Cultural similarities: India and Latin America – High power distance

by Dave

In a previous post, I’d outlined a list of culturally similar values that exist across India and Latin America. One of these is high power distance. Power distance is how cultures deal with status differences among people and the access to power that comes with those differences. In other words, how cultures or societies view inequality?

High power distance means many levels in the org chart

High power distance means many levels in the org chart

High power distance cultures tend to view inequality as normal or natural. Just as some people are more beautiful or more intelligent than others, some people have more power – and the influence that comes with it. Those with power will do everything possible to show or heighten it, and not share it . At the same time there’s an expectation for a corresponding benevolence to be shown to the underlings. What are some behaviors that manifest this cultural value?

At the workplace – 1) ‘The boss is always right’; it is not okay to openly disagree with the boss; doing favors to please the boss is good 2) Subordinates are not expected to take initiative but wait for instructions from superiors; bosses are expected to check up frequently on the work of subordinates 3) Bosses make decisions and that decision is final- if there is a problem ‘proper channels’ have to be utilized to have the decisions overturned 4) Differences between bosses and subordinates are clear – they will sit and eat separately in the company cafeteria; not socialize together; use different vehicles (in keeping with their differing places in the organizational hierarchy – e.g. BMW 5 series vs. Hyundai Accent, a company vice-president is not expected to show up to work on a bicycle, however environmental his leanings.

Outside the workplace – ‘status-consciousness’, behaviors include wearing designer clothes (Armani/Dior), using branded consumer goods (paying 2 to 3 times U.S. American or European prices to have an iPhone), sending children to the right private school/university, belonging to the right club etc.