How powerful are bosses in different cultures?

Have you ever wondered why people from different cultures have different ways of acting with their bosses?

Power distance is a way to explain the differences between groups in a system. It reflects a culture’s attitude in human inequality.

Low Power Distance

People in a low power distance cultures seem to have an egalitarian relationship with one another. They expect and accept power relations that are more democratic. Supervisors/leaders and subordinates/citizens have almost equal levels of power regardless of their social status. For example, bosses are much closer to their employees. Also, instructions can be challenged; subordinates can criticize and give opinion about a supervisor’s works.

High Power Distance

In contrast with low power distance, people in high power distance cultures seem to have a hierarchical relationship with others. For instance, subordinates would let their bosses make decision and decide who is responsible for what. Also, ordinary citizens would let the leaders make decisions and orders are often unquestioned.

It seems that in Thai culture, people tend to accept a higher degree of unequally distributed power than people in American culture. Basically, every relationship among Thai people has a different status. In Thai culture, subordinates will comply with their supervisor rather than challenge him or her. They will not try to come up with their own solutions in dealing with conflict. They will be assigned to do a job and hardly question or criticize their managers.

Power Distance Index

Geert Hofstede, Dutch sociologist , proposed the Power Distance Index to measure the distribution of power and wealth between people in a nation, business or culture. Clearly Cultural blog says that “Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally”. Hierarchical societies tend to accept more power distance than egalitarian societies.


Power Distance Index (PDI)

Some high power index countries are:

Malaysia: 104

Philippines: 94

Indonesia: 78

Thailand: 64

Some low power index countries are:

United States: 40

United Kingdom: 35

New Zealand: 22

Austria: 11

Related content:

Power Distance

The Hofstede Center

Read about Hofstede’s other intercultural dimensions:



Uncertainty Avoidance 


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