XI. Power distance


„Power distance is the extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.“ (Hofstede page 262).

Power distance describes also the extent to which employees accept that superiors have more power than they have. Furthermore that opinions and decisions are right because of the higher position some has. In countries with high power distance employees are too afraid to express their doubts and disagreements with their autocratic and paternalistic bosses. The index for power distance describes the dependence of relationships in a country.


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It is small in countries where bosses and subordinates work close together and consult each other. Subordinates and superiors consider each other as or less equal even there is a difference in education level. The hierarchical system can always change depending on the circumstances. The hierarchies are flat with a decentralized organization and a small number of supervisors who are expected to be accessible for their subordinates. Within a company the degree for unequal treatment is reduced to a low level. There is a interdependence between employer and employee. The salary range is narrow between the top and bottom in companies. Subordinates expect to be consulted within the decision-making process.


In contrast in large power distance countries the relation between boss and subordinate is strictly ruled and dependent on the decisions of the boss. In companies with larger power distance which have a very centralized organization, subordinates expect to be told what to do from their superiors because they consider each other as unequal. Inequalities are normally expected and privileges are seen as desirable by superiors. There is a large extend to centralization and the salary range is wide. People in high power distance cultures positive emotions are expressed to superiors and negative emotions to subordinates.

5 thoughts on “XI. Power distance

  • Juli 2, 2011 um 5:07 pm
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    Power is dependency and distance is ultimately rejection. Dependent rejection can be very bad when good people are wronged. That happens when cultural paradigms shift, such as in the 1960s, when moral bankruptcy set in with postmodernism. The minds that were hit the hardest were the same that tried to stop it and they deserve a life. Promoting power-distance therefore should be reversed. Mauk Mulder who coined it, meant to describe how lower echelons try to close- and higher echelons try to widen the power-distance gap between them. It has even spilled into comedy, such as Keeping Up Appearances. I believe we need independent confirmation to heal those beautiful souls now, for they deserve it. That means no power and no distance anymore. Social media are making this possible, but people are also hitting the brakes and that must really, really end now.

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  • Dezember 28, 2011 um 7:05 am
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    Very helpful thanks. We have a business in India and confront issues of high and low content and power-distance frequently. It’s one thing to understand these concepts, it’s another to confront it day to day.

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