We’ve all been there.
We’re fully committed to our job. Maybe we even chose this company in Japan for its cross-cultural work environment. We prepare diligently for a project, using every tool we have. The execution goes well…or so we think.
Then, we learn that the boss, who is from a different culture, wasn’t satisfied. But the feedback doesn’t really help us to see what’s gone wrong. It consists of phrases like “be more results-oriented” or “be more proactive”… What does that even mean?
Cultural Differences In Japan: The Workplace Edition
This kind of frustration on the job isn’t unusual among people who work in international or cross-culture environments. Our manager asks for something we believe we’re already delivering, and we just can’t see what to do differently to satisfy him. There’s some kind of disconnect and we can’t figure out where or what it is.
In this situation, some people just keep plugging along doing as they’ve always done, hoping it will all work out. Others give up and change jobs, hoping to find a better environment elsewhere.
The Case of Japanese Business
Author Leland Gaskins suggests there’s another way to overcome these problems when it comes to cultural differences in Japan.
In his book, “Step Up: Overcoming Cross-Cultural Differences Between Japanese and Western Businesspeople,” Gaskins provides a roadmap for understanding when and why these disconnects arise and for figuring out how to work effectively in diverse environments, in spite of different values and different communication styles.
Overcoming Cultural Differences In Japan Through Fiction
One feature of Gaskins’s book that makes it appealing is that it is presented as a story, making it “real”, more palpable, rather than just theoretical.
Hiroshi, a young family man with plans and ambition, took the chance of a job with a foreign company and is floored when his American boss tells him his work is disappointing and his future prospects are limited. With the help of Sheri, an American colleague who offers him informal coaching, Hiroshi slowly unravels the situation and figures out what he can do differently at work to turn his career fortunes around.
Of course, the real message of the book lies in the way Hiroshi and Sheri break down the feedback from the boss. Together, they figure out how to overcome the differences in their cultural values so that Hiroshi’s work can meet his boss’s expectations.
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