Power Distance Index

The Power Distance Index (PDI) is one of the five intercultural dimensions developed by Hofstede. In short this cultural dimension looks at how much a culture does or does not value hierarchical relationships and respect for authority.

Examples of cultures with high PDI scores include Arabic speaking countries, Russia, India and China. Those with low scores include Japan, Australia and Canada. See a world map of power distance index scores.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

In a high power distance cultures the following may be observed:

. Those in authority openly demonstrate their rank.
. Subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above.
. Subordinates are expected to take the blame for things going wrong.
. The relationship between boss and subordinate is rarely close/personal.
. Politics is prone to totalitarianism.
. Class divisions within society are accepted.

In a low power distance culture:

. Superiors treat subordinates with respect and do not pull rank.
. Subordinates are entrusted with important assignments.
. Blame is either shared or very often accepted by the superior due to it being their responsibility to manage.
. Managers may often socialise with subordinates.
. Liberal democracies are the norm.
. Societies lean more towards egalitarianism.

Intercultural Business Communication Tips

If you are working with or going to a country with a higher PDI than yours then:

- give clear and explicit directions to those working with you. Deadlines should be highlighted and stressed. 
- do not expect subordinates to take initiative. 
- be more authoritarian in your management style. Relationships with staff may be more distant than you are used to.
- show respect and deference to those higher up the ladder. This is usually reflected through language, behaviour and protocol. 
- expect to encounter more bureaucracy in organizations and government agencies.

If you are working with or going to a country with a lower PDI than yours then:

- don't expect to be treated with the usual respect or deference you may be used to.
- people will want to get to know you in an informal manner with little protocol or etiquette.
- be more inclusive in your management or leadership style as being directive will be poorly interpreted.
- involve others in decision making.
- do not base judgements of people on appearance, demeanor, privileges or status symbols. 

Read about Hofstede's other intercultural dimensions:
Uncertainty Avoidance