Business English and culture: power distance index

   Power distance index is a dimension in culture that explains the degree of acceptability of uneven distribution of power in the society or the organization in Geert Hofstede’s cultural model. The continuum forms a range from low to high power distance index, with scores from zero to 120. As discussed in Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, it refers to the society or organization’s tolerance of unequal distribution of power. The more the society or the organization regards inequality as tolerable, the less they attempt to fight for equal rights and the more they become submissive to the circumstances.

    It is important to note that this dimension considers the views of less powerful people on power distribution. Society’s endorsement of uneven power distribution can affect social encounters, decision makings, and approaches to relationship management. It can affect communication as it affects the nature of the relationship between the sender and the receiver of a message and the message itself.

Low Power Distance Index

A society with a low score on this dimension tends to fight for equality. Therefore, the environment is more democratic and peaceful conflict resolutions are practiced. The members of this society or organization consider it their right to demand explanations for decisions made by people in power. Countries such as Austria, New Zealand, Denmark, and Canada have a relatively lower scores of power distance index, meaning that a more democratic and collaborative environment dominates the culture and the workplace.

Income inequality is less compared to societies with a high score of power distance, allowing for a larger middle class. Business executives are younger as age is not a defining factor in power distribution. Moreover, there is more room for innovation without the hierarchy intervening the process and practice. Hierarchy exists for practical purposes and decentralization is more common.

High Power Distance Index

    Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine are among the countries with the highest scores on power distance Index. China, India, and several other countries come next. Societies that show a relatively high score have a relatively smaller middle class with a more uneven income distribution. Age is a defining factor in top management positions and innovation is limited to the support of the hierarchy.

    Centralization is key to management, therefore, decisions are only made by those on the top of the hierarchy and more likely to be affected by those closer to the people in power. Subordinates expect to be guided and seldom take initiative. In an article by Harvard Business Review, Kate Sweetman explains how power distance can affect workplace communication More moderate countries based on this model are Italy, Iran, Argentina, Spain, and South Africa. They adopt characteristics from both ends of the spectrum.

Task 1

    Read the article provided above and discuss how the solutions can allow people to overcome power distance and more easily communicate in an audio recording. (5 min)


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