Uncertainty avoidance is the level of stress that an organization, society or culture experiences when faced with uncertainty and ambiguity. This is commonly used to model the character of a nation or organization. The following are illustrative examples of uncertainty avoidance.
Conventional IdeasUncertainty avoidance is associated with strong belief in conventional ideas.
LoyaltyLoyalty to institutions and established entities. For example, customer loyalty to well established brands may be stronger in a nation with high uncertainty avoidance.
Rules & ProceduresStrict systematization of things such that everything follows a predictable rule or procedure.
Low levels of risk taking and systems that afford safety and security. For example, nations with high uncertainty avoidance may have systems of lifetime employment whereby dismissals are rare and turnover is low.
Power StructuresStrict hierarchical power structures such that people at the bottom are unlikely to question authority. This avoids uncertainty by giving everyone a clearly defined role.
TraditionMaintenance of tradition such that culture changes slowly.
FormalitiesAn uncertainty avoiding culture may feature many social norms that guide social interaction such as rules of politeness.
PoliticsCitizens in an uncertainty avoiding culture may be disengaged from politics. A political party may retain power for a long period of time as people may vote against change as opposed to voting based on the performance of the government.
An aversion to brave ideas, particularly from low ranking individuals. Organizations with high uncertainty avoidance may attempt to create formal systems for creativity such as an executive who is responsible for innovation.
PlanningDetailed planning and organization.Uncertainty avoidance is associated with detail-oriented workers who work diligently such that they are relatively unlikely to make mistakes or take shortcuts.
ChangeUncertainty avoidance is one of the primary drivers of resistance to change, a common tendency to try to derail changes that threaten the status quo.
NotesThe term uncertainty avoidance is primarily associated with Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, who theorized that uncertainty avoidance is one of the primary dimensions that explain the differences between cultures and societies.The other dimensions of Hofstede's theory are: power distance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, long term versus short term orientation and indulgence versus restraint.Nations that score high for uncertainty avoidance include Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Japan, France, Argentina, Chile, Turkey and South Korea.Nations that score low for uncertainty avoidance, indicating they are comfortable with uncertainty, include Singapore, Denmark, Sweden, China, United Kingdom, India, Malaysia and the United States.Countries that score neither high nor particularly low include Germany, Canada, Australia, Norway and Netherlands.
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ReferencesFernandez, Denise Rotondo, et al. "Hofstede's country classification 25 years later." The Journal of social psychology 137.1 (1997): 43-54.Shane, Scott. "Uncertainty avoidance and the preference for innovation championing roles." Journal of International Business Studies 26.1 (1995): 47-68.Hodgetts, Richard. "A conversation with Geert Hofstede." Organizational Dynamics 21.4 (1993): 53-62.
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