High power distance
High power distance is a cultural dimension that refers to the degree to which a society acknowledges and accepts the unequal distribution of power. It is based on the belief that power is distributed unequally among individuals, and those in positions of power should be respected and obeyed. In cultures with high power distance, there is a hierarchical structure and a clear division between those in authority and those who are subordinate. This creates a sense of inequality in which those in power are entitled to greater privileges than those in lower positions. In management, organizations with high power distance have a strong emphasis on hierarchy and status, where there is a clear distinction between those in power and those who are subordinate. Employees in these organizations often have little or no say in decision making processes and must adhere to a set of rules and regulations that are determined by those in power.
Example of high power distance
- In a hierarchal organization, those in power have more authority and privilege than those below them. For example, the CEO of a company would have the final say on all decisions, while the employees would simply have to follow their orders.
- In a society with high power distance, there is often a strong emphasis on status and respect for those in positions of authority. For example, in some countries, it is customary to bow when greeting someone of higher status.
- In educational institutions, high power distance is often observed. For example, teachers are expected to be addressed with respect, and students are expected to obey their instructions.
- In high power distance cultures, there is often a focus on maintaining social order and stability. For example, in some countries, those in positions of power are given special privileges and are expected to be respected by everyone.
- In the workplace, high power distance is often seen as a way to keep order and ensure that everyone in the organization knows their place. For example, in some organizations, managers are expected to be obeyed and their orders must be followed without question.
When to use high power distance
High power distance is most appropriate in situations where:
- The organization is hierarchical in structure and the power is distributed unequally amongst individuals.
- There is a need for clear rules and regulations to be established for employees in order to maintain order.
- Decisions must be made quickly and efficiently, and there is not enough time or resources to involve multiple people in the decision-making process.
- The need for order and discipline is paramount, as there is little opportunity for dissent or debate.
- The organization is highly specialized and requires expert knowledge in order to make decisions.
- There is a need for a strong chain of command in order to ensure that tasks are completed accurately and on time.
- The organization is facing a crisis and needs to take decisive action in order to resolve the issue.
Types of high power distance
- Authoritarian: This type of high power distance is characterized by a strict hierarchical structure with one individual at the top who is in complete control. Those in power are seen as unquestioned authorities and their orders must be followed without question.
- Patriarchal: This type of high power distance is characterized by a patriarchal structure, where the male is seen as the head of the family and is in control. This type of organization is often seen in traditional societies, where men are seen as the primary decision-makers and women are seen as subordinate.
- Meritocratic: This type of high power distance is characterized by a meritocratic structure, where decisions are made based on an individual's ability and performance. Those who are capable and perform well are rewarded with increased power, while those who are not capable or perform poorly are relegated to lower positions.
- Bureaucratic: This type of high power distance is characterized by a bureaucratic structure, where decisions are made based on rules and regulations that are established by those in power. This type of organization is often seen in government agencies and other large organizations, where decisions are made by those in positions of authority and there is little input from those in lower positions.
Advantages of high power distance
High power distance can be beneficial in certain situations, as it provides a clear structure and hierarchy that can help organizations to run more efficiently. The following are some of the advantages of high power distance:
- Clear roles and responsibilities: High power distance creates a hierarchy in which roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, making it easier for organizations to run smoothly.
- Stable leadership: In a high power distance culture, the leader is seen as having ultimate authority and is respected by subordinates. This can lead to more stable and consistent leadership over time, as the leader is not likely to be challenged or questioned.
- Increased efficiency: By establishing and adhering to a clear hierarchy, organizations can become more efficient in their decision making and operations.
- Group cohesion: High power distance can also foster a sense of team unity and cohesion, as everyone is united under a common leader and working towards the same goals.
Limitations of high power distance
High power distance can lead to a number of issues in organizations, including:
- Reduced creativity and innovation - When employees feel that their ideas and opinions will not be taken seriously or respected, they are less likely to come up with creative solutions or innovative ideas.
- Diminished motivation - Employees may become demotivated when they feel their input is not valued, and their ideas are not taken seriously.
- Poor communication - High power distance cultures can lead to a lack of open communication between employees and those in authority, resulting in misunderstandings and decreased productivity.
- Unfair treatment - Those in power may take advantage of their positions and treat those in subordinate positions unfairly.
- Less employee engagement - Employees may not feel engaged in the organization as they are not given the opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas.
- Poor feedback - Employees may not receive adequate feedback on their performance, which can lead to low morale.
High power distance is a cultural dimension that refers to the degree to which a society acknowledges and accepts the unequal distribution of power. Other approaches related to high power distance include:
- Centralisation - In a centralised system of power, most decisions are made by those at the top of the hierarchy, while those in lower positions have little or no say in decision making processes.
- Autocratic Leadership Style - In an autocratic leadership style, the leader makes all the decisions and expects to be obeyed without question.
- Traditional Values - Traditional values are often associated with high power distance cultures, where those in power are viewed as authority figures and should be respected and obeyed.
- Strong Hierarchy - High power distance societies often have a strong hierarchy, with those in power at the top and those in subordinate positions below them.
|High power distance — recommended articles|
|Authoritarian leadership — Lewin, Lippitt and White - basic styles of management — Power distance — Laissez faire leadership — Unity of direction — Downward communication — Bureaucratic leadership — Informal leader — Adhocracy|
- Khatri, N. (2009). Consequences of power distance orientation in organisations. Vision, 13(1), 1-9.