A Comparative Examination of Japanese and American
Management Styles, and Their Respective
It is widely recognized that Japanese and American styles of business management practice differ broadly across the range of supervisory style, decision-making, communications, management controls, and interdepartmental relations. These specific distinctions are rooted in the contrast between Japanese paternalism, which has sometimes been characterized as giving rise to "industrial feudalism," and American individualism, which might more accurately be characterized as personalism. It is proposed that the underlying factor in all of these distinctions is the Japanese group orientation, in which an individual's self-esteem is based upon group perceptions, or what has sometimes been called "saving face." The Japanese manager sees himself as a samurai, having duties and loyalties running up and down. In contrast, American managers' self-perceptions are far more internalized, and less shaped by the reactions of colleagues. The lone cowboy, reliant only on himself, is the underlying American business ideal, and his obligations to others are ultimately secondary to his duty to himself. Beginning in the 1970s and early 1980s, the successes of Japanese industry in penetrating American markets, and in providing American consumers with affordable products of superior quality, focused great attention upon Japanese styles of industrial most minute difference in the depth of a bow is significant in establishing relative place in the hierarchy. The paradox of hierarchy is that it makes it easier for seniors to accept input from juniors (to borrow from military terminology, the military being the most hierarchical walk of American life). Because the hierarchical ranking is so clearly understood by all, a senior can adopt a junior's ideas without his own place in the hierarchy being threatened. In contrast, in the more individualist culture of bossdom, there is -- at least for the...
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