Cultural and Ethnic Studies on Hofstede’s Value Dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance

Hofstede’s Value Dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance


A structure of values shared in a society refers to culture. The structure also embraces rules and beliefs enhancing unity consistently in the society. Organizational culture enacts shared realities on the change to enhance systematic management to resolve conflicts based on realities of power and control. Organizational culture also determines how firms see themselves and the world depending on the attitudes, norms and values, and underlying assumptions. Organizational cultures can develop at different levels such as national, corporate, professional, and management levels. Alavi, Kayworth, and Leidner (2006) claim that national organizational culture influences firm on macro and micro levels. For example, macro-level national culture influences laws and economic institutions and organization applies to conduct business. Conversely, micro level controls the number of cultural elements relating to employee-employer relationship. Organizational culture influences strategies, goals, and operations of a firm depending on the personal values and perceptions towards corporate activities.

Edgar defined culture as a set of basic assumptions applied to attain external adaptation and internal integration. He asserted that they are shared among generations to resolve universal problems. Thus, organizational and national culture forming corporate culture determines how internal factors influence professional culture. As a result, culture should be managed to ensure peoples’ behaviors within an organization understand how to interact. Consequently, they can improve how national, organizational, and professional, cultural levels interact (Early, 2006). The essay will discuss paradoxes and confusions encountered by people and organizations. The paradoxes will affirm that interpretation of behavior and cultural values can be either right or wrong. Hofstede’s culture’s consequences as well as Osland and Bird focus on cultural paradoxes and stereotyping will help in deriving appropriate ways of interpreting cultures on a national and international level.


Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Culture is also being conceptualized on the subject of of dimensions. The dimensions allow attributes of culture to be quantified (Kanungo, 2014). For example, Hofstede’s national cultural dimension is a five-dimensional model or concept. Hofstede was among the first researchers to analyze how national culture influences management practices. There are four aspects of national culture reviewed in determining how Hofstede’s cultural dimensions influence peoples’ thinking about organizations. The Chinese Values Survey established in 1985 contained a Confucian dynamism scale. The scale led a fifth dimension, short-term versus long-term orientation, to emerge (McSweeney, 2002). The four dimensions are discussed below.

The low/high uncertainty avoidance dimension can be summarized as follows. Low uncertainty avoidance seeks to encourage organizations to take things as they come. The dimension does not regard deviance as a threat. More so, the dimension asserts that ambiguity should be tolerated, as an organization should be ready to take risks. The dimension defines competition and conflict as valuable aspects encouraging organizations to acknowledge fewer rules are better to believe in generalists and common sense rather than hard work. Conversely, high uncertainty avoidance dimension states that uncertainties should not be tolerated preferring clarity and predictability (Williamson, 2002). The dimension raises concerns about security by affirming that formal rules and regulations should be implemented during a consensus rather than embracing conflict in attempts to resist change. Organizations should also adopt experts and their knowledge to enhance the inner urge to work hard.

On the other hand, the fifth short-term orientation dimension embraces the need for self-determination and achievement. The dimension encourages organizations to ensure loyalty towards others vary depending on the needs of the business (Kohlbacher, & Krähe, 2007). Consequently, the dimension is based on the belief that people ought to be rewarded depending on their abilities. More importantly, it encourages managers and employees to work in different camps to reduce stress adversely affecting profit margins of the organization. The fifth long-term dimension acknowledges that organizations need to embrace self-discipline and accountability (Hofstede, 2011). Consequently, they should develop and maintain lifelong personal networks. The networks, however, should not tolerate substantial socioeconomic differences as employers and employees should share organizational aspirations.

Hofstede’s Value Dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance

Based on Hofstede’s value dimension of Uncertainty Avoidance, the Japanese have a low tolerance for uncertainty while Americans have a high tolerance. The United States organizational culture is often reviewed based on the driving factors of American culture about other global cultures. Social Control ensures organizations do not diverge from customs to maintain their exclusivity. Thus, regional cultural differences in the United States should not prompt the country to undergo a cultural briefing after moving business operations to another state successfully. Organizations and people are also unequal with the most remarkable aspect being the degree of power exerted by or over each other (Magala, 2004). Power refers to the degree to which parties can influence each other’s ideas and behaviors. The attitude of culture toward power and inequalities is also different among organizations. Authority is also known as Power Distance. An organization with little Power Distance can agree and decide to formulate and implement ideas and behaviors that cannot be dispensed equally. The degree to which the organization accepts to influence employees, their skills, and expertise refers to Power Distance. For instance, managers and their subordinates can endorse policies addressing inequalities in the organization. Both parties, however, should also maintain interdependence. The peoples’ self-images defined in terms of ‘I’ and ‘WE’ should prompt them to look after each other as family and friends.

Uniqueness or Individualism

The United States government emphasizes on equal rights based on the American Foundation on Liberty and Justice. Organizations should acknowledge and respect the fact that employees have equal rights and embrace hierarchy for subordinates to provide their expertise skills either as individual or as teams. Consequently, managers and employees expect to be consulted while sharing information frequently (Hofstede, 2011). The American Society is, therefore, loosely knit leading organizational expectations to be based on peoples’ efforts to take care of themselves and families without necessarily relying on authorities.

Americans are considered as the best joiners globally. Male Americans, however, experience challenges developing deep friendships. The challengers, however, have not hindered the citizens from conducting business as they can interact well with familiar and strange persons to expand organizational business operations (Hofstede, 2011). Americans are able to research and apply the obtained information without fear. The lack of fear and intimidation has enabled them to approach prospective counterparts across the business world. Consequently, decisions to either hire or promote employees are based on evidence and merit depending on what an individual has or can do for the organization.

Masculinity across the United States

Skilled and experienced people in a field define success as competition and success drives them to record a high score of masculinity. The masculinity dimension is a value system among people starting in childhood before proceeding to adulthood to influence their lives as professionals in an organization setting. Lack of masculinity refers to femininity, a dimension seeking to assert that dominant values of an organization encourage people to care for each other (Hofstede, 2011). People in a feminine organization are motivated to be the best and to like what they do to attain the successes rather than believe in being admirable. In the United States, the masculinity dimension records a score of 62.

People across the United States show their masculinity individually prompting the organizations to reflect as follows. Foremost, organizations indicate that they maintain a behavioral culture based on the belief of sharing values encouraging people to work hard and attain the best to be successful. Setting a target correctly enables the American assessment systems to encourage the employees to execute an organizational responsibility effectively and efficiently. Across the United States, the current ‘can-do’ mentality creates dynamism among organizations as they all believe they can fulfill their mandates in a better way (Hofstede, 2011). Americans are believed to pursue higher statuses including promotions and shifting to residential areas in the suburbs. The Americans, however, also rely on a certain degree of conflict as they motivate people and organizations to motivate employees attain organizational goals and objectives. As a result, a lot of polarization and court cases are witnessed further widening the gap between the wealthy and poor (Williamson, 2002). Individualism slows down by pushing the Power Distance to increase inequality levels, endanger democracy, and  encourage Americans to embrace the uncertainty avoidance dimension.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty Avoidance is a dimension applied to determine how an organization embraces the truth or the fact that it can neither guarantee nor know about the future. The dimension encourages the parties to either try control the future or let it happen. Ambiguous uncertainties encourage people and organizations to search for the truth. Consequently, the extents of their cultural programs lead the members to feel either uncomfortable or contented. Thus, different organizational cultures are applied to deal with the stress and anxiety. Situation and beliefs of an organization determine the extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by lack of familiarity. For example, unstructured situations either known or novel allow Uncertainty Avoidance cultures to be applied in minimizing the possibility of surprises and unusual occurrences (Sieck, Rasmussen, & Smart, 2010).  Thus, unfamiliar situations can encourage managers in an organization to embrace the Uncertainty Avoidance dimension by implementing laws and regulations to enhance safety and security measure. Theoretical and religious principles in absolute truth can also be embraced. Subsequently, the principles can be applied to minimize the possibility of unstructured situations.

The United States scores below average by recording 46 on the dimension. Consequently, the perceived context that Americans can impact behavioral culture reflects as follows. Foremost, it reflects that Americans are reasonable and open-minded to accept new and different innovations. For example, they accept new and innovative services and products. More so, Americans have the willingness to embrace new and diverse business practices and technologies. Americans, however, do not require several lots of rules. More so, they are less emotionally expressive than people and organizations from countries or cultures with higher scores on the Uncertainty Avoidance dimension (Hofstede, 2011). For example, the 9/11 terror attack created a lot of fear across the United States. The government, however, established mechanisms of monitoring its citizens through security agencies including the Department of Homeland Security.

Hofstede (2011), therefore, summarizes Uncertainty Avoidance as dimension different from risk avoidance that can enable organizations to control neuroticism and attain well-being among the employees. For examples, the dimension should be applied to ensure the employees accept each day and the threats as they come without feeling anxious or stressed as the organization has implemented measures to encourage them attain self-control. The employees should also learn to be embrace tolerance of deviant ideas and people. Consequently, they can comfortably deal with chaos, change careers or jobs without any problems, and attain emotional health as the philosophical, scientific, and religious beliefs encourage them to pursue ultimate truths.

Long-term Orientation Dimension

The dimension defines links influencing an organization’s past, present, and future goals, challenges and successes. It is, therefore, recognized as a normative society as it records low score of 26 on the dimension reflecting the following. American organizations are prone to analyze new information to verify if it is true or misleading. Organizations across the United States, therefore, are not pragmatic but rather very practical due to the ‘can-do’ mentality. The polarization is also strengthened as most American organizations have strong ideas applied to differentiate between evil and good. The score on the dimension has also led the United States to be recognized as the only Caucasian nation where religious participations have increased since the 20th century. Consequently, the country can measure its performance on short-term basis (Hofstede, 2011). For example, profit and loss financial statements are issued on quarterly basis among major organizations driving individuals to strive for quick results within the corporate environment.

Cultural Enigmas and Value Outmaneuvering

According to Loloma and Knudsen (2007), people face challenges in attempts to embrace the world. Cultural dimensions, therefore, can be used in a bipolar way to make them see and embrace the world as either black or white. People can also regard qualities as inherent either confirming or reinforcing stereotyped views of other cultures. Cultural dimensions and stereotypes are crucial steps to address when dealing with unknown cultures. The dimensions should also be addressed when meeting parties from unknown and diverse cultural backgrounds. Bipolarization is perceived as a fundamental way of thinking embraced within the Western culture (Reus, & Bruce, 2009). As a result, oppressing elements that fail to fit into the structure is a measure that should be implemented by organizations striving to maintain an opposition. Consequently, hierarchical relations reducing a term on premises of an upgraded hierarchy can be maintained. Thus, bi-polarization can lead to ethnocentrism by universalizing particular western ways of thinking and defining terms of opposition from those positively charged (Bell, 2010). People and organizations, therefore, do not always behave in manners embracing cultural diversity as they keep thinking in bipolarity. For example, organizations can ignore facts that do not fit in a particular corporate environment prompting managers to ignore explaining the differences. Osland and Bird (2000), therefore, encourage organizations to embrace cultural paradoxes to overcome stereotypes.

According to Aycan, Kanungo, and Mendonca (2014), Hofstede’s value dimension of uncertainty avoidance has led the Japanese to incorporate ambiguous clauses in their business contracts intentionally. The authors assert that the Japanese have a low tolerance for uncertainty in comparison to Americans. The vague clauses in the business contracts are unusually short. Conversely, the Americans dot every ‘I,’ cross every ‘T,’ and painstakingly spell out every possible contingency. The narrative reveals that there are instances people’s self-validation is grounded more in valuing the group they belong to rather than embracing individualism (Andreeva, & Ikhilchik, 2013). The narrative is consistent with Hofstede’s cultural dimension of collectivism. Managers within an organization should, therefore, review employees during the hiring process and performance evaluations to avoid either public or individual recognition mistakenly. For example, it is evident that the Japanese use the ambiguous phrases to emphasize on individualism, as they do not consider themselves as part of a team like their American counterparts. In Japan, therefore, it is vital to have the goals of the organization, family, or community higher than the target of the individuals. For example, Japanese complete their resumes by avoiding use of ‘I.’ They mostly discuss their achievements by describing how individual aims and objectives were attained through teamwork. Conversely, Americans will emphasize the individual roles they played to achieve a particular organizational goal, vision, or mission. Their resumes are also completed in a manner to describe personal traits, skills, and qualifications. They believe that embracing individualism enhances the chances of being hired or promoted (Michailova, & Hutchings, 2006). Thus, the Americans believe that personal professional fields can be utilized to confer power and privilege. They rely on Power Distance to validate affiliation with organizations they have previously worked for and recognized as successful in attempts to impress the new employer they are hoping to work with in future.

In Japan, people often disregard individualism during business hierarchies. For example, a manager can ask a subordinate to give their opinion on a particular organizational decision-making process without being regarded as weak. The same, however, is hardly witnessed across the United States as every individual within the organization is striving to fulfill the need of being recognized personally rather than as a team. Interactions between employees and employers or managers and subordinates across United States are, therefore, limited. The horizontal workspaces, however, ensure employees especially in the same ranking are treated equally. Consequently, they become more proactive and team participation increases. Failure to account for the need to enhance personal relations and validate self-identities is a factor adversely affecting activities requiring teamwork (Kok-Yee, Dyne, & Ang, 2009).  Indirect communication styles among people in the same organization also create frustrations among the individuals from different cultures. Thus, the indirect communication style in the United States can frustrate the employees as Americans often use low-context direct method of communication.

Differences in collectivist values and tolerance of power inequality/equality also hinder effective teamwork, especially across United States. Cultural differences across the United States, therefore, can create frustrations in an organization. Consequently, efficient international partnership with a nation such as Japan is adversely affected. As a result, people should embrace the process of evaluating individual cultural identity to learn and analyze it to uncover future accounts of ethnocentrism. The process can also motivate organizations to embrace intergroup and interpersonal relations (Levitt, 2013). For example, Americans should avoid seeking employment in Japan and take their ‘I’ attitude to the country. Instead, they should avoid American cultural behaviors likely to challenge the Japanese sovereignty. More so, neither the Japanese nor the Americans can appreciate a condescending response from a foreigner.


Social, economic, religious, and political relations deal with cultural influences on multiple levels. Situational factors make the encounters unique depending on the complexity of the interpretation and interaction process. In case the complexity is greater, the relations face the risk of experiencing inappropriate explanations to value cultural dimensions leading to paradoxical outcomes. The method of holding two polarized value cultural systems is, therefore, vital especially among people and organizations seeking to attain international teamwork. The process can ease dynamic tensions existing in an organization or international team preventing or controlling conflicts. Ultimately, organizations should be sensitive to their ethnocentric tendencies. They should examine their cultural values and impacts on self-identity. Consequently, they can learn to accept and appreciate other cultures leading to development of more purposeful and thoughtful relations. The connections can be relied on to actually interpret diverse cultural contexts and establish a mutual behavioral understanding.



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