Part 3: Autism and Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory - Working well with those in authority

Hofstede’s Power Distance Index (PDI) measures how we perceive the hierarchical authority in a given situation (family, work, etc.). On one end you have more autocratic and/or authoritative expectations where someone decides for the rest and with a limited group of influencers making the decision. On the other end are the more egalitarian and/or democratic cultures where everyone has equal rights and decisions tend to be made with a more cooperative input scheme (voting, meetings etc.). For clear examples think of the Big Brother government as one extreme and the Hobbesian state of nature on the other.  The US, Canada and England fall just to the Hobbesian side of middle meaning that as a culture they expect a certain level or power distance but that there is also a sense of equality and expected involvement in decisions.  For more countries please see the World Map provided here.

For those of us on the Spectrum being in the middle is probably a horrible place; I suspect that we would rather know exactly what was expected or that nothing was expected. For instance we may not know when the power role ends and the equality role begins: “I could never tell when he was being my boss and when he was being my friend” (source) and then act in ways that are inappropriate for the expected relationship or, as in the case of the article in question, fail to protect ourselves when the relationship is being abused.

For myself I will often use humor to defuse a tense situation but in the case of being dressed down by my manager for flaws this is a poor course. I may be able to disagree with them but it needs to be in a sober straightforward way or with light humor. To be honest I am still working on that aspect of my inter-work relationships.

Thankfully Kwintessential has a list of tips available on their site on how to deal with those who are above or below the score on scale (tips).  Using the map and the tips you can make a general assumption about the environment you are heading into; be warmed though, an individual boss may be from a different culture in which case their expectations may be different from the general population.  Learn about your boss, watch how they treat others and how others treat them. That should give you an idea of what they will expect and where they might fall in relation to yourself on the PDI.

As for inside the Autism subculture I suspect that we are much further towards the egalitarian side of the index. Whether learned from our experiences in dealing with difficult authority figures (teachers, parents, adults, bosses) or innate is beyond me and I have not found any studies on this yet.  This may come into major conflict where someone expects to be treated with a certain level of respect and instead we are familiar and informal with them.

The conflicts we experience at work may come down to our mis-perception of the Power Distance Index that then colors our interactions with people in different levels of authority. In addition to the normal communication steps we need to follow (eliminate the pedantic conversation, listen well to others, etc) a weather eye on the Power Distance Index will help smooth things over with those in positions of authority.

Helpful links:

World Map of Power Distance Index Scores

Tips on dealing with Power Distance Index differences

Scott J. Shea is the proprietor of Job Sink, offering career advice and exploring employment issues and workplace difficulties faced by those on the autism spectrum.

Part 3: Autism and Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory - Working well with those in authority, the third in a series of eight, appears here by permission.

>Part 1<-

->Part 2<-

->Part 4<-

->Part 5<-

->Part 6<-

->Part 7<-

->Part 8<-

->Part 9<

[image via Psychology Wiki]

on 08/2/11 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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