Hofstede's Power Distance: Definition & Examples Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Elements of Culture: Explanation of the Major Elements That Define Culture

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Definition of Power Distance
  • 0:50 Hofstede & Importance…
  • 2:19 Key Concepts of Power Distance
  • 3:47 Example of Power Distance
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
The idea of power distance is an important cultural concept. In this lesson, you'll learn about what power distance is and how this knowledge is beneficial to you in your interactions with others.

Definition of Power Distance

Power distance is a term that describes how people belonging to a specific culture view power relationships - superior/subordinate relationships - between people, including the degree that people not in power accept that power is spread unequally.

Individuals in cultures demonstrating a high power distance are very deferential to figures of authority and generally accept an unequal distribution of power, while individuals in cultures demonstrating a low power distance readily question authority and expect to participate in decisions that affect them.

Power distance is one of the dimensions of Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory. The other dimensions include individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance index, and long-term orientation.

Hofstede & Importance of Power Distance

Geert Hofstede is a Dutch social psychologist that focuses his work on the study of cultures across nations. He has published books on culture entitled Culture's Consequence (1980) and Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (1991). His original study of cultural dimensions involved a study of IBM employees from across the world that formed the basis of his cultural dimensions theory. He's important because he helped introduce the idea of cultural differences between people in the business context. Understanding the differences in cultures is becoming ever more important as we continue to become an integrated global economy.

Specifically, how one views power relationships will affect how that person will act in business negotiations, as managers, and as employees. Using a low power distance management or negotiation approach on someone accustomed to a high power distance viewpoint may very well backfire and be counter-productive. The reverse is also true.

Power distance is based upon answers to a questionnaire filled out by business employees in each country. A score can range from 1 to 100. A score of greater than seventy is considered being high, and a score below forty is considered low. For example, the United States scored at forty, which is considered a low score for power distance, while Guatemala scored an amazing ninety-five, indicating a very high score for power distance.

Key Concepts of Power Distance

You can generally divide power distance into high power distance and low power distance. If you belong to a culture displaying high power distance, you will tend to view power as a reality of life and believe everyone has a specific place in the hierarchy of power. You will expect that power will be distributed unequally. You will more easily accept autocratic and paternalistic power relations. If you are a subordinate, you simply acknowledge the power of your superior based merely upon his relative position in the hierarchy of authority. You follow a leader because that is his social position in the family, business or government. Orders are seldom questioned and are followed simply because your role in the hierarchy is to follow orders.

On the other hand, if you belong to a culture that demonstrates a low power distance, you will have other traits. You will expect power relationships to be participatory, democratic, and consultative. You view your leader as an equal, regardless of his or her formal position or title. You feel you have the right to participate in decision-making and are not afraid to state as such. If you are an American, you probably demonstrate low power distance. You believe you have a right to participate in political and work decisions. Leaders exist to guide and help you, not to order you around. Respect for leaders is earned by leaders rather than an entitlement by right of office or position.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account