With increased globalisation and workforce migration one can only imagine how many different people and cultures with extreme differences in PDI will be engaging with one another or even working together in the same company. So naturally interesting patterns of behaviour will emerge in this patchwork of nationalities with a dependance on the location the meet or engage. If high PDI meets low PDI in a high PDI culture the extent of inequality will be greater than visa versa, as the environment will force a certain adjustment especially of the high PDI group.
Now picture for example a Danish person who works with a Filipino, not even in a boss – subordinate scenario, the Filipino in a high PDI country, say Singapore, will automatically put himself below the European because of perceived superiority (they conquered us hundreds of years ago, hence...) and their extreme high PDI. This is fuelled by both being located in a high PDI country. If the same two would meet in Denmark the situation would be far less extreme and maybe closing over time as the Filipino will adjust to the low PDI environment he or she lives in. It is important here is to remember that this is the view from the bottom, or the person in a lower position or who simply feels to be in one.
Many times when working with Asian people I realised that they would not question a decision made or proposed, even though it turned out later that it was the wrong and they already knew that it will go wrong because of their closer proximity to the issue. Low PDI people like myself, unaware of the cultural predisposition, would view that as non-engaged or ignorant but actually it is down to their high PDI that they would not dare to question authority and not neglect.
Often the outcomes are not disastrous but they could be and have been and the past safety record of South Korean Airlines showed. Historically Korean airlines had abysmal safety records. They’ve gotten better over recent years, but going back a couple of decades, Korean Air had a terrible safety record.
Korean cockpit culture was almost unarguably the primary cause of this. Korean society is very hierarchical and respectful, and a lot of the accidents have simply come down to first officers not wanting to question the decisions of captains, given that they’d basically be “insulting” them.
Now, who would have thought that such cultural attitudes would lead to such disastrous outcomes as in the case of Korean Air. I strongly believe that there is a relatively simple way to counter such developments or outcomes by mixing people with different levels of PDI to achieve a more homogeneous and balanced average score.
I have seen and worked in such blended environments and they are, besides some other cultural benefits, very successful in balancing the PDI amongst people in an organisation. The Filipino gets a bit more courage and the Dane gets a bit more respectful and appreciative. It is relevant to understand that it is not about manipulating old cultural traits but to modify them for the better. As humanity progresses and learns, one would hope at least, this is just another yet very important step of learning and improving as society.
There will be a general improvement over the generations to come as globalisation marches on, our mixed cultural engagements will increase and also lead to more inter racial and cultural marriage. The generations born out of these relationships will have already have a different view on the world, people and power.
Understanding PDI and its workings, as well as some other factors Hofstede looked into in his cultural dimension framework, is crucial not just within international settings but also in domestic ones where countries or people with high PDI might cause damage or danger due to overly extreme obedience. Of course this needs to be influenced by the ones in power as the others obviously can’t and it is the DUTY of every respectable leader to promote this change, implement it and execute it vigorously. There will be small benefits already in the present but great one in the future.
As you can see from the grouping below the large extent of the of the differences is not a regional divide but there is a wide range between countries in the same region. Besides the Middle East and Africa, where thy PDI seems to be the most homogenous between countries, Asia, Europe and Americas show a different picture.
When looking at the PDI ranking from the results of the study, one can quickly see that there is a massive difference between the country with the highest PDI score which is Malaysia and the one with the lowest PDI score which is Austria. (The place I'm from actually - no need to come to premature conclusions)
Blind Obedience is not Respect!
Did you know that your obedience level is largely culturally influenced
by your place of origin and not by the family circumstance you have
been brought up in?
Even if you are from a respected, powerful family you will still be more
subservient to a more powerful person if you are from a high
"Power Distance Index - PDI" country compared to someone grown up
in a low PDI country.
Geert Hofstede developed his original model of the “cultural dimension framework” to examine the results of a world-wide survey of employee values by IBM between 1967 and 1973. The model had originally only for different dimensions but has been extend to 6 in total by 2010.
This outstanding work of research in practise, in my opinion, offers meaningful understanding of and conclusions to various challenges I have observed in my time working within multi-cultural environments in different regions around the world.
Out of the six dimensions the most important one for me is the PDI, Power Distance Index, which measures the extent to which the less powerful members of organisations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders. However there is clearly a benefit the leaders enjoy from that situation and i cant help myself but feeling that they might not have or doing a lot to really change that. Not the past generations but the new ones will.
The table below shows the key opposite dimensions of small power and large power distance societies.