One of my family members once worked for a subsidiary of a famous Japanese manufacturer in the U.S., where the majority of the staff were from Japan. The company had a presence in different spheres ranging from automotive to industrial infrastructure, and I had a chance to witness their operations and communication processes. It had a strict business hierarchy where everyone had to attend to their particular duties, not exceeding the limits of their status and position in the firm. The executive manager was in complete control over every aspect of the company’s daily operations and could easily tell other employees how to correctly do their job, yet strictly in private. Another important factor of the organization was short-term planning, which involved outlining the company’s prospects for the next six months and reflecting on the achievements and missed opportunities by the end of this period.
The rigid corporate structure where everyone was assigned their role and was not allowed to transgress it inevitably had an impact on the communication aspect of the company. For example, during meetings, Japanese employees chose to discuss and present information which had already been decided upon; moreover, people never asked any questions in public and did it only in person. Such situations confused the American staff, including my family member, who did not have any prior experience with Japanese business etiquette. When a customer called the company and wanted to order a car part which was out of stock, some Japanese employees often could not tell them directly that the company did not have it. This led to clients’ dissatisfaction and their refusal to work with the company again, which affected sales. Eventually, such problems were fixed, but the communication style inherent to the Japanese business culture slowed down the process of fixing mistakes.
Organizational culture – is a set of norms and rules which are established as the primary code of conduct for every individual who is a part of an organization. It also implies certain values which are pursued by this organization and have to be upheld by the staff in order to be successful in this enterprise. It is essential for any company or a non-profit organization because it ensures order and a universal approach among all the members of the personnel, which helps them understand one another. It also regulates the flexibility and freedom a person has within the boundaries of their particular role in the company. Types of organizational cultures vary from one company to another, yet the common necessary prerequisite for each style is that it must be strong. Organizations with a healthy culture have better communication, fewer disagreements, an increased level of trust and cooperation.
Organizational culture is similar to a national one and often stems from or is shaped by it. National culture constitutes a set of customs, beliefs, and values which are characteristic of a particular people. Since individuals live in societies, every aspect of their life is influenced by the culture of their society, and organizations are not an exception. For example, the differences between organizational cultures of the majority of American and Saudi Arabian companies are evident, the former are based on competitiveness while the latter rely on developing good, family-like relations. Organizational culture is a powerful tool which must be adjusted by executive managers to align with the needs of employees and thus help the company produce better results.
Effects of Organizational Culture on Communication
Japanese companies also have a distinct organizational culture which works effectively with the Japanese people since it rests on the national customs, rules of behavior, and norms of communication. It is based on the assumption that the authority must not be challenged, an individual has to be devoted to their professional responsibilities, and harmony should not be upset. Therefore, Japanese employees avoid criticizing or asking questions in public and especially at business meetings and prefer to do it in person. Yet, Americans are used to a different culture, the one which is open and allows them to act informally even at work. The situations which occurred at the company for which one of my family members worked can be explained by these cultural norms, which subsequently affected the organizational culture. This resulted in a misunderstanding between representatives of the two cultures, which required managers to introduce changes to the company’s communication strategies.
One of the possible solutions which could be implemented by the management of the company would be exposing employees to training, which would foster in them the willingness to integrate the two approaches (Adler & Elmhorst, 2013). The Japanese staff who were poorly acquainted with the American etiquette and ways of exchanging ideas and voicing concerns in the workplace could undergo cultural training and expand their knowledge. Similarly, American employees could be taught different Japanese business customs and rules of behavior, which would help them adjust to a new corporate environment and perform better as professionals. Thus, by fusing together two organizational styles and developing new business guidelines, managers would solve all the aforementioned problems and ensure that communication at the company would become exemplary. Thus, organizational culture plays a vital role in the success of every business, and managers have to carefully monitor it to see if it negatively affects communication.
Adler, R., & Elmhorst, J. M. (2013). Communicating at work (12th ed.). McGraw-Hill.