It’s a good thing I gained knowledge about Hofstede’s cultural dimensions before the study tour to Brighton, thanks to the MAIGC program at Kennesaw State. If not, I may have been taken aback with the casual atmosphere in some of the organizations we visited. However, it was interesting to observe firsthand what is meant by low power distance structure in organizations.
Power distance: Not an issue!
A visit to three organizations in Brighton – FUGU PR, Pergasus and Juice FM revealed that Hofstede was right in his classification of the UK as a country with low power distance structure. Low power distance countries emphasize equal distribution of power, as opposed to hierarchy and status. In each of these organizations, the only way one could tell who was in charge was based on the fact that the person had given the introductory speech. The staff of the organization were so at ease with one another and exchanged jokes!
What’s the big deal?
There really is no big deal about staff interacting freely with one another, irrespective of hierarchy at the organization, if you are from the U.S., the UK or other low power distance societies. But, as a Nigerian, I know the importance and emphasis given to hierarchy in not just organizations, but at home, school, play ground and every other place you can think of. Maybe, that’s why this cultural dimension caught my attention.
A nice change
I feel like it would be more productive to work in such an environment where everyone is at ease, with free flow of information and communication between management and staff. That way communication would have minimal chances of getting lost in “emotional noise.”
Many times, individuals miss out on certain details during communication, because of their psychological state at the time of information transfer. For example, if an employer disapproves of an employee’s work and is trying to make suggestions or corrections, the employee in a hierarchical organization would be too nervous in front of the “big boss” that is not often seen or talked to, to gain much from the interaction.
On the other hand, it’s often less difficult to manage employees that emphasize hierarchy and ranking, because they are less resistant to instructions from whoever is at the top, irrespective of age, gender or other demographics.
What to do
Since every culture has its pros and cons, an understanding of what works best in that country should be the route taken by every organization. Just as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”