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The relationship of vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism to intrapreneurship and organizational commmitment.

The individualism-collectivism construct provides a conceptual framework within which the behaviour of individuals from different cultures may be explained. In essence, individualism is based on the super-ordination of personal over group goals, while collectivism is the emphasis of group over personal goals through the derivation of firm and explicit group boundaries (Kim, 1994).

In a landmark 40-nation study of employees of a leading multinational, Hofstede (1980) found varying levels of individualism and collectivism, suggesting that not only are they dimensions of organizational behaviour, but their coexistence with powerful organizational cultures makes it entirely possible that they are some of the driving forces of individual behaviour in organizations. Divergent organizational practices included: the collectivist recognition of the importance of company training; emotional dependence on the company; moral involvement with the company; job security; lack of managerial desire to promote employee initiative; and the value of group decisions over individual decisions. On the other hand, there were: the individualist valuation of personal time; emotional independence; calculative involvement with the company; freedom and challenge at work; managerial aspirations to leadership; autonomy and encouragement of subordinate initiative; and the support of individual decisions for individualists. Developing the construct's organizational behaviour link further, Hui et al. (1995) theorized that the desire to preserve interpersonal harmony would lead collectivists to accept unfair company policies, autocratic leadership styles and deviant coworker behaviour. This hypothesis was supported empirically, with collectivist employees reporting higher satisfaction with work, pay, promotion, supervision and coworker than individualists. Since co-operation within the group is essential for group survival and prosperity, there is a positive relationship between collectivism and cooperation. Peterson et al. (1995) found that for 21 countries, low individualism is associated with high levels of role overload (being overwhelmed by work) and low levels of role ambiguity (lack of necessary information for task completion). The prevalence of hierarchy and adherence to rules in collectivist organizations provides necessary information for task completion (reducing role ambiguity); however, the lack of freedom in establishing priorities for multiple tasks results in employees being overwhelmed by work, leading to high role overload. In each of these cases, individualism and collectivism act as motivating forces for outward manifestations of the behaviour of individuals in organizations.

The aim of this paper is to extend the study of relationships of individualism and collectivism to organizational outcomes by relating them to intrapreneurship and organizational commitment. Intrapreneurship is organizational entrepreneurship, in which teams of employees band to develop new technology and produce new products. It appears to combine the individualistic trait of being able to work independently to generate creative ideas with the collectivist ability to collaborate in teams (in-groups) for new product development. Organizational commitment may be stronger among collectivists who view the organization as an in-group with whom they identify and to whom they owe allegiance. Alternatively, allegiance to other organizational groups including the work-group or the supervisor may supersede collectivist loyalty to the organization.

The study is limited to a domestic US sample. This is done in the belief that single country studies should be the starting point for such investigations, in order to observe more closely the interaction of organizational forces and the construct's effects. For instance, given that our knowledge of the relationship between individualism-collectivism and intrapreneurship in any culture is limited, it is wise to study it first within the USA for a small group of employees, for whom moderating effects are few and easily controlled, and then extend the study to other countries using the moderating variables that would inevitably appear because of national differences.

Vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism

The individualism-collectivism construct may be represented by a four-cell typology consisting of vertical individualism, horizontal individualism, vertical collectivism and horizontal collectivism. Authority-ranking or acceptance of hierarchy is the basis of the vertical-horizontal differentiation.


In its most extreme form, individualism is synonymous with narcissism, which correlates positively with ego-ideal and dominance. A more contemporary perspective is based on the core values of freedom, independence, self-determination, personal control, hedonism, utilitarianism, competition, competence, and uniqueness (Kim, 1994; Triandis, 1988), coupled with separation from in-groups of which family, religion and community are readily identifiable (Bellah et al., 1985). To the extent that such in-group relationships are manifested through community life and associations in an individualistic society, any involvement in them is undertaken only if the self derives some benefit from them (Triandis, 1988). At the organizational level, individual merit becomes the sole criterion for appointment, promotion, or dismissal.

While the above list of values characterizes all individualists, a finer distinction may be made on the basis of acceptance of authority. Singelis et al. (1995) used Rokeach's values analogy with political systems to explain this dichotomy. Vertical individualism is dominant in market democracies including the USA and France, while horizontal individualism primarily exists in democratically socialist countries like Sweden. The core individual belief in rewards according to merit is qualified by the greater share apportioned to those of higher rank in vertically individualist societies, with the desire for equal sharing of resources in horizontally individualist countries. In Singelis et al.'s (1995) factor analysis of individualism, vertical individualism loaded most heavily on the desire for and enjoyment of competition at work, the importance of winning, and annoyance at the superior performance of coworkers. In a factor analysis of this dimension using a sample of American students, Triandis et al. (1988) observed that the most important factor was self-reliance with competition.

The cornerstone of horizontal individualism is the existence of an autonomous self equal in status with others (Singelis et al., 1995). Daun et al. (1989) portray Swedish society as a classic case of horizontal individualism. Paradoxically, the desire for autonomy rooted in freedom and independence coexists with the desire for conformity, in that deviation from reference group norms is considered an aberration. No conflict results, as affirmation by the group serves to reinforce an independent individual position. In a survey of 11 nationalities, Swedes were found to have the lowest desire for social status achieved through deviation from group norms, even if such deviation leads to success (Daun, 1989).


Collectivism as conformity to group opinion is the subordination of personal interests to the attainment of in-group goals of co-operation, group welfare and in-group harmony (Earley, 1989; Triandis et al., 1985). In-group boundaries are defined with explicit and firm out-group boundaries. In-group loyalties may be restricted to family, close friends or the organization, or to requiring the contribution of expertise from individual employees through the synergistic sharing of diverse skills. In other words, intrapreneurship is the domain of those who possess the "directed autonomy" (Waterman, 1987) of individual product champions and the ability to utilize peer respect and negotiating power (Souder, 1987) to craft coalitions and build partnerships (Kanter, 1985). Such individuals value independence, moderate risk-taking and the ability to persuade others to support their ideas, together with the need for achievement, goal orientation and internal locus of control (Hornsby et al., 1993). With the exception of the ability to persuade others to support their ideas, the other traits listed above are individualist. Additionally, empirical support for a relationship between individualism and intrapreneurship was found by Morris et al. (1994) via a curvilinear model. The question then becomes, is the vertical or horizontal individualist likely to be the more successful intrapreneur? The horizontal individualist, with values of equality-matching and lack of desire for prominence, may be a more co-operative team member than the vertical individualist. The competitiveness, winning orientation and self-reliance of the vertical individualist may impede team success. Intuitively, highly successful team-based intrapreneurial ventures in computer hardware and software companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and telecommunications companies, rarely publicize the contributions of individual team members; the result of their efforts is characterized as a team achievement.

Horizontal individualism may explain intrapreneurship in conjunction with a supportive organizational climate. Hornsby et al. (1993) list a number of factors that are prerequisite to intrapreneurial success. They include:

* management support, or encouragement of innovativeness through the rapid adoption of novel ideas, recognition of product champions and capital for experimental projects;

* autonomy/work discretion, which refers to autonomy in work design with no penalties for experimentation;

* rewards/reinforcement, wherein the reward system is restructured to recognize true achievement and the acceptance of increasingly challenging tasks;

* time availability, with work allocated in such a way that time constraints are flexible enough to permit persons to work with others on long-term problem solving;

* organizational boundaries, which represents rising above the narrow confines of day-to-day task completion to focus on producing novel solutions to broad, fundamental problems.

Further, intrapreneurial activity has been found to flourish at lower organizational levels as this circumvents conflicts arising from unfair competition of the project with others (Souder, 1987). Consequently, the joint effect of horizontal individualism, management support, and organizational level may be associated with intrapreneurship.

HI: The interaction of horizontal individualism and management support at a low organizational level is directly related to intrapreneurship.

Vertical collectivism and organizational commitment

In this section, a relationship will be established between collectivism and commitment, followed by a distinction between vertical and horizontal collectivism based on the source of that commitment. In a general sense, if the organization is viewed as the in-group, collectivists should exhibit greater commitment to it. This proposition has its roots in the collectivist feeling that maintaining the group's (organization's) well being is the best guarantee for the individual (Ho, 1978). In a series of laboratory studies, James and Cropanzano (in press) discovered a direct, positive relationship between dispositional group loyalty (DGL) and the effort individuals exerted on behalf of the group. In a field study, higher DGL among collectivists resulted in their participation in activities that are manifestations of organizational commitment, including involvement in group-based organizational activities, favourable attitudes towards the organization and a desire to promote the organization's welfare actively. Kashima and Callan (1994) demonstrated that the family is used as a metaphor for organizations in which the values of co-operation and subordination to authority have been successfully integrated. Company familism or a belief in "the one-enterprise family" formed the basis of worker unification in the Japanese factory (Karsh, 1984). DeCotiis and Summers (1987) concluded that higher levels of social involvement on the part of individuals with their organization promotes organizational commitment (Buchanan, 1974; Lodahl, 1964).

Reichers (1985) viewed commitment to the organization as distinct from commitment to its constituent groups. Becker (1992) delineated commitment into commitment to the organization, to top management, to immediate supervisors and to work-groups. As vertical and horizontal collectivists may be jointly or severally committed to each of these groups, it is necessary to separate the commitment of the individual to the organization from commitment to each group. The vertical collectivist is likely to have strong allegiance to the organization as a separate entity. Since the organization dominates the other groups, affiliation to it will transcend all other affiliations. As authority-ranking, acceptance of hierarchy and status are the distinguishing features of vertical collectivism, the vertical collectivist will find greater affinity with the organization as opposed to the other groups. The characteristic of vertical collectivism that is willing to sacrifice the self for the collective and place duty before pleasure, including performing duties that are distasteful, goes beyond attitudinal commitment and is analogous to organizational citizenship. Citizenship, or extra-role behaviour, emerges from an organizational need for members to rise beyond the "call of duty" for the benefit of the organization (Katz, 1964; Mowday et al., 1979). Examples include helping co-workers who fall behind, keeping a work area clean, accepting temporary assignments without complaint, volunteering for unassigned tasks and providing suggestions to improve the firm (Smith et al., 1983). Since organizational citizenship is directed towards the furtherance of organizational over work-group, supervisor or top management goals, the vertical collectivists' identification with these goals suggests commitment to the organization over the other entities.

H2: Vertical collectivism is directly related to organizational commitment.

Horizontal collectivism and organizational commitment

Horizontal collectivists believe in subordination to a homogeneous group, co-operation, maintaining the wellbeing of coworkers and preserving harmony. Group homogeneity is likely to occur with the work-group where supervisory, organizational and top management groups are sufficiently different to disqualify them as in-groups. Similarly, it is unlikely that co-operation and the maintenance of harmony is to be found in any group other than the one with which the horizontal collectivist has the closest association, i.e. the work-group. Conceptually, it seems unlikely that horizontal collectivists will have any direct allegiance to either the organization or top management. The organization and top management may be perceived as abstractions, simply because of the psychological distance between them and the individual. Any organizational commitment may be a function of the horizontal collectivist's commitment to the work-group and the supervisor. In other words, since some of the variance in organizational commitment may be explained by commitment to the work-group, horizontal collectivism may interact with work-group commitment to increase organizational commitment. The work-group may represent the organization to the horizontal collectivist; any organizational commitment on the part of these individuals may be explained by their commitment to the work-group.

H3: Horizontal collectivism interacts with work-group commitments to explain organizational commitment.


The sample consisted of employees of mid-sized manufacturing and service firms in the medical technology, food, computer and entertainment industries based in South Florida. Administrators at each firm were contacted to distribute the surveys to employees. Of the 246 questionnaires distributed, 106 were returned, for a response rate of 43 per cent. The mean age of the respondents was 30.57 years (standard deviation 7.8). Of the 50 men and 56 women surveyed, 31 were first-line supervisory managers and 75 were technicians.


Control variables

To control for interrater variability resulting from demographics, age, gender, race, religion, experience and tenure were specified as control variables. Race (dichotomized into white and all others) included 94 white respondents and 12 for all other groups. Religious affiliation (dichotomized into religious affiliation and no religious affiliation) showed 39 respondents with some form of religious affiliation and 67 with none. Experience in the industry averaged 7.71 years (sd 6.35) with a mean tenure of 2.9 years (sd 3.35) with current employers.

Main variables

The main variables were identified as follows:

* Vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism. Singelis et al.'s (1995) 32-item, nine-point, Likert-type scale with four eight-item subscales for each dimension was employed. Their Cronbach alpha reliability coefficients of 0.75, 0.60, 0.65 and 0.69 for the vertical individualism, horizontal individualism, vertical collectivism and horizontal collectivism sub-scales respectively are comparable to the coefficients used in this study of 0.61, 0.81, 0.72 and 0.76. Singelis et al. (1995) established construct validity through superior fit for a four-factor model over single and two-factor models, and convergent validity by significant positive correlations with Singelis' (1994) self-construal scale and the Sinha and Verma (1994) scales.

* Intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurship was measured by Covin and Slevin's (1989) nine-item, seven-point strategic posture scale. The Cronbach alpha of 0.84 in the present study indicated high reliability. Covin and Slevin (1989) assessed construct validity through factor analysis in which all items loaded above 0.6 on a single factor. Management support for intrapreneurship was a six-item, two-point measure to determine the existence of managerial support, autonomy in project selection, rewards for innovation, time availability to pursue special projects and the existence of a skunkworks.

* Organizational level. Organizational level was dichotomized into 1 = managers and 2 = technicians for all regressions.

* Organizational commitment. Organizational commitment was measured by Porter et al.'s (1974) organizational commitment questionnaire (OCQ). The Cronbach alpha of 0.94 of this study may be likened to those of 0.82 to 0.93 reported in earlier studies (Ivancevich, 1979; Jermier and Berkes, 1979; Kerr and Jermier, 1978). Convergent validity has been established through significant positive associations with work-oriented interests (Dubin, 1956) along with the ability to predict leaving behaviour. Discriminant validity was observed through correlations with job involvement (Lodahl and Kejner, 1965), job descriptive index subscales (Mowday et al., 1979), job satisfaction (Jermier and Berkes, 1979), need for achievement and need for autonomy (Steers and Braunstein, 1976). Becker's (1992) three-item, seven-point scale was used to evaluate commitment to the areas of focus. Becker (1992) established discriminant validity for these by observing that they account for unique variance in satisfaction, intent to quit, and prosocial organizational behaviours.


Two moderated hierarchical regressions were performed to test the hypotheses. For each regression, order of entry was specified by blocks of variables with control variables at the first level, main variables at the second level, two-way interactions at the third level and three-way interactions at the fourth level.


H1 was tested by the regression of intrapreneurship on horizontal individualism (see Table I). Both linear and cubic models were specified. The cubic model was included to account for a curvilinear relationship between individualism and intrapreneurship observed in the Morris et al. (1994) study. H1 was supported with the three-way interaction between high levels of horizontal individualism and support and organizational level accounting for the largest proportion of the variance, i.e. a significant 22 per cent in the linear model (t = 4.51, p [less than] 0.001) and 15 per cent (t = 4.32, p [less than] 0.001) in the cubic model.

To explore this finding further, the sample was split according to both organizational level (managers versus technicians) and support (high versus low). For the high-support technicians group, there was a significant positive relationship between horizontal individualism and intrapreneurship (t = 32.48, p [less than] 0.001); for all other groups, the relationship was weakly negative. In other words, the personality of the horizontal individualist located at a low organizational level in a supportive environment promotes intrapreneurship.

H2 was supported in the second regression with vertical collectivism accounting for 17 per cent of the variance in organizational commitment (t = 3.88 to 3.92, p [less than] 0.001) (see Table II).

H3 was partially supported, with the three-way interactions between horizontal collectivism and work-group and supervisor commitments showing significant negative relationships with organizational commitment. As H3 had predicted that the direction of the horizontal collectivism-organizational commitment would be positive, this result represents a reversal of the hypothesized direction. Subgroup analysis confirmed the direction of the result with the high organizational level-high workgroup commitment group showing a significant negative horizontal collectivism-organizational commitment relationship (t = -5.3,1, p [less than] 0.05). Horizontal collectivists at high organizational levels who are strongly attached to their work-groups are less committed to the organization. At low organization levels, work-group commitment has no influence on the horizontal collectivism-organizational commitment relationship; horizontal collectivists who are both strongly and weakly attached to their work-groups are committed to the organization. This finding may be extended to supervisory commitment, in which the high work-group commitment-high supervisor commitment group showed a significant negative relationship with organizational commitment (t = -0.04, p [less than] 0.05). Horizontal collectivists who are strongly attached to both their supervisors and their work-groups are less committed to the organization.
Table I

Results of hierarchical regression of intrapreneurship on
horizontal individualism

                                          Model 1        Model 2
Variables                                 [Beta]         [Beta]

Age                                       0.01           0.02
Gender                                   -0.07          -0.05
Race                                      0.07           0,07
Religion                                 -0.03          -0.03
[R.sup.2] at Step I                       0.01           0.01
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step i               0.01           0.01
Horizontal individualism (HI)             0.11           6.74(**)
Horizontal individualism (H[I.sup.2])                  -14.32(**)
Horizontal individualism (H[I.sup.3])                    7.82(**)
Vertical individualism (vI)              -0.07          -0.03
Support (s)                               0.00           0.05
Organizational level (OL)                -0.04          -0.09
[R.sup.2] at Step 2                       0.02           0.11
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step 2               0.01           0.07
HI x VI                                  -0.30          -0.25
HI x S                                    1.73(**)       0.87(*)
HI x OL                                  -1.59(**)      -0.78(**)
VI x S                                    0.61           0.48
VI x OL                                   0.05           0.17
[R.sup.2] at Step 3                       0.24(***)      0.26(**)
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step 3               0.22           0.15
HI x S x OL                               1.76(***)      0.98(***)
[R.sup.2] at Step 4                       0.45(***)      0.40(***)
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step 4               0.21           0.14

Note: * p [less than] 0.05, ** p [less than] 0.01, *** p [less
than] 0.001
Table II

Regression of organizational commitment on vertical collectivism

Variables                                              [Beta]

Age                                                      -0.04
Gender                                                    0.08
Race                                                     -0.24(*)
Religion                                                  0.08
Experience                                               -0.17
Tenure                                                    0.20
[R.sup.2] at Step i                                       0.08
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step 1                               0.08
Vertical collectivism (VC)                                0.45(**)
Horizontal collectivism (HC)                              0.10
Organizational level (OL)                                -0.13
Workgroup commitment (wc)                                -0.10
Supervisor commitment (sc)                               -0.03
Top management commitment (TM)                           -0.22
[R.sup.2] at Step 2                                       0.33(**)
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step 2                               0.25(**)
HC x WC x OL                                             -1.37(**)
HC x WC x SC                                             -1.69(**)
[R.sup.2] at Step 3                                       0.73(**)
[Delta] [R.sup.2] at Step 3                               0.39(**)

Note: * p [less than] 0.05, ** p [less than] 0.0001.

Significant interactions reported

I Discussion

It may appear surprising that all four dimensions of the construct were found in American organizations given that the society is considered to be vertically individualist. In accordance with Singelis et al. (1995), since societies are predominantly vertically or horizontally individualist or collectivist, and the extent to which they are depends on the situation, it is conceivable that dimensions other than vertical individualism are present. Further, as organizations have a collectivizing influence manifested by the need for compliance with rules, procedures and acceptance of the authority of superiors, individuals may be predisposed towards collectivism in their role as employees as opposed to their social and personal roles.

Robustness of the vertical/horizontal categorization

The current vertical and horizontal conceptualization may be the most reliable and valid measure of individualism and collectivism to date, as evidenced by reliabilities above the threshold of 0.70 for all subscales with the exception of vertical individualism. Numerous earlier measures have reported low reliabilities in the 0.3 to 0.45 range (Singelis et al., 1995). Consequently, it behoves authors of earlier individualism collectivism organizational criteria studies to incorporate this distinction in a replication of their original studies, with a view to improving the explanatory power of the resulting models.

This study also provides discriminant validity for both vertical collectivism and horizontal individualism. Vertical collectivism explained much more of the variance in organizational commitment than did horizontal collectivism, as did horizontal individualism over vertical individualism for intrapreneurship. This study's finding does not support Singelis et al.'s (1995) suggestion of collapsing vertical and horizontal collectivism into a single construct. In terms of their relationship to organizational commitment these two dimensions are different and should be measured as distinct entities.

Horizontal individualism and intrapreneurship

This study's finding of a relationship between horizontal individualism and intrapreneurship extends Morris et al.'s (1994) finding of such a relationship between individualism and intrapreneurship for US samples. However, given this study's finding of 22 per cent of the variance in intrapreneurship being explained by horizontal individualism, support and organizational level, versus only 6 per cent for horizontal individualism alone, personality alone explains only a modest amount of intrapreneurship; its effects are highly dependent on situational factors in a contingency framework (in this case, support and organizational level). Future research should investigate the facets of a supportive work environment that have the strongest interactions with horizontal individualism to promote intrapreneurship. The KEYS instrument (Amabile et al., 1996) as a thoroughly validated measure of work environments may be employed in such an investigation.

Collectivism and organizational commitment

The strong vertical collectivism-organizational commitment relationship supports the thesis of this paper that the desire for self-sacrifice for the group as well as a sense of responsibility for the group leads certain individuals to go above and beyond the call of duty for the organization. While at first glance such individuals may appear to be ideal employees, at which level would they be the most successful? The authoritarian element in this personality could lead to paternalism and nepotism. A study relating the vertical collectivism dimension to leadership would be useful. In the event of downsizing, we may conjecture that vertical collectivists may experience greater stress and disillusionment in the form of role ambiguity and dissatisfaction, because of their stronger organizational commitment. In this vein, stress management strategies and outplacement programmes may have to be directed towards vertical collectivists.

The horizontal collectivism-organizational commitment relationship is intriguing. In support of Reichers (1986), conflicting goals between the work-group and supervisor on the one hand and the organization on the other hand, lead horizontal collectivists who are highly committed to both workgroup and supervisor to be less committed to the organization. The organization is not an abstraction; it is an adversary. This conclusion is highly dependent on the situation; it is likely to vary with industry, market conditions and organizational climate. Replications of this study across industry in organizational climates with both supportive and adversarial organization work-group/supervisor relationships are warranted.

How should organizations promote workgroup and supervisor commitment among horizontal collectivists without diminishing organizational commitment? In a supplementary analysis, it was found that rewards (termed compliance in the O'Reilly and Chatman (1986) definition of bases of commitment) act as the basis of commitment for horizontal collectivists. Horizontal collectivists who exhibit high levels of compliance (desire for rewards) are committed to the organization; conversely, those with low levels of compliance are less committed. The judicious dispensation of rewards may be used to stimulate acts of citizenship and organizational attachment among horizontal collectivists.

In summary, personality in conjunction with situational variables acts as a predictor of organizational criteria. Future research should extend this study to investigations of the relationship between the individualism-collectivism construct and other organizational criteria.


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Author:Abraham, Rebecca
Publication:Leadership & Organization Development Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1997
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