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How Employees and Organizations Manage Uncertainty: Norms, Implications, and Future Research
Unformatted Document Text:  3 The Uncertainty Management Matrix (UMM) As past research has clearly indicated, people have a tendency to avoid or embrace uncertainty (Budner, 1962; Kirton, 1981; McPherson, 1983). Those who embrace it see uncertainty as challenging, invigorating, and useful. Those who avoid uncertainty tend to minimize complexities and novelty. Organizations, like employees, can also avoid or embrace uncertainty. The Uncertainty Management Matrix juxtaposes organizational and employee uncertainty management strategies, positing that these tendencies result in four types of organizational climates (see Figure 1): • Status Quo Climate – employees and the organization both avoid uncertainty. Employees want few surprises and they rarely get them. • Unsettling Climate – employees desire certainty while the organization is perceived as embracing too much uncertainty. Thus employees become unsettled and perhaps overwhelmed by the chaotic work environment. • Stifling Climate – employees embrace uncertainty but they perceive the organization avoiding it. • Dynamic Climate – both employees and the organization embrace uncertainty. Consequently, the climate is dynamic, energetic, and ever-changing. Each quadrant represents a different kind of organizational climate with varying beliefs, values, assumptions, and ways of communicating. The Working Climate Survey operationalizes these theoretical constructs, providing a useful tool to appropriately classify employee experiences. We turn to that issue in the next section. Figure 1 The Uncertainty Management Matrix Embrace Stifling Climate 3 Dynamic Climate 4 Employee’s Approach to Uncertainty Avoid Status Quo Climate 1 Unsettling Climate 2 Avoid Embrace Organization’s Approach to Uncertainty

Authors: Williams, M.. and Clampitt, Phillip.
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3
The Uncertainty Management Matrix (UMM)
As past research has clearly indicated, people have a tendency to avoid or embrace uncertainty
(Budner, 1962; Kirton, 1981; McPherson, 1983). Those who embrace it see uncertainty as
challenging, invigorating, and useful. Those who avoid uncertainty tend to minimize
complexities and novelty. Organizations, like employees, can also avoid or embrace uncertainty.
The Uncertainty Management Matrix juxtaposes organizational and employee uncertainty
management strategies, positing that these tendencies result in four types of organizational
climates (see Figure 1):
Status Quo Climate – employees and the organization both avoid uncertainty.
Employees want few surprises and they rarely get them.
Unsettling Climate – employees desire certainty while the organization is perceived as
embracing too much uncertainty. Thus employees become unsettled and perhaps
overwhelmed by the chaotic work environment.
Stifling Climate – employees embrace uncertainty but they perceive the organization
avoiding it.
Dynamic Climate – both employees and the organization embrace uncertainty.
Consequently, the climate is dynamic, energetic, and ever-changing.

Each quadrant represents a different kind of organizational climate with varying beliefs, values,
assumptions, and ways of communicating. The Working Climate Survey operationalizes these
theoretical constructs, providing a useful tool to appropriately classify employee experiences.
We turn to that issue in the next section.
Figure 1
The Uncertainty Management Matrix
Embrace
Stifling
Climate
3
Dynamic
Climate
4
Employee’s
Approach to
Uncertainty
Avoid
Status Quo
Climate
1
Unsettling
Climate
2
Avoid Embrace
Organization’s Approach to Uncertainty


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