power distance in comms

Penduluming feedback

In my career I’ve received feedback on my comms. This is partly because I actively seek it out, comms are important. It is also partly because my default state – which I work hard to moderate – is to be direct, or blunt.

Until recently, all the feedback I received was to moderate my comms to be less blunt. To share more of the background and context.

As I started to work more closely with the most senior members of our org, the I started receiving feedback to be more direct.

First, this was confusing, and second I recognised these two pieces of feedback as pattern of penduluming (which I’ve written about before).

I now understand these two conflicting pieces of feedback as the result of the “Power-Distance Index” (PDI).

Power-Distance index

The Power-Distance Index measures and explains the extent to which populations (in countries, organisations, families, etc) accept that those ‘at the top’ will have more power than those ‘at the bottom’.

A low index expects a less rigid or authoritarian system, a high index expects clear hierarchy and unchallenged authority.

In comms

Power-Distance gave me a mental model for how I should communicate.

The power-distance between me and the person I am communicating with controls how direct or blunt I should be.

If we are peers, or the other person is high-power (senior), then I should be more blunt. If I am talking with a more junior member of staff, I should be more moderated, and less direct.