Business Relations between the United States and Japan
The globalizing economy is a constantly growing worry in the minds of today’s businesspersons. How we relate and communicate with other countries can dictate whether we are able to do business together, or whether we have to look for other resources. In order to be successful when building business relations with businesspeople of other cultures, it is important that we understand the customs of that culture. Japan, for example, is a very different country than the United States. When the U.S. attempts to do business with Japan, we need to consider many different aspects of the country. We must understand how businesspersons approach business deals in Japan, as well as what type of communication should be used in order to achieve success. This includes negotiations and contractual specifics. We must also be aware of our cultural differences so we can better understand how to interact with our potential business partners. In this way, we will know what cultural customs to partake in, table manners, and how Japan’s policies and culture will regard the United States’ professional women. Understanding differences in business ethics is also important, so that we are prepared to compromise, or renegotiate any disagreements.
Meeting, negotiations, and contracts are always a tense part of any business transaction. There are a few rules and traditions that businesspersons from the United States should abide by when initiating these discussions with businesspersons from Japan, according to Stephanie Slatar, author of “Japan: Marketing Management Issues in Japan .” For instances meetings and negotiations will primarily be composed of group, rather than a one-on-one interaction. This will be unfamiliar to most Americans. The Japanese enter meetings with so many individuals because each one is an expert in their field. If an American businessperson comes alone, they should be sure they know everything about the business transaction, or the negotiation may fail. If the American businessperson enters the negotiation with a team, it is customary in Japan to let lesser ranking employees handle all of the talking. It is also wise not to call a negotiation or meeting unless you are attempting to build rapport, confirming a previously made decision, or exchanging information. Calling a meeting for other reasons appears rude, according to Slatar . Negotiations are primarily for business in the United States but in Japan, they are a way for businesspersons to establish a relationship with one another. It is also important for American businesspersons to understand that Japan operates on a group consensus. In negotiations between Americans, if the senior employee makes a decision, that decision is definitive. However, in Japan, the American must make a good impression on the entire business group, including junior employees.
Assuming the American businessperson is able to negotiate a deal, the two parties will establish a contract. Japanese business is typically incredibly detail oriented. Japanese businesspeople will often want to go over the contract several times, asking many questions in different ways. This may seem tedious to American businesspeople but is necessary to how Japanese business works. It is important that the American businessperson can answer all of the questions; if they cannot they risk looking unprofessional. This may cause the Japanese to back out of the deal. Individuals dealing with negotiations are to remain quiet, humble, and introverted. Extroversion and brazen individuality is seen as arrogant in Japanese culture. Humble businesspersons are non-threatening and more likely to receive business. It is unwise to openly disagree with negotiators, or force the other party into a decision. In Japan, they sign when they are ready to sign.
The country of Japan is very honored and respectful. They have several forms of etiquette that an American businessperson must be aware of when they enter into business talks with Japan. Knowing these approaches may win favor with Japanese businesspeople. According to Melvin C. Washington and the co-authors of “Intercultural Communication in Global Business: An Analysis of Benefits and Challenges,” there are some basic rules that businesspersons of the U.S. need to follow when entering in talks with Japan . Primarily, Japan prides itself greatly on it Confucian roots, meaning that a hierarchy is established and greatly respected. Employment or family background determines status. Age also determines status, which is a strong culture difference between Japan and America. American businesspeople need to recognize this, treating the elderly in Japan with more respect than they normally would. The Japanese people are also very respectful, believing it is an essential part of upholding a peaceful society. There are many non-verbal forms of communication that convey respect such as the bowing of one’s head, which businesspeople should learn before performing any business. Finally, it is important for U.S. businesspersons to observe group orientation and teamwork. This may be disorienting for many Americans because we are often used to doing things on our own. However, Japanese business contains teamwork and altruism. While Americans seek out individuality by breaking away from the group, the Japanese define individuality through group orientation. Business conduct revolves around group orientation, compromise, and teamwork.
There are also several manners to follow when doing business in Japan. They are formal, and everybody must maintain a sense of professionalism, especially in the first meeting. Bowing is used to greet, ask for attention, apologize, sympathize, and say thank you, according to Yukiko Abe, who is published in Journal of the Japanese and International Economies . While Americans are not expected to bow, and are typically greeted with a handshake, it may earn favor if the effort is made. A full name introduction is required, and proper titles are always used. The ceremony of exchanging business cards, according to Slatar, is very important. Each party offers their card with both hands, or only their right hand. The Japanese side should be face up, and there should be nothing standing between the businessperson and the individual receiving the card. The recipient is to accept the card with two hands. Any other act would be an insult. Women in Japan often do not enjoy positions of authority, as written in Abe’s article, “The Equal Employment Opportunity Law and labor force behavior of women in Japan .” This is a currently changing landscape in Japan but traditionally women have been a subjugated gender. American businesspeople can be women but given Japan’s culture, they may not be as well received as men would be during negotiations or meetings.
Business ethics in Japan are a product of the country’s culture and religion. Confucianism, for example, is bound to the ethics that what is best for the group is best for the individual. Their culture is based on centralized feudalism and hierarchy, which fuels this system of ethics. In simple terms, an American businessperson can expect Japanese business ethics to reflect decisions that will be best for their country, not best for one individual. This will be a cultural difference, since we often hear about extortion, blackmailing, and individuals breaking ethical codes for personal gain in America. Confucianism also believes that in order to stabilize a society, there must be reciprocity and long-term relationships. This means that if Americans give to the Japanese now, they will return the favor later. However, if they grant America a favor, they will expect the same in return down the line . This code of ethics is more indicative of how American business ethics work.
In sum, there are many traditions and cultural differences to learn when doing business with another country. Japan has several cultural differences that most Americans know nothing about. The Japanese respect their elders, believe in teamwork, expect negotiations to remain quiet and humble, and cannot yet relate to women in positions of authority. These, and many other cultural differences, are important to understand when attempting to do business with the Japanese.
Abe, Y. (2011). The Equal Employment Opportunity Law and labor force behavior of women in Japan. Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, 39-55.
Slatar, S. (2013). Japan: Marketing Management Issues in Japan. In S. Paliwode, T. Andrews, & C. Junsong, Marketing Management in Asia (pp. 78-100). London: Routledge.
Washington, M. C., Okoro, E. A., & Thomas, O. (2012). Intercultural Communication In Global Business: An Analysis Of Benefits And Challenges. International Business & Economics Research Journal , 217-222.