OK, we’ve done 4 topics and have 2 more to go on our exploration of Steelcase’s “Defining the Code” research paper. Today, we’re going to talk about Uncertainty Tolerance. In a culture that is tolerant of unpredictable situations where there aren’t clear cut rules, participants place a high value on the ability to solve problems and navigate gray areas with aplomb. Diversity is an asset because it makes brainstorming more fruitful. In a culture that does not tolerate uncertainty well, security is prized. Preventing an uncomfortable situation from arising is seen as preferable to finding a creative solution. People feel best when everyone agrees on what the rules are (even if the rules are often broken).
Microcosms Exist in Each Workplace
This is just as much a personal preference as a cultural difference. This means you’ll likely have some employees who fit each profile. In addition, some departments and industries tend to be more risk averse than others. For example, Accounting is not a profession where gray areas and ambiguity are well tolerated. That’s probably because the IRS and the DOL don’t have a happy-go-lucky attitude about whether businesses follow the rules to the letter.
More Privacy and More Freedom
That being said, Americans generally like to be given some leeway in how they do their jobs. Greater autonomy (including decision making power) is closely linked to employee satisfaction. So, how do you use privacy panels to help foster both adherence to rules and the sense of having some personal power?
A lot of this has to do with how you present the panels and their role in the workplace. In settings where privacy and compliance are crucial, desk mounted panels or cubicle wall extenders should be installed as a matter of course. In areas where “risk taking” and diversity are prized, giving employees a say in how or where panels are installed is key. Getting to make the decision for themselves based on their own assessment of how these tools would enhance their job makes all the difference.