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Differences Of Management Styles Between The East And The West


In a wide spectrum of business culture types, it is possible to allocate two opposite poles - the Western and the Eastern business cultures. The Euro-American and West European business cultures present typical Western culture. The most typical Eastern business types are namely cultures of the countries of Asia and the East (Confucian Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Islam countries). The main distinctive features of these types of business cultures are characterized by certain historical, religious and cultural preconditions.

Individualism and collectivism

Individualism, which is understood like an individual initiative, responsibility, right, and compensation, is recognized by Americans as the engine of public progress. Individual interest is an obligatory and high-priority condition of participation of any American in any activity, and it is a base of the American culture (Ang 2007). Thus, in this case, an individual is a society cell, an atom of which it consists. The American workplaces are constructed on individualism; people are paid and move ahead on an individual basis. Americans treat the organizations they work for as  voluntary associations which can be destroyed or left when it is equitable to interests of an individual or shareholders. It means that people can unite for an overall aim, however remaining the independent players operating in own interests. In the east, in Japan in particular, individualism is quite often considered as a threat to a society. Japan represents such type of a culture that considers an isolated person as not an independent unit, but as a function of a group and a corporate accessory (Ang 2007).


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The collectivism and group orientation both in household and in business sphere are initially inherent in Eastern business culture. There a functional unit of the society is not an individual, as it is typical for the West, but a group. First of all each person here is identified with certain group and only than is seen as an individual. Promotion of individual interests in the Japanese business environment is impolite and borders on impropriety. (Schulte, 2007) As a result, the highest quality Japanese equipment is known all over the world; whereas the names of leading Japan scientists, inventors, and leaders of business are practically unknown world community (Schulte, 2007). The collectivism in East culture is absolutized; it even means protectionism, clannishness and nepotism.

Individualism is directly connected with personal independence and freedom. Independence and internal freedom of the Americans appears in sincere respect for human rights, freedom of speech and information, independence of mass-media. Human rights are a cornerstone of the American constitution. In China and some other Asian countries there are other priorities. The rights and interests of group (a country, a family, or a company) are more important than rights of the separate person. The member of East culture is tensely associated with a number of groups and thus feels the lack of social mobility. An example of tragic collision between the western value of independence and the eastern dependence is the situation in Nepal in June, 2001. Then the crown prince has shot the royal family because its members have disagreed with its marriage choice, and then has committed suicide. The prince of Nepal (as well as his father) was educated in Eton (England) where he got acquainted with the western values of freedom and the right of choice.

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Americans, British and northern Europeans have strong feeling of privacy, they abominate intervention into their lives. Eastern culture condemns aspiration to the individualism that is shown by the Western culture.

Hierarchy and egalitarianism

For eastern societies, unlike western, rigid hierarchy and great distance between authorities and population are common. It means that distinctions of powers of different hierarchy levels are significant. The Japanese society with its thousand-year imperial history is strictly vertically organized . The age and the work experience were traditionally higher appreciated  than qualification. The young employee cannot make a career move before senior employee even less qualified.

The Japanese identifies itself with a group in a hierarchical manner. The employee of a Japanese company, which remains a kind of a clan, is obliged to be faithful to values and vertical system of relations in it. This system is expressed in subordination of the lower and benevolence of the higher. The power in a clan keeps not on the order resources, charm and charisma, mutual exchange or other western concepts but on the nature of the Japanese order of things. Americans are traditionally shocked with abuse and roughness the Japanese managers demonstrate to the subordinates. For Japanese, to display the power over subaltern is an immutable order of things. For instance, the senior head of the meeting, Japanese, leaves a premise where the meeting is held. Others participants rise and bow seeing him off. Their behavior looks servile for Americans.

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Loyalty to the group or firm is extolled in Japan and is valued higher than loyalty to such abstractions, as "public" and "society". Therefore the bribery or illegal fixation of the prices is not punished here severely. Loyalty to group is could be also seen in the Japanese practice of transferring places in regulatory authorities by right of succession. More and more Japanese rebel against this practice which conducts the growth of number of political amateurs.

Egalitarianism is a style of relations of equal, characteristic to the Western culture and American in particular. The USA is the country of high social mobility and the society of meritocracy. Society is controlled by people, whose high position is based on personal achievements, instead of inherited status or patronage.

Americans traditionally use first names in business environment. It is considered to simplify communication. Thus the age difference and the status are diminishing. In the Eastern business culture it is often necessary to list all names and titles of the interlocutor to demonstrate special respect to a partner in communication. In fact such practice fixes hierarchy and underlines subordination relations.  The strict rules of employees’ behavior within a company also play a similar role in the sense of hierarchy.

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Straightforwardness and courtesy

It is said that the East person thinks one thing, says another, and makes the third . This east saying is sometimes perceived as cunning, slyness and even dishonesty. At the same time the tradition of the western business not to divide words and acts is perceived as unexpected straightforwardness, naivety and rashness.

The behavior of Americans quite often seems inconsiderate. They are often considered as people without complexes. The American is not embarrassed of the fact that he or she is not like the others. The human rights make the foundation of the American culture. According to this a variety and originality are a source of new ideas, innovations, progress, and society prosperity.

Straightforwardness in the Western and, especially, in the American culture, seems to Japanese defiantly impolite and almost impudence. While Americans can refuse the uninteresting offer without being confused, then there is no word "no" in Japan. Japanese consider direct refusal impolite and in every possible way evade from it in practice. For Japanese person’s sincerity is an aspiration to keep harmony of relations, i.e. not to break the consent, comfort, favor and calmness of associates. In general it is not correct to perceive behavior of representatives of Eastern culture literally. East culture is high context culture. It means that the real essence of the said is defined by a context of certain event (i.e. situation, place, time, background instead of words.

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Straightforwardness of Americans is demonstrated by their immediate readiness to start negotiations with figures, documents and specific proposals even if partners see each other for the first time. Waste of time for them is waste of money. Such, from the eastern point of view, "rashness" and imprudence is due to the system of legal relations in the Western countries that provide real protection to participants of the negotiation process. Infringement of the contract by one of the parties easily and habitually can be resolved by the American court and the infringer is really punished by the law. In the Eastern countries there is no such all-round reliable legal protection of the parties; therefore a guarantee of the partner’s reliability of the partner is kinship and personal acquaintance with the potential partner.

American resoluteness means readiness to make decisions just at negotiations unlike the Japanese tradition to do it before or after them. Japanese and Chinese participate in negotiations in groups and with already prepared decision (Bedward 2003   ). Members of the Japanese group co-ordinate the position before the talks and do not change it during the process of discussion. The decision cannot be changed because they have already accepted it.  If the Japanese part considers crucial to change the position it prefer to coordinate another way of negotiating and only than feels ready to continue the process. Japanese and Americans attach different importance to business meetings. Americans come to discuss a problem and to search the decision. Japanese consider that the meeting is convoked to announce the decision and to show that everybody agree with it.

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Noncommittal and straightforwardness as norms of behavior rule the material environment of a society. They are connected with such characteristics of the countries, as the size of shadow economy, level of openness (publicity) of a policy, clarity of business for a society (Ibata-Arens 2004).

Japanese appreciate sincerity in business though this concept does not mean the same as for Americans. In America the sincere person acts so that other people become informed about his/her relation to something and intentions (Desouza 2003). The idea is that sincerity generates the truth. Japanese do not have such an accent. In this culture a sincere person acts so in case not to offend another. To be sincere means to create the ordered, harmonious world for others.

Self-confidence also concerns as characteristic features of the American culture. It can be said that the USA is the country of self-confident people whose self-confidence is brought up and encouraged from the cradle (Desouza 2003). World leadership of the USA in economy, politics, and culture keeps on self-confident people motivated at individual achievements. However self-confidence here is not the superiority over others, but the superiority over circumstances, difficulties, person’s own weaknesses.

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Compromise is another value that has quite different meaning in the Western and the Eastern cultures. The compromise in the Western culture is an evidence of good will, desire and actual aspiration to solve a problem (Frost2007). The Eastern culture understands the compromise more like a negative phenomenon. To compromise here means to show weakness of character, inability to hold boundaries of the position (Ibata-Arens 2004). The representative of the Eastern culture «loses the face» while making a compromise.

Job, company, management

Barrier in cross-country-cultural communication is mostly put up by different interpretation of some concepts by the partners. Thus, for example, "job", "company", "management", "working group" have different meaning and valuable maintenance for Japanese and Americans.

Americans use work as the tool of receiving the reward to ensure the best leisure and quality of life. For Americans, job is flexible and is based on economic transaction. They efficiently perform their duties in case when worthy payment is guaranteed.  Japanese work because they wish to answer expectations of the family, friends and a society (Bedward 2003). Work for them is simply life as each person lives under the order of things in a society. It is an obligation to a society and to him/herself as a human being. Work means something good for group, but not conveniences and utility for the worker. Therefore, the employees who are not working properly are not only unproductive but simply immoral (Frost 2007). Often the Japanese managers expect that their American subordinate will spend 30 minutes before to the beginning of the working day to prepare for work, or remain after the working day without extra pay. They thereby expect that American will take it a kind of moral duty (Davenport 1998). Thus instead of thanking or rewarding American, Japanese waits for a gratitude for possibility to be moral person. As the moral person is happy, Japanese think that they create conditions for happiness.

According to one of the Japanese codes, qualified white-collar managers are similar to the Samurais of the past working for the sake of the lords undoubtedly and discontent (Davenport 1998). Decrease of working efforts or their stop means recession of lord’s loyalty and favor and destroys "pleasure" of relations "master-servant". In practice loyalty in Japan is submission to the inevitable and inescapable authorities.

In the Japanese language there is a word which does not exist in the European languages (karoshi) which means the death from excessive work. Information about such events periodically appears in the Japanese mass-media. It is characteristic that in Japan productivity or efficiency is the same as a presence. Therefore the Japanese does not leave boring meetings even in a somnolence. Time spent at a table or a workstation is more like symbolical demonstration of subordination, than the efficient work. Some Japanese thinkers consider work as a way to the growth of economic power of Japan. In the Japanese culture heavy work is simply a display of human essence.

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For Japanese the economic life is more a process than a chain of transactions which does not have other value, except the result named by the American economists "utility" (Laurent 1983). Utility for Japanese is a process of "making", but not the reached result. Namely, the Japanese company makes products whereas the American firm makes profits. Japanese are sometimes stronger in manufacturing than in marketing. The reason of this is that a continuing life of certain factory is often more necessary than sale of goods. Management for the Japanese company is benevolent use of the power for order and harmony maintenance. The Japanese managing directors can sometimes abuse the power, but their basic function is creation of the socially-authorized control and public welfare.

Americans and Japanese also variously see working groups. The Japanese managers consider working groups as environment for sharing the information on improving the work (Gupta 2002). Americans use groups basically for division of responsibility and risk.

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The American administrative elite considers work as some inconvenience, the company as the wealth generator for owners, management as behaviorist process «stimulus - reaction», the worker  as a purposeful appendage, a failure as stimulus for competitiveness, and group as a barrier to a functional economic exchange on a labor market. If an employee is fanatically devoted to the group contrary to his/her own interests the efficiency of a market mechanism is supposed to collapse.

The Japanese group identity is based on behavior and tasks, but not on cultural values or fidelity to a group (Laurent 1983). When Japanese employee is out of sight of the group his/her fidelity to group decreases and vice versa. Therefore the Japanese managers do not like to work in foreign and joint ventures and even in temporary intracorporate projects. They do not worry about necessity of loyalty to two groups simultaneously. They rather worry if their former group accepts them favorably after long-term absence.

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It's obvious that the conflicts that appear between Asians and Westerners at work are often a result of fundamental deep, hidden, and unrecognized differences in beliefs of how employees and organizations should behave. The first issue is to understand that these deep differences exist, and to identify those working areas that are mostly affected by them. Then employees have to be trained the new skills of communication, decision-making, negotiation, that are required for more efficient business behavior. Cross-cultural training needs to be effected on both sides of the Pacific, creating the bridge between East and West. East and West, Confucian and Platonic, bringing yin and yang together is a serious challenge, but it's a task that must be performed in order to form the perfect whole of business success.



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