Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in
the workplace are influenced by culture. The six dimensions of national culture
are based on extensive research done by Professor Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan
Hofstede, Michael Minkov and their research teams. He analysed a large database of employee value scores
collected within IBM between 1967 and 1973. The data covered more than 70
countries, from which Hofstede first used the 40 countries with the largest
groups of respondents and afterwards extended the analysis to 50 countries and
3 regions. Subsequent studies validating the earlier results include such
respondent groups as commercial airline pilots and students in 23 countries,
civil service managers in 14 countries, ‘up-market’ consumers in 15 countries,
and ‘elites’ in 19 countries. In the 2010 edition of the book, “Cultures and
Organizations: Software of the Mind”, scores on the dimensions are listed for
76 countries, partly based on replications and extensions of the IBM study on
different international populations and by different scholars (Hofstede
The dimensions of the
Distance Index (PDI)
vs Collectivism (IDV)
vs Femininity (MAS)
Avoidance Index (UAI)
Term Orientation vs Short Term Orientation (LTO)
versus Restraint (IND)
Avoidance shows the level which the individual of a society feel uncomfortable
with uncertainty and ambiguity. The main issue here is how a society deals with
the element that the future can never be known. Through the below analyzsis I
will discuss about the chapter six; What
Is Different Is Dangerous from Hofstede’s book- Cultures and Organization and it will be more interesting to disscuss
more about Uncertainty Avoidance in the Family, School, Workplace and shopping.
The Avoidance of Uncertainty
Uncertainty avoidance is
the fourth dimension found in the IBM research project after power distance,
individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity. Each country and region
in this project could be assigned an uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) score. This dimension focuses on how
cultures adapt to changes and cope with uncertainty.
The uncertainty is a subjective experience, a feeling.
As an example, as Hofstede mentioned in the book, “A lion tamer may feel
reasonably comfortable when surrounded by his animals, a situation that would
make most of us almost die from fear. You may feel reasonably comfortable when
driving on a crowded freeway at fifty-five miles per hour or more, a situation
that, statistically, is probably riskier than the lion tamer’s”(Hofstede,
Hofstede and Minkov, 2010).
human being of any country has to face for this uncertainty at every next second
of their lives. Though how much we are developed with the technologies, today
even we don’t know 100% what will happen tomorrow or what will happen in the
next minute but still we have to live with this uncertainty. Great ambiguity
creates intolerable anxiety. Every human society has developed ways to avoid
this anxiety by technology, law and religion.
Measuring the (In) tolerance of
Ambiguity in Society:
Power distance discovered the
uncertainty avoidance among difference countries. There were three questions
have been asked from the employees through the IBM research; 1) Job stress, 2) Agreement
with the statement “Company rules should not be broken and 3) How long do you
?think you will continue working for IBM? Employees have given different
answers for three questions where as the researchers found there is no
correlation between three answers sometimes. So, if in a country more people
felt under stress at work, in the same country more people wanted rules to be
respected, and more people wanted to have a long-term career. Which means the
feelings they have express for these three questions were no need to be the
Therefore as according to the Hofstede; Uncertainty
avoidance can be defined as the extent to which the members of a culture feel
threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations” (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov,
The Uncertainty-Avoidance Index
Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) Values
for seventy-six Countries and Regions Based on Three Items in the IBM Database
Plus Extensions. The formula was developed as each of the three questions would
contribute equally to the final index and index values would range from around
0 for the country with the weakest uncertainty avoidance to around 100 for the
strongest. (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010).
The highest scores occur for Latin American, Latin
European, and Mediterranean countries, high are the scores of Japan and South
Korea, Medium high are the scores of the German-speaking countries Austria,
Germany, and Switzerland and Medium to low are the scores of all Asian countries
other than Japan and Korea, for the African countries, and for the Anglo and
Nordic countries plus the Netherlands West Germany and Great Britain. This
confirms a culture gap between these otherwise similar countries with regard to
the avoidance of uncertainty, as illustrated in the story with which this
chapter opened (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010).
Uncertainty Avoidance and Anxiety
According to the Richard Lynn (an Irish psychologist)
has found from his studies, anxiety levels are quite low in weak uncertainty-avoidance
countries. Some cultures are more anxious than others. Anxious cultures tend to
be expressive cultures, as an example they use their hands more when they are
talking and they are very emotional.
Uncertainty Avoidance Is Not the Same as Risk Avoidance
Risk is frequently can expressed as a percentage of
probability for a situation but anxiety and uncertainty are both dispersed feelings.
Uncertainty cannot be expressed with a probability. It is a situation in which
anything can happen and we have no idea and control of it.
The analysis of the IBM data shows a correlation
between the strength of uncertainty avoidance in a country and the maximum
speeds allowed in freeway traffic in that country because they have more secure
with negative situations (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov,
According to Occupation, Gender, and Age
The analysis of the IBM data across the thirty-eight
available occupations did not permit the use of the UAI for characterizing
occupations. The reason is that the three questions used to compute the index
for countries (stress, rule orientation and intent to stay) had different
meanings for different occupations, so that across occupations, the three were
not correlated. In countries in which IBM employees were older, we found higher
stress, more rule orientation, and a stronger intent to stay.
Uncertainty Avoidance in the Family
Most high UAI countries’ children what learn first is
that the differences between clean and dirty and between safe and dangerous. So
then thoughts/ideas too can be considered dirty and dangerous. Children in
their families learn that some ideas are good and others bad. The stronger
systems of rules and norms in strongly uncertainty- avoiding societies make
children more often feel guilty and sinful. Children in these societies are
more likely to learn that the world is an aggressive place and are more likely
to be protected from experiencing unknown situations.
Weak uncertainty-avoidance cultures also have their categories
as to dirt and danger, but these categories are less specific and more likely
to give the benefit of the doubt to unknown situations, people and ideas. The
less-flexible system of rules and norms for children in stronger
uncertainty-avoiding cultures is also reflected in language. Family life in
high UAI societies is mainly more stressful than where UAI is low. Feelings are
more strong and both parents and children express their positive feelings as
well as their negative feelings more emotionally.
Uncertainty Avoidance, Health, and (Un)
Self-ratings of health across countries tend to
correlate negatively with UAI (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov,
2010). People in
uncertainty-tolerant countries still feel healthier. A country’s
uncertainty-avoidance norm is also reflected in the way health-care resources
are spent. Uncertainty-avoiding countries tend to spend more money on doctors,
while uncertainty-accepting countries spend more on nurses.
Most Germans preferred structured learning situations
with accurate objectives, detailed assignments, and strict timetables. They
liked situations in which there was one correct answer that they could find.
These factors are typical for stronger uncertainty-avoidance countries. They
liked open-ended learning, broad assignments, and no timetables at all. There
is no any exact correct answer most of the time. Students
from strong uncertainty-avoidance countries expect their teachers to be the
experts who have all the answers. Students from weak uncertainty-avoidance
countries accept a teacher who says after doing some researchers you will know
better than me. In strong uncertainty avoidance societies, teachers sometimes
bring in parents as an audience. In countries with weak uncertainty avoidance,
teachers often try to get parents involved in their children’s learning
process: they actively seek parents’ ideas.
According to the Yoo in school there is a huge
relationship between power distance and uncertainty avoidance. Coming from a
relatively small power distance society and working with students from a large
power distance society, it was especially important for the author to be
culturally sensitive and flexible in her teaching approach to the classes (Yoo, 2014).
Uncertainty Avoidance in Shopping
For food and beverages, higher UAI countries have more
standards to follow up and more certification to gain. Uncertainty-avoiding
cultures consume mineral water even where the tap water was of good quality but
they value more fresh fruits and vegetables. Uncertainty- accepting cultures
valued convenience over cleanliness: they consumed more ready-made products. Uncertainty-avoiding
cultures believed more in cleanliness but uncertainty-accepting cultures valued
looks more than cleanliness. People in uncertainty-avoiding cultures buy brand
new cars mostly. People in uncertainty-accepting cultures would more often perform
tasks in the home for themselves such as carpentry, gardening etc while in
high-UAI countries people let such jobs to do by experts.
People in uncertainty-accepting cultures more caring
about their ethical considerations influenced their buying decisions. Customers
in higher-UAI cultures are not motivating toward new products and information.
They were slower in introducing electronic communication. Customers in lower
UAI cultures very regularly used the Internet to compare service providers. In
financial matters people from high-UAI countries take fewer risks: they tend to
invest less in stocks and more in precious metals and gems.
Uncertainty Avoidance in the
According to the IBM research, in higher- UAI
countries more employees and managers look for long-term employment. At the
same time, more people in these countries find it difficult to achieve the
right work-life balance. Uncertainty-avoiding societies have more formal laws controlling
the rights and duties of employers and employees. They also have more internal
regulations controlling the work process and here also power distance plays a
main role. For uncertainty-avoidance culture they need the rules, they are more
emotional with them because from the childhood they used to feel comfortable
with structured environments.