Power DistanceGeert Hofstede is an organizational anthropologist from the Netherlands who did his research within large, multinational corporations. It should be applied to negotiations outside commercial settings with care, but it is useful to look at it because of the dimensions of difference he identified across national cultures. Hofstede uses the idea of power distance to describe the degree of deference and acceptance of unequal power between people.Cultures where there is a comfort with high power distance are those where some people are considered superior to others because of their social status, gender, race, age, education, birth, personal achievements, family background or other factors. Cultures with low power distance tend to assume equality among people, and focus more on earned status than ascribed status. Generally, the more unequally wealth is distributed, the higher will be the power distance in any national setting. According to Hofstede, national cultures with a high power distance include Arab countries, Guatemala, Malaysia, the Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, and India. Negotiators from these countries tend to be comfortable with
- hierarchical structures,
- clear authority figures, and
- the right to use power with discretion.Countries with a low power distance include Austria, Denmark, Israel, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Britain, and Germany. Negotiators from these countries tend to be comfortable with
- democratic structures and flat organizational hierarchies,
- shared authority,
- the right to use power only in limited circumstances and for legitimate purposes.