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March 30, 2009


Michael D. Haberman, SPHR

The Power Distance Index is one dimension of Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions. He ranks countries around the world on PDI, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainity Avoidance and Long-term Orientation. The world's average scores on these dimensions are 55-43-50-64-45 and the US scores 40-91-62-46-29. In order this means the US has a higher level of equality; very highly individualistic; high gender differentiation thus pushing women to become more assertive and competitive; a higher tolerance of a variety of ideas; and lastly, low LTO ranking is indicative of the societies' belief in meeting its obligations and tends to reflect an appreciation for cultural traditions.

It is very interesting stuff and certainly something all HR pros should be aware of, especially those in multi-cultural work situations.

Rob Russell

While I don't really argue Gladwell's workplace insights and conclusions, I do have to take particular exception to his theoretical anecdote about airline safety.

I'm a pilot myself, and I feel that what Gladwell implies about crew resource management is incredibly superficial, near-sighted, oversimplified, reactionary, unconstructive, misdirective and oversensationalized.

I wouldn't hesitate to step on to a Korean Air flight for fear of safety, but I would jump at the opportunity to fly on any non-US airline, as most other cultures still maintain an environment of professionalism, class and customer service that is abhorrently lacking in US airports and airlines.

Before drawing any conclusions about Gladwell's use of that theoretical anecdotal example of an alleged cockpit crew resource management breakdown, I hope you'd read Patrick Smith's previous discussion of Gladwell's statements:

The problems attributed to Korean Air and similar airlines are the same problems that led to tragedies in Western nations as well -- it wasn't until the early 1980s that _any_ researchers made _any_ advancements in that area on _any_ continent! You can find more background at

Dan Erwin

As a consultant who's worked with internationals and domestics who're having difficulty communicating with each other, it's a lot easier to write about these issues than deal with them face-to-face. And our socializing is so culturally thick that it takes not only coaching (which is often not available), but a lot of checking each other out. Often, the question after each breakdown is who's going to take the first checking out step.

Meg Bear

KD we always seem to be walking in parallel lives. I've been thinking about this a lot since reading the book. It made me see my work environment and myself in a different light. It also gave me a lot to think about with parenting children. While I am quite certain that it is not as simple as the book made it out to be, there is a real need to understand where our own habits and behaviors hold us back and decide which is more important for us being private or being hydrated. Thanks for writing about this.

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