Japanese and UK business cultures

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Sociology ・APA ・5 Sources

Because cultural differences are essential to combating the rise in fear in the globe, not only to avoid missed opportunities and unwise judgments but also to avert disasters (Ogbu, 1992). Contrary to what is commonly claimed, differences between nations and cultures are frequently downplayed rather than embraced by ""globalization."" We need to be aware of and appreciate these differences, not just to ""get along"" with them, but also to capitalize on them and ensure that not only business people and businesses benefit, but global society as a whole.

The Japanese and UK business cultures are opposite in several areas, but if we manage to take the best of both parts, it becomes an incomparable strength. By the end of this essay, we shall have realized that there are many differences between these two cultures. I will use Charles Handy’s model of organizational culture i.e look into power, role, task and person cultures but under different perspectives.

Speed ​​in making decisions - In the world of business, the rate at which decisions are made is very important (Bossidy Charan and Burck, 2011, p. 28).Nonetheless, it is also crucial to get to the point of asking yourself whether what you are doing is worthwhile.


In Japanese firms, decisions are made by the administrative ladder – each decision goes up from level to level. At each point, an administrator is concerned and at the same time, it is obligatory to construct a number of documents for each decision. Consequently, the speed of making decisions in Japan is much slower. Nonetheless, the decisions are of high quality – fewer failures and are more reliable.


UK firms are swift in making decisions (Oktemgil and Greenley, 1997). Managers in the UK require that their subordinates should have more leadership qualities compared to the Japanese ones. UK managers give more freedom to their subordinates. Therefore, many misunderstanding errors often occur while executing decisions.

Responsibility - When we talk about responsibility within the company, it has a lot to do with the leadership that is given to the person, team or organization (Brammer, Millington and Rayton, 2007). Who is responsible for this success / failure? At this point there is a big difference too.


In Japanese companies, the person is asked to contribute to their section or group within the organization (Nonaka, 1990, p.28). That is, the success or failure is seen much more by group than by person, so the leadership does not depend so much on one person but more on the consensus of the working group. That is why charismatic and more individualistic people sometimes find it difficult to work in this system.


In Brit firms, people are granted more freedom and responsibility to mobilize individually (Leung, Bhagat, Buchan, Erez and Gibson, 2005, p. 360). A person’s contribution is sought per working group. This means that leadership is required from each individual; not just the boss. The disadvantage about this is that failure tends to convey responsibility to other people.

Evaluation of the result and the process - Japan centres on the process while UK focuses on the result (Trompenaars and Turner, 2011)


In Japanese companies, the Return on Investment (ROI) is important but the process and mode of how an objective is executed is evaluated with the same importance. For example, people who have taken classes in Judo, Karate or other Japanese martial art will realize that a lot of emphasis is placed on the ""Kata"" or form of the position. A budget is created precisely to ""build the process"".


In UK, the most crucial thing is the result (Oktemgil and Greenley, 1997, p. 460). The question that lingers is:- How much is the total return on the investment? The Brits do not give much importance to the way it was done and for that reason, it does not take much time or spend much to create this process.

Risk management - ""There's a long way from the stating the fact""


When an employee says he can perform something perfectly, it ought to be at 100%. Anything below that cannot be accepted. An error of 5% is not allowed. It is essential to fulfill whatever is said; whether inside or outside the office. Consequently, the Japanese are quite wary when making their own decisions. They try to evade the risk of not meeting their set aims. At times, this causes the intended ambitions to be taken below the company’s possibilities.


UK is well known for its cultural diversity (Joppke, 1996, p. 449). This makes them have a varied perception on how to carry out things. When a Brit says he can perform something perfectly, it is not necessarily a must that it should be at 100. This makes targets to be taken above the company’s possibilities and acts as a source of motivation.

Work teams and communication - Communication is one of the most important pillars within the organization (Child, 1972, p. 114). Nonetheless, the form of this communication differs a lot in these two cultures.


Although Japan has different ethnic cultures such as the Ainu (indigenous culture of Hokkaido) and Uchinanchu (culture of Okinawa), in general they have a very homogeneous culture where the values ​​and thoughts are very similar. Therefore, words such as ""read the air"" (kūki wo yomu) or ""Aun no kokyū"" are born, which means understanding and acting according to your environment. They are concerned that there is no discord in the environment and that harmony in the office is always maintained. For this reason, teams or companies tend to be conservative in execution and in unusual situations.


The Brits have a high level of communication (Leung, Bhagat, Buchan, Erez and Gibson, 2005, p.371). They are also quite aware of the content they are talking about. This can also be said of countries like the China, India and the US.

Work-Life Balance – The question that arises is whether there should be balance between family and professionalism.


For a majority of the Japanese people, work is essential in life. Since medieval times, individuals were selected to undertake the work they would do (Nonaka, 1990, p. 32). The ""Do"" in words like Kadō (ikebana), Judō, Karate-dō, means ""the way of living"". Consequently, labor promises are destined to go over those of the family. The Japanese workforce has to give itself time: consider giving time to their family. The statement Work-Life Balance has just become evident in Japan. This manner of thinking is evolving gradually.


In contrast to the Japanese, for the Brits, the family is the most crucial entity. Usually, the work and private life are two totally different things (Joppke, 1996, p. 500). There are numerous situations whereby gatherings are held with associates of the firm but families almost never meet with the work groups. This is the reason why it is hard for Brits to comprehend why the Japanese come to work in a foreign country without their households.The question that lingers is whether their work is that crucial to them.

Potential problems that may arise

Language is the gateway to a national or international culture (Hudon, 1977). It is the basic tool for the collaboration between the expatriate and the employees of his company (Misanchuk and Anderson, 2001). When both parties do not speak the same language, there is a risk of misunderstanding, which can prevent synergy and cooperation. In some cases, expatriates and host people do not understand each other because of different ways of thinking. In addition, certain expressions of the same language will different meanings from one country or continent to another. This can lead to racial fluctuations and prejudice.

Business practices are different in both countries. Some behaviors and attitudes will therefore be specific to each country. They may necessarily not be the best. Thus, one can identify differences in the management of schedules, in the mode of conducting a meeting, in the execution of the work, etc. It can lead to repetitive frustrations that can influence staff motivation as well as anger tensions due to misunderstandings. These are elements that can annoy the investor if he does not pay attention to cultural differences

In this essay, I have made a contrast on two cultures; UK and Japan. These two cultures vary in terms of decision making, responsibility, evaluation, risk management, communication and work-life balance. I have also discussed the potential problems that may erupt in the possibility that these two different cultures happen to conduct business together. They comprise of misunderstandings, racial fluctuations and prejudice, and repetitive frustrations. To practitioners who have to work in the context of these two countries, I would encourage them to foster teamwork. Teamwork unites a group of individuals with a common interest or purpose (Dunkel and Meierewert, 2004, p. 153). It will build strong relationships among these people as well as create an environment where the contribution of each person, regardless of their country is valued.


Bossidy, L., Charan, R. and Burck, C., 2004. Execution: The discipline of getting things done. Afp Exchange, 24(1), pp.26-29.

Brammer, S., Millington, A. and Rayton, B., 2007. The contribution of corporate social responsibility to organizational commitment. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(10), pp.1701-1719.

Child, J., 2002. Organizational structure, environment and performance. Strategy: critical perspectives on business and management, 6, p.114.

Dunkel, A. and Meierewert, S., 2004. Culture Standards and their impact on teamwork—An empirical analysis of Austrian, German, Hungarian and Spanish culture differences. Journal for East European Management Studies, pp.147-174.

Joppke, C., 1996. Multiculturalism and immigration: A comparison of the United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Theory and society, 25(4), pp.449-500.

Leung, K., Bhagat, R.S., Buchan, N.R., Erez, M. and Gibson, C.B., 2005. Culture and international business: Recent advances and their implications for future research. Journal of international business studies, 36(4), pp.357-378.

Misanchuk, M. and Anderson, T., 2001. Building Community in an Online Learning Environment: Communication, Cooperation and Collaboration.

Nonaka, I., 1990. Redundant, overlapping organization: A Japanese approach to managing the innovation process. California Management Review, 32(3), pp.27-38.

Ogbu, John U. ""Understanding cultural diversity and learning."" Educational researcher 21, no. 8 (1992): 5-14.

Oktemgil, M. and Greenley, G., 1997. Consequences of high and low adaptive capability in UK companies.European Journal of Marketing,31(7), pp.445-466.

Trompenaars, F. and Hampden-Turner, C., 2011. Riding the waves of culture: Understanding diversity in global business. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.


Cross-cultural management in work and family interface refers to how managers deal with the effects of culture and how this culture can affect the general performance of an organization. In managing any business, it important to embrace the culture of the people that you are dealing with. Embracing the cultural diversities in business management may either bring success or failure in the process of operation. The employees that the organization deals with also have some cultural practices that may bring forth work-family conflict. As a manager, one must make proper decisions that will not bring work-family conflict which may lead to organizational failure.

According to (Mead, 1994), he defines culture as the acquired knowledge that individuals put in practice to anticipate events as well as interpret experiences that will generate acceptable professional and social behaviors. The entire knowledge that is gathered by such individuals is useful in that it helps in creating values, influence behaviors, and attitudes of individuals. Culture is always learned through experience and shared among a large number of individuals in the society. It is also transferred from one generation to another (Joplin and Shaffer, 2003, p. 315). In this sense, culture is a crucial aspect that managers need to consider.

The increased women participation in the workforce and the recent connected changes in the family structure has brought about certain issues concerning management practice. There are work-family conflicts that usually occur among the employees. The conflict among the employee occurs when there is too much pressure in the work duties that make it difficult to fully participate in the family roles or when there is too much pressure from the family duties that make it difficult to attend to the work duties (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985, p. 78). The issue of work-family interface vary across different cultures and nations and for one to deal appropriately with this issue, he or she must understand the cultural setting of the individuals that he is dealing with.

In analyzing the work-family interface, one of the consideration is power distribution. Power distribution ideologies in a society can bring about challenges in family duties. It is proper for a manager to understand whether the society follows a hierarchical or egalitarian approach to power distribution in a family (Westman, 2005, p. 252). An example is in a society where hierarchical power distribution is used, women will tend to have a lot of duties to undertake in the family which may lead to pressure from home. In such cases, women may need to leave work early and maybe report late or come to work when they are already exhausted. Another consideration is in social relationships. Social relationships involve issues to deal with collectivism or individualistic (Yang, 2005, p. 294). An example of this is in societies where people believe in collectivism. Employees will tend to value their colleagues and any disagreement with one colleague may have serious consequences for the performance of others

Work patterns among the employees is another consideration. There are different work patterns that are exhibited by different cultures. There are some cultures where people are used in multitasking while in other cultures, people are used to doing one task at a time. When working in a society where people are not used to multitasking, it will be appropriate to force the employees to multitask while on duty. When this is done, it will bring pressure at work resulting family conflict (Ruppanner, 2011, p. 233). An example is when an organization forces its employees to operate machinery as they serve customers in a culture where people are not used to multitasking. This will result into pressure and the employees will not deliver well. They may as well transfer the pressure into family conflict when at home.

There are various responses that organizations can put in place to help address the problem of work-family issues. Organizational policies can be put in place to help address the problem both for paid employment and household labor. The organization can put in place legally protected leaves for their employees; paternity leave, maternity leave, sick leave, and parental leave (Lewis , 2011, p. 164). These types of leaves will help address the issue of work-family concerns. When a mother gives birth to a young one and the power distribution in that society is egalitarian, both the father and the mother will need a leave to take care of their young one for some specified period of time. When such leaves are granted to such families, the work-family pressure of the parents will reduce. In case the society employs a hierarchical power distribution model, then the mother will be having a lot of duties to undertake in the family. This will mean that the woman must be granted some more days to take care of the young one and adjust slowly to the new duties (Mokomane, 2012).

The organization can also employ other methods such as family tax and cash benefits for its employees to help address the problem of work-family conflict. When people are paid for extra effort, they become more encouraged and tend to work with a lot of ease as compared to if nothing is being given at all. When an employee multitasks in an organization where the dominating culture does no promote multitasking, the individual may use extra pay to hire someone to assist in the house chores. There will be no cause for pressure at home. This will help the employees work efficiently at their various workstations and have minimal problems when they get home.

The organization can also consider gender roles while giving out tasks. There are certain duties which can only be performed well by males while other duties can be best performed by females (Hegewisch and Gornick, 2011, p. 121). Specifying gender roles will help in solving the issue of work-family conflict. An example is when female employees are involved in the loading and offloading of heavy goods. As compared to males, they will be exhausted and cannot undertake their required duties in the family; such as cooking. This will ultimately lead to family conflict.

The spillover theory; proposes conditions in which the spillover between family microsystem and work microsystem becomes positive or negative. The theory documents that in cases where work-family interactions are generally rigid in terms of space and time, there will be a negative spillover in terms of energy, time and behavior. On the other side, if the work-family interaction is flexible where people can overlap and integrate work and family responsibilities in terms of space and time, then there will be a positive spillover in terms of energy, time, and behavior. The positive spillover is essential in promoting a healthy balance between work and family (Hill, et al., 2003, p. 232).

Negative spillover occurs when there is a situation that will lead to inter-role conflict. Situations that may lead to inter-role conflicts are those that are rigid and do not have chances of being flexible to accommodate changes that may come along. When the work roles are too rigid in terms of space and time, they will bring strains in family roles. Strains will demotivate the employee in the particular work that he or she is involved (Hakim, 2002, p. 435). As a result, the employee will have a negative attitude towards work. He/she will tend to do the work in a stressed condition. This will lead to underperformance of the employee in the line of duty at work. Back at home, he or she will also receive pressure from undone duties. Positive spillover occurs when the situations that may lead to inter-role conflict are flexible and allow for adjustments. When there is flexibility in space and time on the duties that employees are expected to undertake, ample time for the employees to adjust to their rightly duties is given (Lewis , 2009, p. 264).

Business organizations tend to develop a positive working environments where supervisors and other employees are in good working terms. In achieving this, organizations tend to consider issues like working policies, working time regulations, and economic influences that may make employees consider their jobs worthwhile. In addressing these issues, organizations are capable of achieving a positive working environment for its employees (Byron, 2005, p. 172). The organizations also tend to support its employees in some social activities like helping the needy so that the society can gain confidence in them.

An example of a well-known company that has dealt well with the family-work issue is the Apple Company. In one of the articles in the Business Insider, the employees revealed that the company helps them solve their problems nicely and to a great deal. The company listens to the employees complains that may lead to family-work conflicts and tries to be flexible on certain matters to allow the employees receive the best services from them (Edwards, 2016). In this manner, the company has helped the employees maintain a positive spillover in the company.


Byron, K., 2005. A meta-analytic review of work–family conflict and its antecedents. Journal of vocational behavior, 67(2), pp.169-198.

Edward, J., 2016. Apple employees break their vow of secrecy to describe the best and the worst things about working for Apple. [Online]

Greenhaus, J.H. and Beutell, N.J., 1985. Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of management review, 10(1), pp.76-88.

Hakim, C., 2002. Lifestyle preferences as determinants of women's differentiated labor market careers. Work and occupations, 29(4), pp.428-459.

Hegewisch, A. and Gornick, J.C., 2011. The impact of work-family policies on women's employment: a review of research from OECD countries. Community, Work & Family, 14(2), pp.119-138.

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