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How Employees and Organizations Manage Uncertainty: Norms, Implications, and Future Research
Unformatted Document Text:  13 is needed to determine which factors best explain why women are less inclined to embrace uncertainty. The databank also indicates that employees in non-profit organizations are disproportionally represented in the Status Quo Climate. These employees work in universities, county or state government and other agencies often dominated by overly bureaucratic and arcane procedures. Given such organizational constraints, it should not be surprising that these employees report their organizations suppress or ignore uncertainty. But why do these employees report less willingness or ability to personally embrace uncertainty than their counterparts in profit-making organizations? No doubt, a number of factors such as recruiting practices, selection processes, self-selection, and training procedures, can help explain this tendency. Future research efforts could shed further light on this question. Fourth, the data suggest that uncertainty-embracing organizations are better able to cope with change. Employees in the Dynamic and Unsettling climates felt less overwhelmed by change than those in the Status Quo and Stifling climates. Since this finding related to only one item, there is clearly room for more research. However, the results are consistent with views of other researchers, theorists and practitioners (Clampitt & DeKoch, 2001; D’Aprix, 1996; Kotter, 1996; Stacey, 1992) Organizations that artificially suppress uncertainty tend to avoid frequent discussions of changing events, waiting to have their “ducks in a row” before announcing an initiative. Their leaders often fear admitting, “they don’t know precisely where they are heading”. The cumulative impact is that changes tend to be introduced in large-scale “chunks” as opposed to incrementally. This deprives employees of the opportunity to influence responses to change and hinders their ability to make appropriate psychological adjustments. Change management specialists might further advance their understanding by examining in more depth the role of uncertainty management practices. Fifth, the Working Climate Survey and databank provide useful tools for practitioners. The Working Climate Survey can be easily completed in less than seven minutes. The normative data and trends allow practitioners to quickly ascertain what climates best describe a work group or organization. By plotting the employee scores on the matrix, practitioners can easily spot underlying tends. The data, then, can suggest appropriate intervention strategies. For example, if the data indicate that most employees describe the climate as Stifling or Status Quo, then interventions can be designed to foster an uncertainty-embracing organizational climate. The key finding in this study was that the organization’s uncertainty management strategy mattered more than an individual employee’s strategy. So the practitioner would be on firm ground addressing the organizational climate issue. On the other hand, if the data revealed that most employees were in the Stifling or Dynamic climates, then the intervention should take on a different character. For example, the practitioner may seek to identify signs that the organization has embraced too much uncertainty and has become too unwieldy. Andy Grove of Intel once said, “When Columbus sailed across the Atlantic, he didn’t have a business model.” Such sentiments suggest the importance of building uncertainty-embracing organizations. Our research has shown that these organizations tend to inspire greater employee commitment, foster more job satisfaction, and generate less cynicism than uncertainty-suppressing organizations. The challenge for communication scholars is

Authors: Williams, M.. and Clampitt, Phillip.
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13
is needed to determine which factors best explain why women are less inclined to embrace
uncertainty.

The databank also indicates that employees in non-profit organizations are disproportionally
represented in the Status Quo Climate. These employees work in universities, county or state
government and other agencies often dominated by overly bureaucratic and arcane procedures.
Given such organizational constraints, it should not be surprising that these employees report
their organizations suppress or ignore uncertainty. But why do these employees report less
willingness or ability to personally embrace uncertainty than their counterparts in profit-making
organizations? No doubt, a number of factors such as recruiting practices, selection processes,
self-selection, and training procedures, can help explain this tendency. Future research efforts
could shed further light on this question.

Fourth, the data suggest that uncertainty-embracing organizations are better able to cope with
change.
Employees in the Dynamic and Unsettling climates felt less overwhelmed by change
than those in the Status Quo and Stifling climates. Since this finding related to only one item,
there is clearly room for more research. However, the results are consistent with views of other
researchers, theorists and practitioners (Clampitt & DeKoch, 2001; D’Aprix, 1996; Kotter, 1996;
Stacey, 1992) Organizations that artificially suppress uncertainty tend to avoid frequent
discussions of changing events, waiting to have their “ducks in a row” before announcing an
initiative. Their leaders often fear admitting, “they don’t know precisely where they are
heading”. The cumulative impact is that changes tend to be introduced in large-scale “chunks” as
opposed to incrementally. This deprives employees of the opportunity to influence responses to
change and hinders their ability to make appropriate psychological adjustments. Change
management specialists might further advance their understanding by examining in more depth
the role of uncertainty management practices.

Fifth, the Working Climate Survey and databank provide useful tools for practitioners. The
Working Climate Survey can be easily completed in less than seven minutes. The normative data
and trends allow practitioners to quickly ascertain what climates best describe a work group or
organization. By plotting the employee scores on the matrix, practitioners can easily spot
underlying tends. The data, then, can suggest appropriate intervention strategies. For example, if
the data indicate that most employees describe the climate as Stifling or Status Quo, then
interventions can be designed to foster an uncertainty-embracing organizational climate. The key
finding in this study was that the organization’s uncertainty management strategy mattered more
than an individual employee’s strategy. So the practitioner would be on firm ground addressing
the organizational climate issue. On the other hand, if the data revealed that most employees
were in the Stifling or Dynamic climates, then the intervention should take on a different
character. For example, the practitioner may seek to identify signs that the organization has
embraced too much uncertainty and has become too unwieldy.
Andy Grove of Intel once said, “When Columbus sailed across the Atlantic, he didn’t
have a business model.” Such sentiments suggest the importance of building uncertainty-
embracing organizations. Our research has shown that these organizations tend to inspire
greater employee commitment, foster more job satisfaction, and generate less cynicism
than uncertainty-suppressing organizations. The challenge for communication scholars is


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