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Power distance is a cultural index derived by sociologist Geert Hofstede. He identified five dimensions of culture in his study of national work related values. Replication studies have yielded very similar results, pointing to stability of the dimensions across time.

Power distance measures how much a culture has respect for authority. The Arabic-speaking nations, most of Latin America (except Argentina), Russia, and nearly all of Asia (especially India and China) are high in power distance [citation needed]. Most of Europe, Canada, Australia and Israel are low in power distance. Japan and Mediterranean-Europe fall in the middle range [citation needed].

In a high power distance culture:

  • it's acceptable for a supervisor to display his authority
  • superiors rarely give their subordinates important work
  • if something goes wrong, the subordinates are usually blamed for not doing their proper job/role
  • managers rarely interact or socialize with workers
  • teachers are treated respectfully
  • local politics are prone to totalitarianism
  • class distinctions are emphasized
  • parents are more highly respected and corporal punishment is more common
  • revolutions are, or were, common

In a low power distance culture:

  • supervisors are expected to treat employees respectfully
  • subordinates may do important work, thus having the opportunity to get promoted quickly
  • if something goes wrong, the superior/authority figure is usually blamed for having unrealistic expectations or being too strict
  • managers socialize and interact with workers more often
  • teachers are simply employees and parents are merely people
  • totalitarianism and revolutions are rare

Over time the concept has been extended to include analysis of wider forms of relationship outside the work context [citation needed].

See also



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