Low Vs. High Power Distance

by Joan Whetzel
Low or high power distance describes the power discrepancy between those in authority and subordinates.

Low or high power distance describes the power discrepancy between those in authority and subordinates.

Power distance defines the degree to which people accept hierarchical authority and how far they are willing to subordinate themselves. The inequality in power is explained from the bottom up.

Hofstede's Power Distance Index (PDI)

Greet Hofstede developed an index (PDI), giving numerical values to five cultural dimensions: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation (long-term vs. short-term values). Comparatively, the U.S. has a low PDI (40) compared to Mexico (80), France has a high PDI (68) vs. the UK (35), and Saudi Arabia's PDI (80) is higher than Iran (58) or Turkey (66).

High Power Distance

In high power distance countries and organizations, people don't question the decisions of their leaders. Leader/subordinate relationships are not close and leaders are expected to earn more money and respect. Subordinates expect to have their jobs and responsibilities dictated to them, and in some cases, will not articulate disagreement with authority for fear of the consequences for stirring up conflict.

Low Power Distance

Low power distance organizations are looser, decentralized hierarchies, where employees or subordinates are considered equal, or nearly equal. There are fewer supervisors or leaders and they are willing to trust subordinates with important jobs and are willing to share the blame when problems arise.

About the Author

Joan Whetzel has been writing professionally since 1998. She has written juvenile nonfiction, movie and television scripts and adult nonfiction. Her juvenile nonfiction has appeared in such magazines as "Tech Directions," "Connect" and "Class Act." She was part of the production team that produced the documentary "Fuel for Thought" on Houston PBS. She has also written articles for Katy Magazine Online.

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