Uncertainty avoidance is the degree to which people in a country prefer structured over unstructured situations. In a country with a high uncertainty avoidance, majority of people have an increased level of anxiety about uncertainty and ambiguity (about future processes and states). Such cultures tend to emphasise strict laws, regulations, and controls that are designed to reduce uncertainty. In cultures that score low on an uncertainty avoidance, individuals are less dismayed by ambiguity and uncertainty and have a greater tolerance for a variety of options. Such countries are less rule-oriented, people take more risks, and more readily accept change. Hofstede proposed uncertainty avoidance index as a measure for this particular cultural dimension. This measure reflect extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have beliefs and solutions that help to avoid these situations.
Culture dimension of uncertainty avoidance
People from low uncertainty avoidance cultures prefer formal and strict rules to be created and avoid actions that do not go along with these rules. Employees as well as their bosses believe that everything that is new or different is dangerous and risky. They are usually worried about the future and resist changes.
Cultures described as open and innovative always have low Uncertainty Avoidance Index.
Hofstede's culture dimensions have been influential on organizational behaviour (OB) researchers and managers. Nevertheless, his research has been criticized. First, although the data have since been updated, the original data are from 30 years ago and were based on a single company (IBM). Second, few researchers have read the details of his methodology closely and therefore are unaware of the many decisions he had to make (for example, reducing cultural values to just five). Despite these concerns, Hofstede has been one of the most widely cited social scientists ever.
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- The Hofstede Centre website