People carry “mental programmes” which are developed in the family in earlychildhood and reinforced in schools and organisations. IT is these mentalprogrammes that contain a component of national culture. The book “Culture’sconsequences” identifies four main dimensions along which dominant valuesystems in 40 countries can be ordered and which affect human thinking,organisations, and institutions in predictable ways. The book is based on alarge research project on national culture differences across subsidiaries of amultinational corporation in 64 countries. The four dimensions surveyed and discussed are: Power Distance, UncertaintyAvoidance, Individualism and Masculinity.1.
The first of the four dimensions of national culture is called Power Distance. This dimension is about the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributedunequally. Thus, the basic issue involved, to which different societies havefound different solutions, is human inequality. Inequality can occur in areassuch as prestige, wealth, and power; different societies put different weightson status consistency among these areas. Inside organizations, inequality inpower is inevitable and functional. This inequality is usually formalised inhierarchical boss-subordinate relationships. According to Mulder’s PowerDistance Reduction theory, subordinates will try to reduce the power distancebetween themselves and their bosses and bosses will try to maintain orenlarge it. The present study, however, suggests that the level of powerdistance at which both tendencies will find their equilibrium is societallydetermined. Given on the following page is a summary of connotations of power distance index (PDI) differences found in the survey research byHofstede.
Summary of Connotations of PDI DifferencesLow PDI CountriesHigh PDI Countries
Parents put less value on children’sobedience.Parents put high value on children’sobedience.Students put high value onindependence.Students put high value on conformity.Authoritarian attitudes in students area matter of personality.Students show authoritarian attitudesas a social norm.Managers seen as making decisionsafter consulting with subordinates.Managers seen as making decisionsautocratically and paternalistically.Close supervision negativelyevaluated by subordinates.Close supervision positively evaluatedby subordinates.
Excerpted by Prof. Madhavi Mehta from “Culture’s consequences” by G. Hofstede (1980) for classroomdiscussion.