HR Management

3 doubts that locally hired managers feel towards their Japanese employer


Among locally-hired managers in a Japanese company, some have doubts and dissatisfaction with the way their company operates. This is largely due to the influence by Japanese customs and culture. This article will explain the situation based on the following 3 viewpoints: promotion speed, work efficiency and communication.

Why is promotion slow in Japanese companies?

Even if both are foreign-owned enterprise, Japanese companies have a slower promotion rate compared to their Western counterparts. This is because Japanese companies have a tendency to base promotion on the employee’s age, years of service, academic background, etc, unlike Western companies which gives salary increment in accordance with their job.

Among Japanese companies entering overseas markets, some may bring with them the concept of long-term employment or stable employment to the local offices. In those companies, employees who aim to advance their career quickly may find that it does not fit their expectations. On the contrary, it is a suitable environment for employees who wish for a mid to long-term career plan in one company. This is why some Japanese companies take time to promote employees, as they focus on creating med to long term careers for the staff.

Do Japanese companies make quick decisions?

A common problem in local Japanese affiliated companies is that, when unexpected problems appears, local managers will want to tackle it on the spot, but they are often held back by the headquarters in Japan who will not move until they checked through the details. In other words, a local manager is required to ask for instructions from Japan headquarters if the issue goes beyond their responsibilities.  However, it takes time to ask the headquarters, to receive a reply from them and in some cases, it will also take time to explain the local situation to the headquarters.

If that happens, it will cause delays in work and also cause frustration and dissatisfaction among local employees, possibly jeopardizing the local manager position as a result.

The cause of this is the organizational structure of Japanese companies. Especially in the case of large enterprises entering overseas markets, many operates with a centralized authority that manages information and makes decisions. Therefore, whenever the local manager tries to make decisions, the superior’s judgment and agreement is necessary, followed by that superior’s boss’s judgment and agreement. Thus, it takes a lot of work and a long time to make decisions.

The current situation is that while local managers have the duty to manage the local companies well, they do not have the authority to make judgement and decisions. 

Is it difficult to communicate with Japanese managers?

Japanese managers who come from Japan neither praise nor chat with the local staff, often only talking about the job, giving instructions, guidance and explanation. This lack of communication may cause doubt among subordinates, making them wonder if the Japanese managers have the same attitude towards locally-hired managers. 

The root of this lack of communication seems to be perfectionism, where Japanese managers felt a need to speak the local language accurately for the local staffs to comprehend what he says. However, lack of communication means work cannot proceed. Thus, not only should Japanese managers attempt to communicate, local managers should also keep in mind the Japanese managers’ viewpoint and communicate with them. As colleagues, polite understanding between each other may increase the probability of solving the problems.

The mutual compromise removes doubt and dissatisfaction

There is a danger that as local managers keep trying to adapt to the Japanese company’s way and Japanese custom, they will be exhausted in the long run. Therefore, locally hired managers should make the Japanese manager feel welcome. It is important for local managers to encourage Japanese managers to understand their local culture, customs and the way local businesses work, so that a better company can be built.

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