Power distance

Power distance, a concept presented by Hofstede, expresses the degree to which the members of a society accept and expect the powers distributed unequally. The power distance could be seen in the organizations, families, friendships, and bureaucracies and it varies from culture to culture. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people. People in societies exhibiting a high degree of power distance accept a higher hierarchy order in which everyone has a place and no further justification is needed. This example is present in the Japanese and Indian culture. In societies with the low power distance such as the United States people strive to equalize the distribution of power and demand justifications for inequalities of power.

The views and opinions of the people concerning the power distance are deeply rooted in their culture. The amount of respect we show to authority is inculcated in us by the culture we live in. It starts in the childhood where the children learn how much deference they can show to their parents, their teachers, and finally it affects our relationships in our professional lives. The people living in high power distance society are taught to be obedient towards their elders, their teachers, and their employers. It is for the reason that these societies give importance to the positioned power, power that is earned by birth or by wealth. On the other hand, the societies with low power distance give importance to the earned power, a power that is earned by hard work and motivation. The people living in low power distance societies are equally involved in the familial decisions, learning process, and even in their workplace decision-making process.
Moreover, power distance also affects and influences the communication process in the cultures. Whether it is verbal or non-verbal communication, the degree of power distance plays a critical role. In low power distance culture, the people are more open, confident and can challenge the authority. Whereas the people in high power distance society are more submissive to their elders, authorities and never question or challenge them. It can be explained through the example of medical process in both cultures. The individuals from a large power distance society never express their suggestions regarding their medical treatment and therapies because they consider the clinician as an expert. Whereas the individuals that are from a low power distance background clearly express their opinions or suggestions and are more actively involved in their treatment procedure. Several other instances can be found that differentiate the individuals on the basis of power distance present in their culture.