How to Avoid Power Problems at Work

5/6/2014

How do individuals view differentiating power relations at work? Hierarchy orientations mean a high degree of acceptance of power difference and social stratification, the premise being that your role in the organization will determine how much you need to know. Most Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are generally hierarchical.

On the opposing end of the continuum is the equality preference, where there is little tolerance for differentiating power and a minimization of social stratification. Most countries in North America and Western Europe generally have a preference for equality.

This is my personal story. I have a very strong hierarchical preference. Some of the factors and experiences from my life that defined this preference are being raised in a traditional Indian family environment where women do not speak up or share what they are thinking, children take direction from family elders, and individualist thinking and behavior is considered selfish, arrogant and disrespectful.

In my first job in the United States I was totally miserable. I could never understand how Americans communicate. I felt that trying to speak was like a race, and only if you got to the finish line you could say something. I would wait for silence to provide an opinion.  Well, silence never came, and so I never said anything.

I waited for my manager and peers to ask me to take on tasks and own projects. But that never happened. I felt like a complete misfit. For six months I tolerated this misery. Finally, I understood that I either had to quit or do something about it.

By learning about my preferences and those of my US American colleagues, I was able to adjust my thoughts and behavior and finally learn to communicate, which helped make work a more enjoyable experience.

Ila Gandhi