Business etiquette in Japan
The Japanese monarchy is considered as the oldest monarchy in the world which justifies the stringent customs and traditions that prevails in the Japanese society. The Japanese culture is a group culture where they perceive the welfare of the society as its primary goal. The practice of harmony is observed as an effective means to promote welfare of the society. The group culture is the primary source of promoting harmony among the group and the welfare of the group prevail over the welfare of an individual, hence, before taking any decision it is important that everybody’s opinion is considered (Sato et al., 2015). Although it may seem to be next to impossible at several places, in Japan it is an age old tradition that must be performed owing to the homogeneity factor in the population. The Japanese likes to work with flexibility and usually feel reluctant to accept deadlines unless they are sure that they can complete the assignment under the given circumstances. However, in the multicultural workplace, doing business in a global economy it is obvious that cultural barriers to communication are bound to arise. However, this essay outlines the ways to overcome these cultural differences and respect the diverse cultures and establish an effective business relationship.
Japan as a country values social conduct to such an extent that proper behavioral conduct has become the paramount law of the land. It is important to comprehend that cultural norms differ from one culture to another. The business etiquettes in Japan demonstrates their loyalty towards the organization and the members as well; dedication, consistency and promotion of harmony and welfare (Rothlin & McCann, 2016). The members of the Japanese organization are loyal towards their organization and co-workers and if necessary they go beyond their job descriptions to help the company and the members as they value the welfare of the group over individual welfare. The Japanese people are dedicated to the company to such an extent that in case of any conflict between their duties towards the company and family, they usually give first priority to their duties towards the company. The Japanese are very consistent about their duties and acts and they must consider all options. They usually do not leave out any details and are known to be low risk takers which are an essential quality that is required in the contemporary work environment. The Japanese culture is a group culture where they aim at promoting welfare of the society and promote harmony as a means to achieve the welfare of the society.
Furthermore, the Japanese regard silent communication as a matter of great importance and unlike western countries, silent communication is possible in Japan owing to the presence of homogeneity in the country. According to the business culture in Japan, speaking too much implies a sign of immaturity or absence of ideas. On the other hand, silent signifies understanding by using mere words or through body language that aims at surpassing words and provides a clearer picture. This kind of indirect communication signifies harmony and provides an opportunity to the other party to accept the results and save face in case of a failure. The Japanese considers themselves guilty when they fail to act or behave in a manner as expected from the other party. They do not like to bring in any change or chaos in their traditions that would disrupt the harmony (Tanaka & Kleiner, 2015).
In the given case scenario, at the beginning of the first or initial meeting, it is imperative the Emily must take in to consideration of the fact that the business culture in Japan is very formal. She must follow these business etiquettes in order to conduct business with the Japanese. Firstly, She must address Mr. Hamasaki by Mr. followed by his surnames and must not use the first name. Secondly, she must use the professional cards (meishi) which is a vital business etiquette observed in Japan. These cards are exchanged in the beginning of the meeting and must not be put away before the meeting ends and the cards must not have anything written on it otherwise it would be misinterpreted to be an impolite gesture.
Emily should provide gifts to the Mr. Hamasaki after a business relationship is established between them as Japan is a country that is expert in endowing its business delegates with company gifts and it is almost mandatory to exchange gifts twice a year. Thirdly, since the Japanese upholds harmony as a valuable aspect of their business culture, they tend to give more importance to the organization and its members (Mukherjee & Ramos-Salazar, 2014). Emily must consider the fact that while discussing about her food project she must explain how the project is going to promote welfare of the society and how the business activities shall maintain harmony within the organization, thus, benefitting both the organization and the society.
Fourthly, Emily must consider that in a business setting in a country like Japan, silent communication is given more preference compared to overabundance of talking. Silence is often linked to credibility and a more formal approach, in the beginning of a meeting is more preferable and is likely to be received better when conducting business with Japan. Lastly, Emily must have regard to the fact that Japanese usually value group solidarity over individualism. Unlike the western countries, where individual recognition and contributions are valued, the Japanese gives more importance to the team concept and values praises and achievements of the entire group (Polleri, 2017).
Potential Cross-Cultural Miscommunications
Cross-cultural communication refers to the communication with respect to two distinct cultures. In business, cross-cultural communications play a significant role in conducting business with other individuals or teams in different areas of the globe. However, miscommunication could often lead to broken relations with partners, employees, customers, etc. In the given scenario, a common cross cultural barrier in the business communication is language. Emily is Australian and Mr. Hamasaki is Japanese and both belong to different cultural backgrounds. the cultural dimension model of Dr. Hofstede is considered as an internationally recognized standard for comprehending the cultural differences. Since cultural norms play a significant role in maintaining interpersonal relationships at work, it is pertinent for Emily to assess her decisions, actions and approach based on Hofstede’s cultural dimension to avoid making mistakes and demonstrates the much needed confidence (Nelson & Matthews, 2017).
Under the given scenario, Emily may follow the cultural dimension pertaining to Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS) as the gap between men and women values is the greatest tin Japan. This approach refers to the distribution of roles between the women and men. In masculine societies there is less overlapping with respect to the roles of men and women and the men are expected to behave positively. In feminine societies, the overlapping is more and modesty is observed as a virtue. The maintenance of good relationships with direct supervisors is of greater importance. Emily must consider the fact that in order to open office in Japan, she would have to operate in a hierarchical, traditionally patriarchal and deferential society where long hours is embedded in its business tradition which might cause inconvenience for female team members owing to their family commitments (Kinloch & Metge, 2014).
Cultural differences are often considered as a nuisance at best and may often cause disaster. Despite the difference in culture, it is believed that all people are the same and instead of understanding, respecting and accepting the cultural differences, people strive to reduce the cultural differences which cause misinterpretations and misunderstandings between people from different countries. This often led to breakage of relations between the business partners, customers, employees etc. Cross-cultural communications requires both the parties who intends to conduct international business with each other, must possess sufficient knowledge about the cultural differences as what may be considered as acceptable in one country may not be acceptable in other countries (Chen, 2017).
Every culture has distinct business ethics, distinct set of values and accepted behavior and different facial gestures ad expressions. It is pertinent to understand the cultural differences and demonstrate respect for the culture while communicating with the professionals from different cultures. In this given scenario, Emily must possess knowledge about the business etiquettes and work culture of the Japanese people and must portray respect for the culture while communicating with Mr. Hamasaki about her food project. She must avoid overabundance talking with Mr. Hamasaki and must maintain an impassive expression while communicating with Mr. Hamsaki as he would prefer to rely more on the facial expression, posture, tone of voice compared to verbal messages (De Mooij, 2015).
It is recommended to Emily that she displays correct amount of deference and respect to someone based upon the status of Mr. Hamasaki instead of her own. While foreigners usually shake hands when they meet, but Japan being a traditional country bows when they meet as it displays a traditional form of greeting. Emily must have regard to the fact that the Japanese value traditions greater than any other place in the world. She must present her ideas about the food business keeping in mind that Japanese perceives meetings as a means to obtain and collect information rather than a decision making activity and would take a lot of time to plan and decide its business activities. Therefore, Emily must ensure that she accepts and respects the culture and business traditions followed in Japan while expressing her ideas and work culture to him with a view to establish a stable and good business relationship with Mr. Hamasaki.
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