Power distance and workplace politics—Asia

Power distance & workplace politics—Asia

According to Geert Hofstede, most Asian countries (with the exception of China) are among the highest in the world in Power Distance. Typically, societies high on this scale have large gaps between social classes and large differences in authority and rank. This means that individuals accept and expect that power will be unequal. There exists a complicated hierarchy in almost every organization that places people according to rank. Status is gained with experience, and this is why elders are highly regarded. Unlike in Western cultures that value youth, Asian nations consider youth to be a sign of immaturity. Those that are older are felt to be more knowledgeable, and thus they are typically of higher rank. Keep this in mind when choosing your representative. Your selection should correlate not only with age but also with an appropriate position in the company.

You must also correctly position yourself in your communications. Attire, choice of entertainment, and body language all correlate with status. To help establish a positive relationship, stress those attributes that are most valued.

Asian cultures are high in Uncertainty Avoidance and consider unsure situations dangerous. Risk taking is looked down upon, and this is why job security is highly prized. It is unusual to work for multiple companies or in several industries during one’s career. Loyalty to the employing organization is a sign that the individual is mature and can be trusted. Demonstrating your commitment to your company and business may help augment your credibility.

Recognizing and respecting the hierarchy is important. In all business situations, acknowledging your host’s social status is key. It can help you demonstrate your dedication and loyalty to your endeavor as well as strengthen your relationships with your Asian counterparts.

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