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Sir William Osler

Understanding the Meaning of Power Distance in Organisations

When dealing with cross-cultural management, one should be very much aware of the differences that exist between one’s own country and the other. No matter how small the distance in between the two countries is, there will always be some sort of disagreement when it comes to how people live, think or perceive specific situations or relationships.

One such difference is the meaning of power distance in organizations. As to avoid any sort of culture-shock or possible disagreements that lie in the these specific differences, one should thoroughly investigate a large range of cultural and anthropological aspects, including religion, politics, social models, sex-roles, and of course, inter-racial relationships.

On this note, one should be fully aware that the meaning of power distance in organizations implies merely the relationships between superiors and subordinates in a corporation. This being said, the concept of power distance reflects the understanding of people of the fact that within a specific institution there will always be an unequal distribution of power. In short, they accept, to a certain extent, the fact that the boss will always have more power than his subordinates. Furthermore, one should be aware of the fact that the index of power distance in a specific country is described by the type and degree of dependency that can be seen in various relationships.

Taking this into account, there are countries with less power distance and some with high power distance. The countries with less power distance imply a much softer boundary between the supervisor and his subordinates because of the fact that the bosses tend to work closely with their employees and give the latter the chance of expressing themselves in the decision making processes. Power distance is high in countries where the hierarchical system is clearly defined and where the inequality between bosses and subordinates is obvious in that the latter depend on and are ruled by their boss.


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