Being surrounded by a lot of people who’ve never worked for a Japanese company, I find myself in a weird situation when people around me start raising negative stereotypes about them.
It’s true that compared to American companies, Japanese companies may appear rather undesirable. They’re known to have relatively low pay, relatively small desks, and getting approval for your vacation requests is almost next to impossible.
Yet, I refuse to believe they are all that bad because if they were, they wouldn’t have succeeded and helped make Japan the second richest country in the world, with successful brands known the world over.
Having worked for Japanese companies, I will take it as my responsibility to defend the underdog. Besides, if people ask me which company I enjoyed the most, my answer has always been Epson, a Japanese company.
I believe it’s because Epson gave me that feeling of being part of a family. Everybody was incredibly polite and courteous. My colleagues treated me as if I were their brother and my superiors treated me as if I were their son.
Employees were focused on working as a team instead of worrying about internal competition. Rumors about who’s dating who are commonplace, and yet, professional backbiting is unheard of.
I think this is made possible because of two things, (1) age-based promotion, and (2) bonuses based largely on just the company’s performance. Both practices are very common among Japanese companies.
With these two, both internal competition and professional backbiting become meaningless. There’s no use destroying the competition if doing so doesn’t guarantee you faster promotion or bigger bonuses.
The bonus system helps promote teamwork as well. Being the superstar in a team doesn’t guarantee you bigger bonuses. It’s the performance of the company that matters and this is best achieved if all the big parts and all the small parts of the team work as one.
I’m not saying these should be applied to all companies in the world. No. In fact, I don’t see these working for any other cultures other than the Japanese. I believe companies should promote a company culture that’s tailor-made for the individual cultures of the people they employ.
What works for the Japanese may not necessarily work for the Americans. Vice versa. In a company that’s a marriage between the Japanese and the American corporate cultures, it would be interesting to see the hybrid culture that would evolve.