Work management practices across the world are rooted in culture. While companies in some countries retain a well-rewarded and loyal work force, employees of companies in other countries frequently move between companies and are not necessarily looked after in times of financial instability. The behavioral patterns of American and Japanese employees demonstrates this contrast in work management practice between the two cultures.
Staying with the Firm
While Japanese managers tend to stay with one company for their whole career, American managers often move between companies and work for a handful of companies over the course of their careers. Japanese managers tend to see opportunities for development, such as transfers to overseas offices of their company, as an opportunity to learn more about their employer and how it functions. They see this as a chance for career advancement within the company because they gain a robust understanding of how the company works from many angles. On the other hand, American managers tend to see opportunities for development, such as overseas postings, as a chance to build their skills and knowledge that will help build their resume and provide opportunities to move to a job in another company.
American and Japanese managers think very differently regarding company loyalty. Japanese managers tend to stay with one firm for life for moral reasons, because they believe that it is not correct to accept a position with another company. This is rooted in the strong feeling of commitment they have to their company. They firmly believe that their relationship with their company is a two-way one, and that ultimately they will look after each other. Conversely, American managers generally have a stronger feeling of loyalty and commitment to themselves than to the companies they work for. They do not feel much of a sense of owing something to their company; if a better job opportunity is offered, they will most likely take it.
Japanese companies tend to offer far greater job security to their employees than American companies do. This helps explain the varying degrees of loyalty employees feel in return. Japanese managers are mostly looked after very well by their firm. Companies will do their best to ensure their employees do not lose their jobs in times of economic trouble or decline. As part of the two-way relationship they have with their companies, Japanese managers expect their firms to look after them at all times, regardless of the crisis. On the other hand, American managers are more likely to be let go if their companies run into financial difficulties. As a result, American managers are more self-sufficient and wary because they expect to have to look after themselves. They make the most of the skills they have acquired to ensure they can go on to further employment if they lose their jobs.
Japanese managers tend to find that during times of economic slowdown, not only do they retain their jobs, but they also get put on training programs. The company thinking behind this practice is to prepare its managers for an economic upturn that is likely to follow the downturn. Conversely, cutting back on training budgets is one of the first things to happen during times of financial downturn for American companies. Not only will American firms slash training for their managers, but they will also lay off workers, making the situation even more precarious for American employees.
- Bizcovering: Japanese and American Management
- HighBeam Research: A Comparison of U.S. and Japanese Management Styles and Unit Effectiveness
- “On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu: Japanese Model and the American Worker”; Laurie Graham; 1995
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images