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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Conflict Resolution for contrasting culture

1.      How are the mangers of the Japanese manufacturing firm different from the American managers in the way they approach conflict resolution and decision making?
One of the key characteristics of the Japanese managers is that they analyze the thing in long term perspectives and from big pictures.  That means while making decisions, Japanese managers consider broad company goals and strategy. Beside this, Japanese managers try to avoid uncertainties. And also engage in programmed decision-making by using standard operating procedures found in thick operating manuals. Japanese managers rely on systematic decision making process.  Beside this, they also use informal approaches of decision making which could result in an informal meeting or a more formal meeting to consider implementation.
In contrast, American managers make quick and instant decisions for immediate resolution or rapid return on investment.  And unlike Japanese managers, American managers use non-programmed decision in which they gather and analyze data and information to identify and solve the problems. Not only this, but also American managers apply both authoritative and participative behavior to make the decisions.  In authoritative behavior, only concerned manager involves in decision making process and he/she informs his/her subordinates of the decision. On the other hand in Participative behavior of decision making American managers involve in the decision making utilizing subordinates in the process and collectively making a decision.
Another major difference in between Japanese managers and American Managers is that Japanese manager’s focus on collective approach while making decisions or choosing the best alternatives. Japanese managers enjoy much when their entire group enjoyed success. On the contrary, an American manager enjoys much when they are successful individually. In another words, American managers focus more on ways in which they won individually.
           In conflict resolution or while negotiating, the difference between American and Japanese managers lies in the rhythm of negotiation and directness. The key fact about American managers is that they like fast and direct approach of problem solving, conflict resolution or negotiation. But this may not true in case of Japanese managers. Japanese including some other countries managers may not necessarily consider speediness and directness as a quality of the decision making even though American likes it because, the rhythm of negotiations and conflict resolution or decision making is comparatively much slower outside the United States or in Japan.
Finally American managers apply informal way while negotiating and they like quick meetings. Beside this they are aggressive, impatient and direct to problems or to the issues.  On the contrary, Japanese managers try to be formal while negotiating, they like long courting process and they draw on intermediaries. They try to explain the problem situation and they are relatively indirect.  And finally Japanese are comparatively less aggressive rather they are patient and questioning.  The terms of agreement for American managers is a ‘good deal” but for the Japanese managers, “a long term relationship is the key agenda for the negotiations.
In conclusion, American managers view interactions within relationships and groups as occurring between independent individuals, and thus, disagreements and conflicts are accepted as a natural and inevitable aspect of social life while approaching conflict or making decisions. Japanese managers on the other hand, dislike social disorganization or disagreements and therefore they have developed social structures, institutions, and customs for avoiding or reducing conflicts. The Japanese try to avoid tactics and rather they are more concerned with maintaining a social relationship. On the contrary, Americans  who are said to be individualists emphasis a strong use of assertive tactics in conflict situations, with a greater concern for attaining justice for themselves and reported a preference for assertive tactics. Furthermore, American emphasizes more verbally direct approaches for dealing with areas of disagreement. They emphasize precision in language use and generally follow the maxim, "say what you mean and mean what you say" kind of philosophy while dealing with conflict resolution or approaching conflict situation. Talking about the disagreement directly to one another is a comfortable approach for the Discussion style. Japanese on the other hand, apply accommodation style while solving conflict and making decision that emphasizes a more indirect approach for dealing with areas of disagreement and a more emotionally restrained or controlled manner for dealing with each party's emotional response to conflict. They emphasize ambiguity and circumlocution in language to make sure that conflict remains with their control. They use indirect speech and intermediaries to minimize the level of conflict.
2.      Why do the Japanese consider the American mangers impatient?
The reason Japanese managers consider their American counterparts as impatient are that there are so many differences in social structure and business decision making in Japan and in America. Japanese negotiators or managers have a rigid social structure and expect American managers to respect it. For example Japanese managers are interested in multidimensional relationships therefore, they heavily emphasis on entertainment and non-task sounding activities. Japanese believes that things worth doing are worth doing slowly. Agreements are expected to be of long duration – negotiations can’t be rushed. But, American love quick decisions. They don’t want to waste time dealing with unnecessary things. They are sharp and precise in decision making and negotiating.  Japanese see themselves as part of the team and really can’t engage in freelancing.  Japanese spends much time while clearing proposals at all levels so that consensus can be built. On the other hand, Americans are much more likely to disregard the need for harmony.
Another reason for saying the American salespeople are impatient by the Japanese counterparts is that Japanese believes that American managers treat everything as though it is an emergency and never plan before the actual time when they need some information. They further argue that American managers call meetings at the last minute and expect people (especially Japanese) to come ready to solve a problem about which they know nothing in advance.
3.      What would you do to increase the amount of cooperation between the two parties?
Following are some of the elements or the factors that I would like to consider in order to increase the amount of cooperation between two parties:
      1.            Encourage active participation between both parties in the meeting by giving enough time for the preparation with the prior notice of meeting and agenda to be discussed in the meetings.
      2.            Ensure effective and clear communication among and between all the parties and members.
      3.            Slow down the pace of decision making to make sure that all concerned members are clear and up-to-date with the facts discussed so far.
      4.            Make sure that Japanese managers will understand their American counterparts and there is proper communication between both the parties. If there is gap between two parties then encourage good behavior and cross cultural workshop to harmonize the relationship between two.
      5.            Incorporate the culture of both the groups while functioning and making decision.
      6.            Use the tools and methods of the communication as per the preference of the parties to whom the information is being delivered.
      7.            Make sure that everyone’s voice is considered while making decisions and all concerned parties are agreed with the decisions. 
      8.            Encourage the interaction and establish a dialogue between two parties by providing advice, consultation, and support to two parties.
      9.            Call confidential meetings with both Japanese and American managers and try to bring trust in between them.
  10.            Encourage both individual decision-making and group decision making and creative style, to analyse the spread of cognitive diversity among the members, and to give them individual feedback and encourage both American and Japanese managers to talk and participate sensibly about what had happened and to find a way forward.
  11.            Hold the time to time workshop with the manager and colleagues. 
  12.            Encourage and allow time for discussing the problems and possible solutions thoroughly and encourage listening and understanding each other’s points of view in order to find solutions that both the parties will be able to live up to.
  13.            Looking at the situation it seems like Japanese managers fears with that of American managers therefore to enhance the cooperation and communication between these two groups we need to reduce the fear of one party to other so that it work as a core of intercultural conflict resolution and understanding and have to make sure that there is equality of status, position and power in between two groups.

4.      Why did the Japanese not respond to the e-mails and written messages from the Americans?
Some of the important reason for the Japanese managers not responding to the e-mails and written message from the Americans are:
                              1.            In this particular case Japanese Managers think that the Americans don’t want their feedback.
                              2.            American talk fast comparing their Japanese counterparts and use too much slang that makes the Japanese managers unable to understand the situation. And when Japanese don’t understand the overall scenario then they say nothing which doesn’t mean they agree with it (this is the cultural impact).
                              3.            When Japanese managers understand what Americans were talking about in the meeting, American’s were off on a different subject that makes the Japanese feel themselves as an inferior which they don’t like at all.
                              4.            Japanese just agreed so as not to hold up the meeting. Japanese believes that brainstorming session is nothing more than guessing in public which is irresponsibility (this is completely not the way Japanese solves the problems).
                              5.            The Americans rely too much on written communication whereas Japanese don’t therefore; Japanese are less willing to use emails and memos as their primary means of communication. Therefore, Japanese managers believe that American managers send too many memos and too much e-mail and it seems like American’s just sit in their offices creating a lot of paperwork without knowing how people will react.
                              6.            Japanese blames that American’s are so cut-and-dried about business and do not care what others think and they talk a lot about making fast decisions, but they do not seem to be concerned if it is the right decision.
Furthermore, Japanese managers perceive that American managers lack regard for the duties and tons of responsibilities toward headquarters. They  further adds that American managers send faxes demanding quick action, without knowing the obstacles headquarters has to overcome, such as requests from many customers around the world that have to be analyzed. Therefore, they conclude that the real problem as “no loyalty from our U.S. customers”. Furthermore Japanese believes that price and turnaround time matters the most to the American managers rather than the long lasting relationship between the two stakeholders. Not only this but also, Japanese claims that American managers aren’t ready to commit with the headquarters and they don’t want to be committed with them either and that’s the major reason they don’t want to reply the emails and memos.
In conclusion, unlike Americans, Japanese less often use such emails and memos as a central means of communication. Beside this, they don’t like written means of communication and they are less interested to communicate in any other languages beside their own language. But here in this case, there is more than general idea of liking and disliking. There is the grievance and dissatisfaction that should be narrow down or eliminate to encourage communication and participation of both parties in the decision making process.

Phatak, Bhagat & Kashlak, International Management, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2009    

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