What is Uncertainty Avoidance?

There are many parameters and dimensions based on societies and cultures are judged. In 1980, Geert Hofstede came up with a way to look at how cultures differ. He worked out six significant elements contributing to how any given culture operates. Combining these six elements (or dimensions) paints a great picture of how a group of people thinks and acts. These dimensions consist of the Power distance index, Collectivism vs. individualism, Femininity vs. masculinity, Short-term vs. long-term orientation, Restraint vs. indulgence, and uncertainty avoidance.

Uncertainty avoidance deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; it ultimately refers to man’s search for Truth. It indicates the extent to which a culture programs its members to feel uncomfortable or uncomfortable in unstructured situations.

Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising, and different from usual. Uncertainty-avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth; there can only be one Truth, and we have it. For example, in Germany, there is reasonably high uncertainty avoidance (65) compared to countries such as Singapore (8) and neighboring country Denmark (23). Germans are not too keen on uncertainty; by planning everything carefully, they try to avoid it. In Germany, there is a society that relies on rules, laws, and regulations. Germany wants to reduce its risks to the minimum and proceed with changes step by step.

What does it signify to have low or high uncertainty avoidance?

What do the characteristics of a society have high uncertainty avoidance? Let us look at them.

  • They use formality in interactions with others.
  • These societies are orderly and maintain meticulous records
  • Rely on formalized policies and procedures
  • They take moderate, carefully calculated risks.
  • They tend to show strong resistance to change.

Similarly, societies with low uncertainty avoidance have the following observations.

  1. They use informality in interactions with others.
  2. They are comparatively less orderly and tend to keep fewer records.
  3. These societies rely more on informal norms for most matters.
  4. They don’t calculate and take risks in a more unplanned manner.
  5. These societies are not that resistant to change and show only moderate resistance.

Which countries have the highest uncertainty avoidance? Countries with high uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) include Greece (112), Japan (92), France (86), Mexico (82), Israel (81), and Germany (65).

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