Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty avoidance is one of the five intercultural dimensions developed by Hofstede. In essence this cultural dimension measures a country or culture's preference for strict laws and regulations over ambiguity and risk.

According the Hofstede's findings Greece is the most risk-averse culture while Singapore the least. Generally speaking Protestant countries and those with Chinese influences score low. Catholic, Buddhist and Arabic speaking countries tend to score high in uncertainty avoidance. Have a look at the map of uncertainty avoidance scores.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

Below are some of the common traits found in countries that score highly on the uncertainty avoidance scale:

. Usually countries/cultures with a long history. 
. The population is not multicultural, i.e. homogenous.
. Risks, even calculated, are avoided in business.
. New ideas and concepts are more difficult to introduce.

Some of the common traits found in countries that score low on the uncertainty avoidance scale include:

. Usually a country with a young history, i.e. USA. 
. The population is much more diverse due to waves of immigration. 
. Risk is embraced as part of business. 
. Innovation and pushing boundaries is encouraged.

Intercultural Business Communication Tips

If you are working or doing business in a country with a higher uncertainty avoidance score than yourself then:

. Don't expect new ideas, ways or methods to be readily embraced. You need to allow time to help develop an understanding of an initiative to help foster confidence in it. 
. Involve local counterparts in projects to allow them a sense of understanding. This then decreases the element of the unknown. 
. Be prepared for a more fatalistic world view. People may not feel fully in control and are therefore possibly less willing to make decisions with some element of the unknown. 
. Remember that due to a need to negate uncertainty proposals and presentations will be examined in fine detail. Back up everything with facts and statistics.

If you are working or doing business in a country with a lower uncertainty avoidance score than yourself then:

. Try to be more flexible or open in your approach to new ideas than you may be used to. 
. Be prepared to push through agreed plans quickly as they would be expected to be realised as soon as possible.
. Allow employees the autonomy and space to execute their tasks on their own; only guidelines and resources will be expected of you. 
. Recognize that nationals in the country may take a different approach to life and see their destiny in their own hands. 

Read about Hofstede's other intercultural dimensions:
Power Distance