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Japanese Companies in Germany- a Case Study in Cross-Cultural Management

In: Business and Management

Submitted By memon
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Japanese Companies in Germany: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Management
JAMES R. LINCOLN, HAROLD R. KERBO, and ELKE WITT'ENHAGEN*
From a series of qualitative interviews with Japanese managers and German managers and workers in thirty-one Japanese-owned companies in the Dusseldorf region of western Germany, this article discusses differences in cultural patterns and organizational styles between the German and Japanese employees and the problems these pose for communication, cooperation, and morale. First, we deal with cultural contrasts: language issues, interpersonal styles (personability and politeness), and norms regarding the taking of responsibility. Second, we examine the impact on cross-nationality relations of established organizational practice: for example, German specialism vs. Japanese generalism; direct and vertical vs. indirect and incremental decision making. We also discuss efforts by these firms to find compromise systems that would meet the needs and interests of both sides. The third focus is the reactions of Japanese companies in North Rhine-Westphalia to German unions, works councils, and codetermination regulations. In the labor view, Japanese firms overall do no better or worse than comparable German firms.

Japanese direct investment in Western economies is concentrated in North America and the United Kingdom. In consequence, a rich journalistic and scholarly literature examines the Japanese experience in the Anglo-American countries, the management styles and organization structures of the subsidiaries, and the relations between the Japanese management and the local workforce (see, e.g., Milkman, 1991; Lincoln, Olson, and Hanada, 1978; Pucik, Hanada, and Fifield, 1989; Florida and Kenney, 1992; Oliver and Wilkinson, 1990). There is far less writing,

particularly in English, on the activities of Japanese companies elsewhere in the…...

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