This article has multiple issues. Please help or discuss these issues on the(
|Part of |
Power distance is the strength of
Hofstede, the famous business anthropologist, developed the
The Power Distance Index is designed to measure 'the extent to which power differs within the society, organization and institutions (like the family) are accepted by the less powerful members'. It indicates the level of power distance and dependent relationships in a country by assigning a score to each country. The PDI also represents society's level of inequality that is defined from below rather than from above. As Hofstede stressed, there is no absolute value and PDI is useful only as a method to compare countries.
Hofstede derived the power distance scores for three regions and fifty countries from the answers given by IBM employees in the same type of positions to the same questions. The detailed steps to calculate the PDI is as follows:
1. Prepare three survey questions:
2. Pre-code the answers so that they are represented by a number (e.g. 1,2,3,4...)
3. Compute the mean score for the answers of equal sample of people from each country or percentage for choosing particular answers
4. Sort the questions into groups which are called clusters or factors by using a statistical procedure
5. Add or subtract the three scores after multiplying each with a fixed number
6. Add another fixed number
Hofstede's study made a great contribution to the establishment of the research tradition in cross-cultural psychology. However, limitations still exist.
Firstly, each stage of the research process reappears as a political act of neutralization—of making the unneutral seem neutral. The questionnaire reflects a large power distance: its questions were explicitly designed to resolve the normative concerns of researchers. To further explain, it primarily served the concerns of those who needed to do comparative analysis and created it through "coercing a culturally distinct axis of comparison" on a variety of employees.
Secondly, the questionnaire adopted an obviously western methodology to analyze non-western countries and it is also relatively selective in representing the inequality within the western countries. For example, the PDI concentrated on the boss and subordinate relationship, which could be seen as biased, as it ignores other forms of western inequality. Apparently, the questions failed to measure the racial, colonial, and broader class inequalities which should be taken into account into the measurement of power distance.
In the middle of the last century, Haire, Ghiselli, and Porter explored the differences in preferences for power among different cultures with remarkable outcomes, even though they did not mention the concept of power distance. The methodology they adopted was by questionnaire, which was based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs with some modification. The aim of the questionnaire was to evaluate how managers from 14 countries were satisfied regarding their needs when they were in their current positions. The dimensions that were linked to power distance across cultures in their questionnaire were autonomy and self-actualization. Autonomy
In accordance with the responses to the questions in their questionnaire, the 14 countries were clustered into five main groups, which they labeled Nordic-European (Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden), Latin-European (Belgium, France, Italy, and Spain), Anglo-American (England and the United States), Developing (Argentina, Chile, and India), and Japan (by itself). One important thing from this analysis is the various mean standardized scores that the five groups presented with respect to autonomy and self-actualization. For these figures, positive ones mean greater satisfaction of need than for the average manager across all 14 countries, while negative ones mean lesser satisfaction. Their results are presented in Table 1.
Upon the figures listed in the table, some implications are drawn. They are complicated, and summarized as follows: – Nordic-Europeans who were surveyed were extremely contented with the satisfaction of their desire for power; – Anglo-Americans were rather discontented; and – the other clusters desired more power than they currently had in their positions
One important implication from this study is that countries can be clustered according to their preference for power. Besides this, some of their differences can be explained by the influence of the following factors: the predominant religion or philosophy, an established tradition of democracy, the long-term existence of a middle class, and the proportion of immigrants in each country.
Another major study of power distance was the one that was undertaken by Mauk Mulder. It was based on the premise that as societies become weaker in power distance, the underprivileged will tend to reject their power dependency. Mulder's laboratory experiments in the social and organizational context of the Netherlands, a low power distance culture, concluded that people attempted to seek "power distance reduction". He found that:
From these findings, he concluded that a condition of quasi-equilibrium had arisen. In this condition, power holders have achieved a certain distance from people who lack power, and this distance is hard for the powerless to bridge.
Following Hofstede, the GLOBE project defined "power distance" as "the degree to which members of an organization or society expect and agree that power should be shared unequally." Power distance was then further analyzed as one of the nine cultural dimensions explained in the "Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness" (GLOBE) Research Program, which was conceived in 1990 by Robert J. House of the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.
Given the major premise that leader effectiveness is contextual, the research was conducted by believing that the social and organizational values, norms and beliefs of those who are being led are closely connected to the effectiveness of the leader. GLOBE measures the practices and values that exist at the levels of industry (financial services, food processing, telecommunications), organization (several in each industry), and society (62 cultures). The results are presented in the form of quantitative data based on responses of about 17,000 managers from 951 organizations functioning in 62 societies throughout the world, which shows how each of the 62 societies scores on nine major attributes of cultures, including Power Distance, and six major global leader behaviour.
Regarding power distance, GLOBE researches cultural influences on power distance values, practices and other aspects, including 'Roots of Power Distance', 'The Psychological Stream and Power' and 'The Cross-Cultural Stream and Power Distance'. It also investigates how family power values are taught, and makes a comparison of high versus low power distance societies.
When discussing 'The Cross-Cultural Stream and Power Distance', four primary factors affecting a society's level of power distance are explained separately, and they are the predominant religion or philosophy, the tradition of democratic principles of government, the existence of a strong middle class, and the proportion of immigrants in a society's population. Among the four fundamental phenomena, there always exists connections; however, it is concluded that a society's main beliefs, values, and religion, will have the strongest and longest lasting influence on power distance. Then, this will be moderated by a democratic tradition and the existence of a strong middle class to some extent. Moreover, the two factors are both expected to affect narrowing power distance. Therefore, for a Roman Catholic society, which is exposed to democracy and a middle class, would be on the way to narrowing power distance. Though its level of power distance could be reduced over time, it would still be higher than a Protestant country, which has a democratic tradition and a large middle class. Finally, a large proportion of immigrants in a given society makes the low power distance trend stronger in all circumstances presented above. In addition, it is concluded that regardless of religion, any society that does not have a tradition of democracy or a significant middle class will have a substantially high power distance levels.