Power Distance in Companies

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Swedish management is based on the idea that the individual is both willing and able to do a good job. A Swedish manager tends to think of himself as a coach rather than a commander, and he often delegates tasks and authority to his staff. Swedish organizations, employees on all levels have the freedom to make decisions and solve unexpected problems without asking superiors for permission.

A good manager, according to Swedish standards, is a person who takes advantage of the natural creativity and motivation of his staff. He should lead the emploees not through his power or formal position, but through the principles of cooperation and agreement. Being a good listener is considered to be another important quality. In discussions with his staff, a professional manager should use reason and base his views on facts. Getting emotional when discussing a problem is considered rather inappropriate. Power Distance

The power distance in Swedish companies is among the smallest in the world, according to a study of 40 countries in 1984. 'Power distance' can be defined as "the extent to which people in a hierarchical situation feel they can and should control the behavior of others, and the extent to which those others are conditioned by reflexes of obedience". In Swedish companies, the concept of power distance is largely replaced by personal responsibility.

Personal status is of relatively small importance in Swedish business life. Managers only rarely give signals of their own status and employees normally don't feel inferior to them. An executive is most of all considered to be a specialist in managing companies and he is therefore not socially superior to a specialist in any other field. In this respect, Sweden seems to differ from many other countries. A further sign of the non-hierarchic (or, better, modestly hierarchic) Swedish company structure is that Swedes normally use their first names at work.
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