Have you ever started a new job and felt overwhelmed by the social dynamics of the cross-cultural workplace?
Perhaps the structural hierarchy is more rigid than you’re used to?
Or maybe the norm for power dynamics is flat, leaving you confused about who’s in charge and how to gain social capital?
Last week, we talked about how fitting into a new cross-cultural company environment can be difficult, particularly in cases of transitioning from an individualist to a collectivist country – and vice versa.
But on top of that, power distance comes into play when making that transition.
Power distance refers to the degree of inequality among people that a culture considers normal.
Recalling this research from last week, we’ll cover some findings to keep in mind about power distance and social capital.
Person-organization (PO) fit refers to the extent to which an individual’s values, skills, and goals match those of the organization they work for.
The impact of PO fit on social capital varies depending on the cultural context.
Not only will collectivism-individualism moderate this relationship but so will power distance.
High Power Distance versus Low Power Distance
Research shows that in cultures where power and influence are highly valued, building social capital is especially important for success.
But, here’s the catch: in high power-distance cultures, the distance between newcomers and their supervisors may be greater, making it harder to build close relationships with those in higher positions.
To combat this, supervisors may need a strong motivation to invest in mentoring and supporting newcomers.
One such motivation could be the similarity between the supervisor and the new hire (PS fit).
In high power-distance cultures, this PS fit may be a crucial factor in building social ties and prompting supervisors to engage in active mentoring.
In contrast, in low power-distance cultures with fewer status differentials, PS fit may not be as crucial for building social capital.
Supervisors may not need the motivation of PS fit to invest in their subordinates’ social capital building because the absence of status differentials means that everyone has equal access to social networks.
For example, in a start-up company where everyone is on the same level and working towards the same goal, PS fit may not be as important as in a traditional corporate setting where there are hierarchical structures in place.
So, next time you’re hiring or starting a new job in a different cultural context, remember that cultural differences can have a big impact on social dynamics and the importance of PO fit.
By understanding these differences, you can build stronger relationships and succeed in your new workplace.
Great post! It’s interesting to see how cultural differences can impact social dynamics, particularly in a cross-cultural workplace. Have you ever started a new job and felt overwhelmed by the power dynamics in a high power-distance culture? What are some effective strategies for building social capital and developing relationships with supervisors in such environments?
Thanks for your comment. I actually experienced such a change myself, moving as young (and inexperienced) manager from Switzerland to HPD country Spain. I had to learn that it’s may be misunderstood if as boss you make your own coffee and copies. I was told, that the employees want a boss and not an assistant.