The Power Distance Index (PDI) model is used largely to consider the psychological and sociological attitudes people take to hierarchy and power.
People in societies with a low PDI tend to underplay their authority or position in the hierarchy, with a view to sharing power equally and providing greater justification for their position, compared to those societies with a higher PDI, which place a greater emphasis on hierarchy and power, with individuals less inclined to providing justification apart from their apparent position in the hierarchy.
The PDI plays a significant role in social interactions. Cultures with a higher PDI will place great emphasis on their boss, teachers, parents and other people in positions of power relative to cultures with low PDIs whereby the sense of “hierarchical difference” is less and therefore not placing the need to respond to superiors from a starting position of submission, but rather equality.
Below is a table of countries with their respective PDIs with the top ten on the left and the bottom ten on the right.
The relative PDI impacts behaviour through various means that are far-ranging and applicable to most contexts. Within the workplace for example, a subordinate may be less likely to question a boss’s decision within the workplace if the PDI is high, as a result of the cultural connotations attached to the challenging of superior’s authority.
This is relative to the nature of UK politics, where society believes they can challenge authority, where politicians, who may be deemed to be in positions of power come under public and peer scrutiny, which is also extendable to judges and parents within those countries with a low PDI.
What is more interesting however is the cultural responses to the challenging of authorities within a same context. An example may be that a lecturer is teaching on business in the UK. A student from Denmark may challenge the lecturer on his knowledge, with fellow classmates seeing this as a strict demonstration of non-compliance and accordingly may see the student from Denmark in a certain way, even though it may have not really meant anything to the Lecturer as he is from the UK and the student from Denmark; countries with low PDIs.
What can be noted is the geographical locations of the countries with higher a higher PDI relative to countries with a lower PDI. Below is a geographical heat map that demonstrates these locations.
The heat map largely suggests two key things:
- Countries with higher or lower PDIs are not geographically far from one-another
- European and the United States have a high concentration of low PDI
There is probably a lot to be studied and to be said as to the rootings of these PDIs, however, it may be a reasonable deduction that European countries and the United States have similar PDIs as a result of their similar cultures that may stem from similar histories; relations; geographical proximity, with the same to be said with the countries with higher PDIs.
Perhaps the power distance index is one variable to be considered when managing foreign relations or more practically, when addressing individuals of different cultures.