Geert Hofstede’s Concept of Uncertainty avoidance (UAI

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Ana- Maria Cozmiuc Madălina Drăgan Group 925 Faculty of International Business and Economics We all agree that the world of today has reached a high development in technology. Due to this world-wide situation, many countries, nations and cultures have been brought together. This is very exciting and interesting as we are starting to know people all over the world though communication. We are trying to break some long-term build boundaries by living and working in a globalized society. It sounds great and exciting but, as we try to connect with people from other cultures, we might find ourselves in front of a wall without knowing how to break it. We

uncertainty avoidance.. Cultures and organizations. laws and strict schedules to minimize the 1 Hofstede. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing House 5 http://www. He first focused his research on the 40 largest countries. Institutions and Organizations Across Nations. For example.. M. a culture with a high UAI. by definition. In short terms. Mainly. Hofstede. it is more structured and tries constantly to have rules and regulations.. long-term orientation. Hofstede added a sixth dimension. G. In other words. using a structure derived from factor analysis. What makes us different and similar: A new interpretation of the World Values Survey and other cross-cultural data. to cover aspects of values not discussed in the original paradigm. We will also try to explain how this concept can be used in worldwide business environment and you will also find an example to provide a better insight upon this cultural dimension. it can also be said that this dimension measures a country or culture’s preference for strict laws or regulations over ambiguity and risk. The theory was one of the first that could be quantified. indulgence versus self-restraint. It also has been said that uncertainty avoidance it ultimately refers to man’s search for Truth. this theory describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members. in this paper we will focus on one of the most important contemporary theory in this area: Geert Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions. unknown.need to have knowledge about a person’s culture in order to better understand him/her and in order to better communicate with that person. Oaks CA: Sage Publications Publishing House 2 Hofstede. J. accessed at December 10. Unstructured situations are novel. (2007). From our point of view. 2012 2 . as a definition. and then extended it to 50 countries and 3 regions. G. and could be used to explain observed differences between cultures. Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values.1 The original theory proposed four dimensions along which cultural values could be analyzed: individualism-collectivism. M. surprising. (2010). and how these values relate to behavior. “at that time probably the largest matched-sample cross-national database available anywhere”. In the 2010 edition of Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind2.com. Behaviors. this dimension also shows the emotional extent of a specific society/culture. & Minkov. it focuses on the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity of a specific culture. In this paper we will try to explain the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension (UAI – uncertainty avoidance index). & Minkov. as a result of co-author Michael Minkov’s analysis of data from the World Values Survey3. and different from usual. J. Independent research in Hong Kong led Hofstede to add a fifth dimension. and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth5. power distance and masculinityfemininity. There are many scientists who tried to explain cultural differences and. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing House 3 Minkov. Cultures and organizations. Sofia: Klasika y Stil Publishing House 4 Hofstede. the uncertainty avoidance is “the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these”4. G. The initial theory has been developed as a result of using factor analysis to examine the results of a world-wide survey of employee values by IBM in the 1960s and 1970s. Hofstede. safety and security measures. Software of the mind (3rd edition).. First of all. (2001). and introduced the difference between country-level and individual-level data in analysis. Further research has refined some of the original dimensions. It indicates to what extent a culture programs builds its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. (2010). M. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules. Software of the mind (3rd edition).clearlycultural.

more than this. You shouldn’t expect your ideas. Keep in mind that. People in these cultures tend to be more pragmatic. ways or methods. You also should prepare for rejection. & Minkov. hence their economical and corporatist thinking development. Also. to be easily embraced. In this case. For example. They usually accept and feel comfortable in unstructured situations or changeable environments and try to have as few rules as possible. you need to be clear and concise about your expectations and parameters. people belonging to that culture. countries/cultures with a high UAI score usually have a long history and have reached a stage in which the population is more homogenous. it has been discovered that. You should be flexible and open to new ideas and you should prepare to push through agreed plans quickly as they would be expected to be realized as soon as possible. This type of society is usually more opened to new and to innovation and taking risks is considered to be an embedded part of evolution. Cultures and organizations. G. remember you are free to express your emotions through hand gestures and emotions. Also. risks are taken very rarely or at all. In such an environment. they are more tolerant of change. until a solution for accepting or solving the situation has been found. accessed at December 10. even though everything is calculated thoroughly. we believe are less emotional. that culture panics because it is not used with such a situation and does not know how to handle it. In all this time. Generally speaking. According to Hofstede’s findings. countries/cultures with a low UAI score are young countries with a young history. (2010). at one point. you shouldn’t try to impose rules or structure unnecessarily. if you are coming with something new. and they usually tend to reject them. Software of the mind (3rd edition). countries with low UAI. people who live in such societies are more reluctant to new ideas and concepts. In that moment. but.com. In this case. usually it is a long process which is followed carefully step by step. Hofstede’s findings on the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension reveal the fact that countries which have a high/low UAI score have common characteristics. nervousness rises high levels of expression and emotion. Differences in such environments are highly avoided and also.. even though they are good. Until then. the unpredictable still appears. in such countries. while Singapore finds itself at the opposite. For example. if you feel like it. M. are more emotional and start worrying a lot until there is a valid. This is the place where cultural diversity can be best seen. it tried to avoid it. everyone needs to pay close attention.appearance of the unknown.clearlycultural. Buddhist and Arabic speaking countries tend to have a high UAI score. in this type on business environment. employees are usually let to execute their 6 Hofstede. but rather to express curiosity when you discover differences. Greece is the country with the highest UAI score.. the population is more heterogenic and diverse due to waves of immigration. Hofstede. On the other hand. 2012 3 .6 In the business environment. complete and clear explanation and. More than this. his studies reveal that Protestant countries and those with Chinese influences score low while Catholic. But be patient and make sure you have everything prepared in detail and backed up with facts and statistics. In that case.7 On the other hand. in a business environment with a low UAI score. Also. that isn’t possible. J. But. you will see an informal business attitude and you will notice a tendency to easily accept risk and change because the concern is on a long term strategy not on what is happening on a daily basis. businessmen in countries with a high UAI have a very formal business conduct with lots of rules and policies. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing House 7 http://www. On the other hand. sometimes. it might not be received as you expected. You need to allow time to help develop an understanding of an initiative to help foster confidence in it.

The analysis of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions is available for almost every country in the world.com/romania. accessed at December 10. this score tells us that Romanians don’t like the unpredictable. we also have emotional rules and. We have attached below a chart with the Romanian culture explored through Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. Romania. the score for LTE (long term orientation) is missing as there is no score available at the moment. our country has a score of 90.com. This is just a main presentation of how uncertainty avoidance dimensions applies in reality and how we need to behave in such an environment in order to better understand it and also to be better understood. first of all. What this means is that we have “a very high preference for avoiding uncertainty” 10 . Besides these behavioral rules. It’s not always like this in reality. but we say it very often.tasks on their own. 2013 10 http://geert-hofstede. 2013 4 . Sometimes they mix and something in between rises.html.clearlycultural. most of Romanians have this saying: “Time is money”. both of these types of rules are strongly 8 9 http://www. from a feeling of personal security. first of all. More clearly. accessed at January 5. The saying is borrowed and I’m sure other cultures also have it.8 So. 9 We can see here how the Romanian culture is seen as compared to other world cultures. We will use our country. to exemplify the uncertainty avoidance dimension more clearly. you should try to be calm. there are described mainly two types of environments which are on opposite poles. they have autonomy and space. From the point of view of uncertainty avoidance. These rules are. like a motivation for us to keep focused because we need this to keep certain on a daily basis. as you can see.html. If you take a moment and think about it. 2012 http://geert-hofstede. We need to feel safe and this is trying to be assured in Romanian society by rules. Regarding emotions. Our individual motivation comes. accessed at January 5. behavioral and can be seen through an inner motivation to be busy and to work hard. minimizing your emotional response and contemplating situations before speaking. As you can see.com/romania. to be precise and to be punctual.

Also. even though people are working on a common neutral multinational environment. we believe that cultural differences as expressed in his tool have not disappeared overnight and can still be seen. all Hofstede’s analysis on countries are very useful because you can prepare yourself for an interaction with someone from a different culture. In conclusion. Bibliography 5 . other cultures can better understand how we are most of the time and why we act in a certain way. although there are many critics to his theory. Romanians are very intolerable with any type of unorthodox behavior. In this area. In this way. from our point of view. We still have rigid codes of behavior and belief religiously induced and.governed in Romania by religion. the most common one being that it’s not world-wide applicable as he sustained. more than this. His theory is still considered increasingly relevant for both economic and political reasons and also. through this high UAI score. We know this because we live here but. All in all. the scores on these five dimensions can tell you each country’s development stage and how it stands in the world-wide economical world because these cultural concepts are strongly related to the corporatist way of thinking. Hofstede created a powerful tool. his theory had practical results and was constantly used inside global corporations. From our point of view. the Romanian society is afraid of the unknown and of uncertainty. especially in the business and management environment. we can all better understand the other because there are lots of cultures in the whole world and each one of them has specific markers. although the world and its people are changing fast.

M.clearlycultural. 3. Institutions and Organizations Across Nations. Hofstede. 4.com/romania. accessed at January 5. Sofia: Klasika y Stil Publishing House http://geert-hofstede. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing House Minkov. & Minkov. Oaks CA: Sage Publications Publishing House Hofstede. 2013 http://www. G.. accessed at December 10. J. Behaviors.1. G. (2007).html. Cultures and organizations. 2012 6 . Software of the mind (3rd edition). M. (2001). Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values. What makes us different and similar: A new interpretation of the World Values Survey and other cross-cultural data. 2. Hofstede.com.. 5. (2010).