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Hofstede's Uncertainty Avoidance Index: Definition & Example Cultures

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Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Some people are more comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity than others, but did you know that it is a trait of societies, too? In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of uncertainty avoidance, how a number of countries rank on an uncertainty avoidance index, and how it can impact workplace culture.

Definition of Uncertainty Avoidance and the Uncertainty Avoidance Index

Uncertainty is a state wherein outcomes and conditions are unknown or unpredictable. Some people are more comfortable with uncertainty than others, and the degree to which individuals participate in certain behaviors to stay in comfortable situations is called uncertainty avoidance. Uncertainty avoidance is one of the five cultural dimensions presented by Geert Hofstede in his 1980 book on the subject, Culture's Consequences.

Along with Hofstede's conceptualization of uncertainty avoidance, he developed an index, the Uncertainty Avoidance Index. This index measures levels of uncertainty avoidance so that countries could be compared to one another. A low score on the uncertainty avoidance index indicates that the people in the country are more comfortable with ambiguity, more entrepreneurial, more likely to take risks, and less dependent on structure rules. Countries with high uncertainty avoidance scores desire more stability, more structured rules and social norms, and are less comfortable taking risks.

Example of Countries with High and Low Scores

Examples of countries with low uncertainty avoidance scores include the United States, England, India, China, and Singapore. Examples of countries with high uncertainty avoidance scores include Italy, Korea, Mexico, Belgium, and Russia.

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