XII. Uncertainty avoidance

Uncertainty expresses the deficit that people tolerate ambiguous situations and need formal rules. Uncertainty is

„the extent to which the members of a culture fell threatened by uncertain or unknown situations. One of the dimensions of national cultures (from weak to strong).“ *8

To accomplish that they will create formal rules and believe in their correctness. They will avoid anything that doesn’t go along with the rules and regulations they were creating. Because of the fact that people don’t know what will happen on the next day, the future is expressed as uncertain and this uncertainty causes anxiety. Anxiety is

„a diffuse state of being uneasy or worried about what may happen.“ *9

Anxiety is closely correlated with stress and nervousness. People get into stress when they feel pressured by time and/or uncertainty to accomplish a target or to solve a problem. That is the situation when people become nervous as close the dead line comes. But anxiety doesn’t have anything to do with fear which has an object and anxiety doesn’t have. The more cultures feel anxious the more they express their emotions by using their mimic and gestures. To show emotions might be better in the way for health because aggressions and all stored emotions can be released. This can protect from heart diseases and helps to avoid typical stress symptoms. Richard Linn, an Irish psychologist, showed also that there is a connection between a higher alcohol consume and cultures who avoid uncertainty.

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In cultures with high uncertainty avoidance emotions are displayed in the way that everything different is dangerous. They resist in changes and worry about future. Cultures with a low degree of uncertainty avoidance are open for new things and changes. They don’t have feelings of uncertainty about future.

To prevent uncertainty societies set up laws and rules like companies do. Duties and rights (internal and external) are controlled by authorities. Some cultures need to have a strong uncertainty avoidance like France. In France many strict regulations are used and tasks are heavily centralized in companies. For meetings it is important to consider that. There will be a much higher demand for details when creating a contract. This is to avoid any circumstances which could cause any kind of uncertainty for French business people. Organizing is therefore rather inflexible concerning changes which occur in business life.

Germans and Finns who have a less but still strong level of uncertainty avoidance and a medium level of power distance have the need for clearly specified competence to avoid uncertainty. In case that problems would occur it is preferable to establish specific procedures and to distribute responsibilities to task forces. Those ones should orientate on the given instructions and rules. Uncertainty can be reduced then by clearly defined roles and procedures. The co-ordination and control can be achieved through standardization and certification measurers.

Americans and Chinese (Hong Kong) have a lower need for uncertainty avoidance and rather avoid too many rules and formalities. They are more likely to stimulate innovations and emphasize new ideas. They are more flexible and more acting than reacting on changes occurring inside and outside of business. In contrast cultures with very strong uncertainty avoidance display their emotions in the way that everything that is different, is dangerous. They resist in changes and worry about their future.

*8 „Cultures and Organizations – Intercultural Cooperation and its importance for survival“ Hofstede, Geert (1994) page 263

*9 „Cultures and Organizations – Intercultural Cooperation and its importance for survival“ Hofstede, Geert (1994) page 260 (from Webster’s New World Dictionary)