Power Distance Index is part of the 5 intercultural dimensions concept introduced by Hofstede in the mid-1970s that gauges how a culture values hierarchical relationships and respects authority. The PDI measures the distribution of power and wealth between many areas such as people in a nation, business and culture, and determines the extent to which employees or ordinary citizens submit to authority (Malaysia has the highest Power Distance Index in the world, 2012). PDI is generally lower in countries or organisations in which authority figures work closely with people, and higher in countries or organisations with a more authoritarian hierarchy. The Arab countries, Russia, India and China are countries with high PDIs while Japan, Australia and Canada experience low scores instead.
A pattern emerges from the global PDI measurements. Top ranking countries seem to be less developed and appear to be undemocratic or with imperfect democracies. These are countries with leaders who are physically and psychologically distant from their citizens.
From the PDI score, alarmingly Malaysia scored 100 in 2017. The study showed Malaysia’s rating was also in line with the general trend in Asian countries with unusually high levels of power distance. The PDI has a scale of 1 to 120. The Hofstede Centre explains this score as people generally accepting a hierarchical order in which everyone fits accordingly into the jigsaw and does not require further justification (High Power Distance Index kills entrepreneurship, 2017). This can be probably be the outcome from Malaysia’s link to colonialism and the legacy of the Malay feudal system.
Power Distance directly affects an organisation by creating inheritance of inequalities, centralisation, subordinates expecting close supervision and to be instructed on their jobs plus the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. The usual scenario in a hierarchal company is having their senior management not getting updated information, and believing in laid back treatment while junior management staff are not enthusiastic in pushing ideas forward. Innovation and creativity is almost impossible given these conditions (In Asia, Power Gets in the Way, 2012). Of course, these are generalizations.
Power Distance is easily manifested in organisations where people with authority openly demonstrate their rank and power while their subordinates are deprived of important work and decision bound, expecting clear guidance from above. However for any mismanagement, subordinates are expected to shoulder the blame. Earley and Gibson in 1998 (Theories of Organisational Culture’ in Organisational Studies) pointed out that Power distance is an important element as it influences employee behaviour and organisational structure and processes.
Although most individuals and organisations in a high Power Distance culture hold high positions, it is possible to find some individuals and organisations that may not share these same values. In a company, power inequality of the boss-subordinate relationship is impartial. The relationship between a boss and his subordinates are rarely close or personal. Being in top or middle management, leaders should try to eradicate ego and hierarchical position to listen and consent to innovative ideas from their subordinates for the betterment of their company’s transformation and continued achievement.