Management: Power Distance Effects on Team Performance


Power distance refers to the difference in the distribution of power in the society or organizations, specifically involving the gap between those who are powerful and those who have little power. Indeed, organizations or cultures will have either low power distance or high power distance, and this status difference is viewed as a social norm (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012).

The power distance index can be used to measure the degree of power and wealth between people in organizations, nations, or even cultures. Again, this concept or principle is always used to compare different organizations; it also helps to establish whether an organization has low power distance or high power distance.

The power distance concept always seeks to indicate and demonstrate the degree to which the subordinate employees in an organization or the general members of an organization submit to the people in authority and power.

To begin with, organizations with low power distance always expect democracy and employee consultation system, where the subordinate employees are allowed to contribute to the decision-making process in the organization (Thye & Lawler, 2006).

On the other hand, organizations with high power distance are always not free to allow subordinate employees to participate in the decision-making process in the organizations; in such high power distance system, the boss has the final decision (Locke & Latham, 2013).

In this system, employees are always affected if there is any negative change that is taking place in the organization because they must respect the authority and they are always expected to be submissive to their leaders without compromise. In this high power distance system, there is no questioning of the leaders, who are always expected to be right; leaders also tend to be earning more money and more respect.

The power distance index is always lower in organizations where the authority is working closely with employees and giving the employees more consideration towards decision-making. However, the power distance index is higher in organizations where the authority does not involve employees in the decision-making process, and mostly uses the authoritative method of leadership (Locke & Latham, 2013).

Therefore, it is clear that power distance is the method characterized by the extent and degree to which people in an organization consider and accept that power, status, and privileges are not distributed equally among individuals in the organization (Thye & Lawler, 2006).

This makes power distribution in the organization to have less influence in their lives. To avoid this problem, it is important that power, privileges, and even relationships between those in authority and the subordinates in an organization be given equal consideration, especially through power decentralization (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012).

Effect of Power Distance on Team Performance

High Power and Low Power Distance

In most cases, those who are in authority or leadership roles are always associated with power and another status. In some organizations, the distinction between the leaders and other ordinary employees is symbolized using company vehicles given to them, the location of their offices, their rank, or titles given to them.

Again, in some organizations, power distance always has a strong effect on the performance of the team or employees. For example, in low power distance situations, there is always a lack of job satisfaction compared to high power distance environment. Therefore, proper team performance can be enhanced through the adoption of high power distance (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012).

Also, in most organizations, there is always an unequal distribution of power and status, and most people expect this to be so. In most cases, employees must abide by the directives made by management without compromise, specifically in high power distance environments.

In other cases, the authority and the management sometimes have equal rights, while the management and other leaders are always willing to motivate employees in a participative manner. In such cases, the employees are allowed to have input in the decision-making process of the organization as well be allowed to share in setting organization’s goals, a process known as low power distance system (Michaelsen, ‎ Parmelee & McMahon, 2008).

In some cases of high power distance, employees are always intimidated by the authority’s command, making the employees less willing to challenge and compromise their leaders’ performance. This results from the fact that the employees fear their leaders, as they seek to protect their jobs; indeed, they may do everything to ensure that they are not in disagreement with their leaders.

In such cases, the subordinates’ views are not taken into consideration, as their opinions may be seen as not in agreement with their leaders’ opinions. In such cases, the power distance has a great effect on team performance, as it will affect the expectations and preferences of subordinates.

This is because the employees and other subordinates cannot express their views due to fear of reprisal by the management, and those who are in authority.

The fact that subordinates’ views and opinions are not heard derails the expectations of employees, leading to low morale and hence, poor performance in the organization. Therefore, it is important that a more democratic leadership be adopted, which involves listening to the needs and wants of subordinates (Locke & Latham, 2013).

Power distance has a close connection with perceptions that many people hold about leadership is one of the systems associated with the cultural perception of leadership. For example, some subordinates always expect those in power and authority to be bold, calm, and intelligent in decision-making.

In such cultures, the level of teamwork portrayed by subordinates will be affected when the authorities or those in power display characteristics that are not by their expectations. In most cultures, there are specific positive attributes and characteristics that a leader has to portray or exhibit at all times. Any display of a negative characteristic by the leader is always viewed as a discouraging factor for team performance.

Again, in different cultures, people prefer different systems of power distance; for example, some cultures prefer high power distance while others prefer low power distance. Therefore, the power distance contributes both negatively and positively towards employees or team’s performance.

It all depends on the culture and its preference for high or low power distance. Nevertheless, employees need to focus on the acceptance and support of the authority’s direction and directives (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012).

Lastly, for effective team performance, it is important that those who work under high power distance organizations be willing to support those in authority. This is because, in high power distance, the greater the power distance in an organization, the more the employees will be obligated to support those in authority.

On the other hand, in an organization with low power distance, it is always important to seek to engage all members of the organization in making decisions, unlike in high power distance that focuses on gaining support from those in authority (Michaelsen,‎ Parmelee & McMahon, 2008).

In addition, for more effective power distance, it is important that those who are in authority have the ability to apply formal rules and procedures in management of the subordinates, as this will enable the subordinates to follow directives, rules, and policies, thereby encouraging effective team performance (Thye & Lawler, 2006).

Organization Learning

There are various types of learning in organizations, among them being operational learning to conceptual learning. To begin with, operational learning is the process that involves the transfer and acquisition of skills, values, and knowledge through practice and experience. On the other hand, conceptual learning is the process that involves transfer and creation of knowledge through the transformation of experiences.

Therefore, learning as a process increases people’s capacity to take appropriate actions. Another type of learning is situational learning, where an individual encounters a problem and improvises ways to solve the problem on the spot. Other learning methods include opportunistic learning and fragmented learning.

For effective, sustained existence of any organization, it is important that continuous learning is enhanced consciously or unconsciously.

This is because continuous learning is the only way the organization will be able to develop skills and capabilities essential in pursuing its objectives; this can always be done individually or through organized team learning. Generally, individual learning mainly precedes organizational learning (Locke & Latham, 2013).

On the other hand, organizational learning requires employees to be motivated to enhance proper, better, and effective learning to take place. Again, there is a need for continuous rewards to enable the employees to focus on organizational learning. In most cases, the organization always learns through its members; therefore, it is clear that organizational learning is greatly affected by individual learning.

However, most organizations always tend to protect their status quo by precluding others from challenging them, hence allowing little learning to take place. Nevertheless, there is always a need for rewards and motivation to allow proper organizational learning to take place (Locke & Latham, 2013).

Team Learning

Team learning is an instructional strategy and method of learning mainly used in developing skills and values in an organization or workplace. This kind of learning has many advantages, one of them being allowing the effectiveness of diversity of skills, as a group of employees comes together to diversify their skills (Michaelsen,‎ Parmelee & McMahon, 2008).

Again, through this learning, team building and socializing skills are built, and those who seem uninterested are encouraged by fellow members. Also, through team learning, interpersonal skills are developed, as employees are provided with an environment for interacting with each other.

One problem with team-based learning is that some people do not like working in groups, and this can lead to a feeling of loss of interest in team learning. Again, some members of the group can become lazy when working in groups, leading to poor or inadequate skills in the team learning process.

Also, when individuals work as a team, there are always chances of conflict arising, leading to intimidation of some individuals. Moreover, in some cases, there are always chances of delayed decision-making, leading to poor work; hence, there is need of trainer to help employees in some cases of problems.


From the discussion above, it is clear that power distance has a significant effect on team performance. Generally, in cases where there is a high power distance system, employees rarely give out their views and opinions; hence, they are not involved in the decision-making process.

On the other hand, in cases of low power distance, employees are involved in the decision-making process of the organization; hence, they contribute their views and opinions successfully.

For proper organizational learning to take place, there is always a need for motivation and rewards to encourage the members of the organization to be involved in the learning process. Additionally, independent learning is always mainly geared towards the organizational goals and self-improvement of an individual. Again, independent learning is self-directed learning that allows individuals the capability to solve their problems.

Therefore, it is important that most of the organization’s gear towards independent learning since it fosters creativity and allows most of the concept to stick to an individual’s mind. Again, it is very efficient and effective, as once mastered, the concept will flow easily.

Nevertheless, team learning helps individuals to develop interpersonal skills and make learning more interesting, as diversity is achieved. Indeed, teamwork is one of the most effective tools that organizations use to enhance skills development as well as overall organizational performance; diversity, and team building are necessary ingredients for success in organizations.

This is despite the drawbacks associated with team learning, especially the tendency of some employees to be joy riders in team operations and duties, as well as the likelihood of conflicts emerging due to differences in opinions.


Locke, E., & Latham, G. (2013). New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance. London, England: Routledge.

Michaelsen, L., ‎ Parmelee, D., & McMahon, K. (2008). Team-based Learning for Health Professions Education: A Guide to Using Small groups for Improving Learning. Virginia, USA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Samovar, L., Porter, R., & McDaniel, E. (2012). Communication between Cultures. Boston, USA: Cengage Learning.

Thye, S., & Lawler, E. (2006). Social Psychology of the Workplace. Bingley, England: Emerald Group Publishing.

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