by recognizing these differences and working to find common ground, it is possible to get past these cultural barriers and achieve effective communication.

Suggestions for working with universalist cultures:

  • Honor your commitments.
  • Practice consistency.

Suggestions for working with particularistic cultures:

  • Prioritize relationship-building to gain insights into specific needs.
  • Show respect for these needs when making decisions.
  • Communicate important rules that must be followed.

Individualism vs. Communitarianism

Individualism and communitarianism are two conflicting approaches to social interactions. While individualism emphasizes personal autonomy and self-reliance, communitarianism emphasizes the importance of community and interdependence.

People who believe in individualism see independence as a crucial aspect of their identity and regard themselves as distinct from the community at large. On the other hand, those who support communitarianism believe that individuals cannot exist in isolation and that the collective good should always take precedence over individual interests.

While both perspectives have their merits, the conflict between them boils down to the question of whether the individual or the community is more important. As social beings, we naturally value the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a community, but we also cherish the freedom to make our own choices and follow our path.

As such, it is essential to strike a balance between individualism and communitarianism to create a society that promotes both personal freedom and social cohesion.

Suggestions for working with individualistic cultures:

  • Recognize and acknowledge individuals’ achievements and accomplishments.
  • Foster an environment that encourages individuals to take initiative.
  • Ensure that the needs and goals of individuals align with those of the organization.

Suggestions for working with communitarian cultures:

  • Reward the collective efforts of the group to promote high performance.
  • Publicly acknowledge and praise the group while privately recognizing individuals for their contributions.
  • Involve the entire team in the decision-making process.

Specific vs. Diffuse

In countless ways, we all differ from one another: what makes us happy, what drives us, the little quirks that make us unique. But there’s one overarching aspect of our personalities that divides us all into two groups: those with specific traits and those with diffuse ones.

The former tend to have a narrow focus on their interests and skills, while the latter prefer to maintain a more general outlook on life. Each approach has its own set of advantages, and it’s fascinating to see how this fundamental difference can affect everything from relationships to career paths.

Whether you lean more towards being specific or diffuse, it’s worth examining your tendencies to gain a better understanding of yourself and those around you.

Suggestions for working with specific cultures:

  • Plan out the agenda for your meetings.
  • Make an effort to stick to the agenda as closely as possible.
  • Prioritize establishing objectives for individuals before focusing on building relationships.

Suggestions for working with diffusive cultures:

  • Emphasize building relationships before setting objectives.
  • Anticipate receiving invitations to social events from colleagues. Commit to attending them.
  • Be prepared to discuss business matters in social settings and personal topics in the workplace.

Neutral vs. Affective

In our daily lives, we interact with different people and situations that could elicit different emotions from us. Some may prefer to remain neutral, keeping their emotions in check, while others tend to express their feelings through their actions and words.

Being neutral could have its benefits, such as avoiding bias, making rational decisions, and maintaining a professional image. However, being effective could also have its advantages, such as building stronger relationships, showing empathy, and enhancing creativity.

The key is to strike a balance between being neutral and effective, depending on the context and the goal of the interaction. It is essential to be aware of our emotions and how they can influence our behavior and perception of others. Ultimately, both neutrality and affectivity have their place in our communication and can enrich our experiences if used wisely.

Suggestions for working with neutral cultures:

  • Ensure that you control your emotions, both in your verbal communication and facial expressions.
  • Bear in mind that individuals from neutral cultures are less likely to openly express their genuine emotions. Therefore, it is important to interpret the underlying meaning behind their words.
  • Stay focused on the main subject during meetings after the initial small talk.

Suggestions for working with affective cultures:

  • Leverage emotions as a means of conveying your intentions and objectives.
  • Share your feelings to foster stronger relationships in the workplace.
  • Acquire strategies to de-escalate tense situations involving heightened emotions.

Achievement vs. Ascription

In many societies, status is determined by either achievement or ascription. Achievement refers to earning status through personal accomplishments that are recognized and valued by the community.

On the other hand, ascription refers to assigning status based on factors that are beyond an individual’s control, such as gender, race, or family background. While both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, it can be argued that achievement-based status is a more inclusive and meritocratic approach to social organization.

By valuing the individual’s abilities and accomplishments, society becomes more open and democratic, allowing for greater social mobility and diversity. However, it is important to recognize the role that ascription-based status has played and still plays in shaping societies and to work towards addressing the inequalities it can create.

Suggestions for working with Achievement Cultures:

  • Publicly acknowledge and praise individuals in front of their peers.
  • Refrain from using formal titles.
  • Recognize and reward individual performance.

Suggestions for working with Ascription Cultures:

  • Refer to peers using appropriate titles. If you wish to question a decision made by a superior, approach the matter tactfully.
  • Demonstrate utmost respect to your superiors.

Sequential time vs. Synchronous time

Time is an interesting concept that we have been trying to understand for centuries. While there are different ways to perceive time, two of the most common ways are sequential time and synchronous time. Sequential time is the idea that time moves forward in an organized line.

We think about time this way when we schedule our day, making sure to get everything done in a specific order. On the other hand, synchronous time is when we experience events happening at once.

We might feel this way when we’re on vacation, not worrying about deadlines or time constraints and just enjoying the moment. Both of these perspectives on time have their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s important to recognize how we perceive time to make the most of it.

Suggestions for working with cultures that prioritize sequential time:

  • Ensure deadlines and commitments are followed.
  • Avoid straying from the predetermined schedule.
  • Arrive punctually.

Suggestions for working with cultures that emphasize synchronous time:

  • Grant individuals a degree of autonomy within the schedule.
  • Allow for some leniency regarding tardiness to meetings.
  • Communicate non-negotiable deadlines.

Internal direction vs. External direction

When it comes to making tough decisions and navigating through life, some people rely on their internal compass to guide them. While others look to external sources, such as family or advisors, to provide direction. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.

It all depends on your personality and the situation at hand. Those who trust their gut and have a strong sense of self often find success by following their internal direction. Whereas individuals who are more indecisive or unsure tend to seek out external direction.

Ultimately, the key is finding a balance between the two approaches and using them to complement each other.

Suggestions for working with internal direction cultures:

  • Encourage individuals to establish their own (within reasonable limits) learning and development strategies
  • Embrace constructive criticism to foster growth
  • Clearly define goals and objectives.

Suggestions for working with external direction cultures:

  • Instead of setting goals, provide feedback to help individuals adjust their trajectory.
  • Empower individuals to leverage their relationships to achieve desired outcomes.


As a leader, remember to be mindful of the different cultural backgrounds and communication styles of each team member. Utilizing the Trompenaars Cultural Dimensions model provides an effective way to gain a greater understanding of how different cultures view relationships, communication approaches, problem-solving abilities, and business practices.

With this knowledge as tools in their belt, leaders, and managers can foster high-performance environments by building trustworthiness, and developing shared values that resonate with individual work ethic and goal orientation.

If you are looking for a fast track to stronger teams and higher success rates, we strongly recommend utilizing the Trompenaars Seven Cultural Dimensions. Stay tuned for future blogs as we delve further into the seven types in full detail!

To learn more about Trompenaars cultural dimension model and other strategic models and tools, contact Strategy Capstone!