Employee engagement in a collectivist high power distance culture

  • Oluwasanmi Adegbaju

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Most of the theoretical conclusions on employee engagement (EE) emerge from research conducted in the West, where the national culture (NC) is characterised by lower power distance and individualism. It is imperative to extend the literature to accommodate more findings from different context where little research has been done (Bailey et al., 2017). In response to the call, this research sets out to explore nature of EE in an African context where the NC is mainly characterised by high power distance and collectivism.

Firstly, this research attempts to answer whether NC influences organisational culture (OC); and if it does, to what extent does NC influences OC? The question is important; if NC does not influence OC, then relevant OC models relating to EE developed in the West can be directly implemented in organisations of different cultural context.Secondly, this study seeks to understand the influence of leadership in the relationship between NC and EE. Thirdly, this research attempts to understand extent to which organisational interventions reduce aspect of the NC that impedes emergence of intended OC, which in turn influences EE.

Following qualitative methodology, participant observation and semi-structured interview are used to collect data in two insurance companies in Nigeria, with these organisations theoretically rendering themselves suitable for comparative case study.

The research argues a constant and natural flux of national cultural elements to establish themselves in every social structure and interaction. However, the extent to which NC influences OC is dependent on the awareness level of top management in knowing the aspects of NC that can help to enhance or impede development of the intended OC. Through reciprocation of relevant behaviours, leadership reduces the influence of high power distance values on EE. The cumulative effects of certain interventions reduce high power distance while increase collectivist values of NC in the organisations.
Date of Award12 Jun 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEfstathios Tapinos (Supervisor) & Carola Wolf (Supervisor)


  • employee engagement
  • national culture
  • power distance
  • collectivism

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