The continuousgrowth in diversity and globalization in recent years hasnecessitated the practice of cross-cultural management in theworkplace. In cross-cultural management, culture is analyzed in termsof language, country, religion, age, ethical, value, and/or any otherarea of study. In any cross-cultural scenario, there are culturalconflicts that exist and these conflicts prevent a business fromachieving its goals. Cultural conflicts refer to a conflict thatdevelops because of different cultural values and beliefs. Thecultural-conflicts that exist in any cross-cultural scenario aregrouped into primary conflicts and specific cultural conflicts. Thispaper analyzes two cross-cultural scenarios available fromJapan/Anglo-American cross-cultural communication. The primaryconflicts arising from each cross-cultural scenario and the specificissues that prevent the business from achieving its goals areanalyzed.Cross- Cultural Scenario one Mr.Soitah is Japanese who has been working who have been working inNorth America for the past two years in American and Japanese jointventure. Mr. Soitah`s family stays in Japan, but he seems to beenjoying the work in America and has very good relationship with Mr.Smith (An assembly department manager who is American). Mr. Smithworks closely with Ms. Takeuchi who helps him in translations duringmeetings if necessary. Takeuchi has lived in United States for over24 years and has been translating for many years of her stay. Mr.Smith received information from Ms. Takeuchi that Mr. Soitah’sfamily is planning a visit over the summer and started thinking ofthe best way to entertain his counterparts family. Smith firstthought of welcoming them to his home and later organize a visit tothe national park together (Brown, Hayashi, Yamamoto,2012). However, when Mr. Smith shared with Soitah about thevisit, Soitah said he cannot take a day off and that he had alreadytold his family that they would go sightseeing by themselves. Mr.Smith was surprised by his statement and advised him to take sometime off. Mr. Soitah declined to take the offer and made it clearthat he cannot. Mr. Smith shared the issue with his translator anddiscussed on the best method to make Soitah ask for leave. Heexpressed disbelieve on how Mr. Soitah is a workaholic preferringwork more than his wife. Smith was also wondering whether Soitah doesnot trust their work performance (Brown, Hayashi, Yamamoto, 2012).
The abovescenario reveals several conflicts (issues) arising because ofcross-cultural differences. The primary conflict in this scenario iscollectivism versus individualism. Both individualism andcollectivism help understand the relationship between individuals ina group. According to individualism, each acts on his or her own,decision making is by individuals and if in any way they interactwith a group, it is as individuals. Collectivism, on the other hand,considers the group as the primary entity with individualism lostalong the way. Individualism implies that an individual is aseparate entity responsible for making own choices while collectivismimplies that the group is the most important element with theindividuals being just members of the group. Japan as a countrypractices collectivism culture while America practicesindividualistic culture and this explains the misunderstandingbetween Soitah and Smith. Mr. Soitah’s belief about groupallegiance from that of Mr. Smith and that is where the conflictcomes in. According to Soitah’s culture, his work team is the mostimportant probably because it helps him support his familyfinancially. Soitah believes that being a team player is the bestpath to achieve one`s goals and this view differs from Smith’s viewwho believes that personal life is more important than the work team(Brown, Hayashi, Yamamoto, 2012). The primary conflict in thisscenario gives rise to other specific concerns that may affect acompany’s long-term goals in the end. The scenario presented revealthat Soitah has a very high sense of responsibility to his team andwork, but this may change soon. The scenario reveals that Mr. Smithtogether with Ms. Takeuchi are planning how they will encourage Mr.Soitah to take some time off. If this trend continues, the peerpressure may make Mr. Soitah to prefer family to teamwork and thuslow sense of responsibility in the workplace. Because of thecollectivism culture, Mr. Soitah had not informed Mr. Smith about thecoming of his family and thus Smith received information from a thirdparty. Collectivism culture is largely NIL Mr. soitah`s behavior hesees no reason to involve team workers in his family affair. Mr.Smith expects to get time with Soitah’s family, but this is notlikely to happen because of Soitah’s cultural values andbeliefs. According to researchers, Americans like to sharetheir private selves, unlike Japanese counterparts and this explainswhy Soitah did not inform Smith about his family planned visit. Ifthis trend continuous, Smith will develop the notion that Soitah doesnot trust him and that is why he does not inform him about hispersonal affairs. The effect of such a notion is a strainedrelationship between the two parties leading to low performance inthe workplace. Teamwork will suffer greatly if Smith and Soitah failto recognize they have different cultural values and beliefs. Becauseof the many alterations that have happened in parts of Asia for thepast two or three decades, this cultural difference of collectivismand individualism may cease to exist in the future.Cross-culturalScenario two A joint venture comprising of two Japanese andAmerican firms was formed and located in the United States in the1980’s. The management of the new company knew the importance ofpracticing Quality Control (QC) and thus they were eager to adopt it.One of the required steps to implement the program was trainingAmerican employees on problem solving. Presentations were requiredfrom the various participants who were undertaking theproblem-solving test to determine the progress of the program.Specific days were set when the trainees should be doing theirpresentations. During one of the presentations, the company’spresident gave an unexpected speech at the final stages of thepresentations. At the end of the president speech, one of theAmerican managers stood up and made few comments. As soon as themanager started commenting, the mood in the presentation room changedabruptly. The Japanese employees present started looking at eachother, some of them even coughed. No one said a word and the masterof the ceremony brought the session to an end immediately (Brown,Hayashi, Yamamoto, 2012). The case scenario presented abovepresents another cross-cultural concern facing management and otherindividuals in the workplace. The cultural conflict brought about bythis case scenario is that of hierarchical versus egalitariancorporate structures of companies. In hierarchical corporatestructure, there are several levels of management and each employeehas supervisors and subordinates. In this style, people at the lowerlevels are passive as being inferior (of lower value) and arestigmatized. Such employees develop low self-esteem and accept thesituation as appropriate. In an egalitarian style, on the other hand,all employees are thought to share equal power and responsibility.Employees in egalitarian firms have general job descriptions unliketheir counterparts in hierarchical firms who have specific ones. Inaddition, employees in egalitarian companies behave as equal andperform tasks collaboratively. Japanese cultural allows forhierarchical style of corporate culture during American cultureadvocates for egalitarian style of corporate structure. According tothe Japanese culture, nobody should question or comment after acompany’s president has given a speech because he is consideredsuperior. According to Americans, however, all individuals inorganizations are considered to be ideally equal and thus allowed toissue their opinion. The Japanese in the room were uncomfortable withthe comments because the belief in formal hierarchies where rulesmust be followed and nobody should comment after a superior personhas talked. The American manager, on the other hand, heard to talkbecause he beliefs all people have similar values (Brown, Hayashi,Yamamoto, 2012). In Japan, there is heavy emphasis on verticalstructures nature of the group regardless of the similarities invalues of individuals composing a group. In addition, people who rankhigh in the hierarchy are respected and nobody should question them.In America, however, due to their tendency to practice egalitarianstyle, all individuals regardless of their status are entitled togive their comments. If both parties NIL not understand thesedifferences, conflicts are likely to arise. A repetition of the abovescenario in another company meeting will imply negative climate andthus failure to achieve company goals.Conclusion Cross-culturaldifferences between Japanese and American cultures may prevent thefirm from achieving its set goals. Collectivism versus individualismis one of the cultural differences that give rise to conflict in afirm. The style of corporate structure such as hierarchical oregalitarian also gives rise to the conflict. Employees in theorganization need to understand these differences to avoid culturalconflicts.
Brown, S., Hayashi, B., & Yamamoto, K. (2012). 13Japan/Anglo-American Cross-Cultural Communication. The Handbook ofIntercultural Discourse and Communication, 29 (4), 252.