Understanding the relationships among people of different ranks is an essential component of the business world. Power distance is the degree to which members of a society adhere to distinctions of importance and accept or adapt to inequalities of status.

Cultures may have either a high or low power distance. Countries with low power distances tend to minimize inequalities and encourge individual differences. These societies, such as the United States, Israel, Switzerland, and Ireland, have less formal social interaction. Roles are less rigid and demographics are not very relevant. In low-power distance societies, equality governs most interaction between superiors and subordinates.

High power distance societies use power and authority as their golden rule. Social relationships, especially among those of differing ranks, are authoritarian and based on one's status within the heirarchy. In countries like Brazil, Asia, India, and Columbia demographic differences are magnified. Acceptance is based solely upon gender, age, and seniority rather than the merit of one's work.

Communication between members of opposing viewpoints is often filled with friction and frustration. Increased knowledge, respect and understanding about the differentiations between power distance groups is the only way to cancel out these difficulties.


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Last updated: 17 April, 2002
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