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International Management Japanese Business Culture

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Chapter 3 Managing Global and Workforce Diversity

Culture Shock

Warren Oats was a highly successful executive for American Auto Suppliers, a Chicago-based company that makes original-equipment specialty parts for Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Rather than retreat before the onslaught of Japanese automakers, AAS decided to counterattack and use its reputation for quality and dependability to win over customers in Japan. Oats had started in the company as an engineer and worked his way up to become one of a handful of senior managers who had a shot at the next open vice-presidential position. He knew he needed to distinguish himself somehow, so when he was given a chance to lead the AAS attack on the Japanese market, he jumped at it.

Oats knew he did not have time to learn Japanese, but he had heard that many Japanese executives speak English, and the company would hire a translator anyway. The toughest part about leaving the United States was persuading his wife, Carol, to take an eighteen-month leave from her career as an attorney with a prestigious Chicago law firm. Carol finally persuaded herself that she did not want to miss an opportunity to learn a new culture. So, armed with all the information they could gather about Japan from their local library, the Oats headed for Tokyo.

Known as an energetic, aggressive salesperson back home, Warren Oats wasted little time getting started. As soon as his office had a telephone—and well before all his files had arrived from the States—Oats made an appointment to meet with executives of one of Japan’s leading automakers. Oats reasoned that if he was going to overcome the famous Japanese resistance to foreign companies, he should get started as soon as possible.

Oats felt very uncomfortable at that first meeting. He got the feeling that the Japanese executives were waiting for something. It seemed that…...

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