scie_banner.gif (35946 bytes)

nail.gif (923 bytes)CAREER PLANNING

gohome.gif (1946 bytes)
feedback.gif (1861 bytes)
Updated 01.31.1999


Achievement vs. Ascription
This dimension is about how status is accorded to people in different cultures.  The contrast between an achievement culture and an ascriptive culture is not difficult to understand.   Achievement means that people are judged on what they have accomplished and on their record.  Ascription means that status is attributed to you by things like birth, kinship, gender, age, interpersonal connections, or educational record.  The former kind of status is called achieved status and the latter ascribed status.   Achieved status refers to doing; ascribed status refers to being.  Take a look at the difference from another angle.  Achievement-oriented societies or organizations justify their hierarchies by claiming that senior people have "achieved more."  In ascription-oriented cultures, however, hierarchies are justified by "power-to-get-things-done."  Here are some examples.

Let's assume that you are being interviewed by your potential boss and he/she is interested in knowing more about your educational background.  In an achievement culture, the first question is likely to be "What did you study?"  In contrast, this question will more likely be "Where did you study?" and only if it was a lousy university or one they do not recognize will this ascriptive interviewer asks what you studied.  

An application of the above understanding is that designing a system which rewards people based solely on their individual performance could be risky.   An ascriptive-oriented superior could have in his/her mind that he/she is by definition responsible for increased performance.  If rewards are to be increased, it has to be done proportionately to ascribed status and not simply given to the person who may have contributed the most.  It should not be difficult how the U.S., an achievement culture, is different from Taiwan, an ascriptive culture.  The following are characteristics of both cultural styles.



Use of titles only when relevant to the competence brought to a specific task
Respect for superior in hierarchy is based on how effectively his/her job is performed and how adequate their knowledge
Most senior managers are of varying age and gender and have shown proficiency in specific jobs
Extensive use of titles, especially when these clarify your status in the organization 
Respect for superior in hierarchy is seen as a measure of your commitment to the organization and its mission
Most senior managers are male, middle-aged and qualified by their background
Reconciliation between Achievement- and Ascription-oriented cultures: Respect what people ARE so we can better take advantage of what they DO.  Some tips for getting along with both styles:

For Ascriptives

For Achievers

Respect the knowledge and information of the achievers, even if you suspect they are short of influence back home 
Use the title that reflects how competent you are as an individual
Do not underestimate the need of the achievers to do better or do more than is expected
Respect the status and influence of the ascriptives, even if you suspect they are short of knowledge.  Do not show them up.
Use the title that reflects your degree of influence in your organization
Do not underestimate the need of the ascriptives to make their ascriptions come true
Universalism vs. Particularism
Individualism vs. Communitarianism
Affective vs. Neutral
Specific vs. Diffuse
Achievement vs. Ascription

Books for your reference