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Identification of Problems
The key problem presented in this case refers to the difference between the American and Japanese cultures, which caused misunderstanding and confusion during the negotiations. In particular, both verbal and non-verbal communication types proved to be different. The American business ethics is based on a direct communication style, the main purpose of which is the exchange of information, facts, and opinions (Holliday, Kullman, & Hyde, 2016). On the contrary, the Japanese business culture can be characterized by subtlety, a focus on appearance and manner and speaking, as well as relationships.
Analysis and Evaluation
The manner of business communication is the key barrier to successful negotiations in this case. If essential importance is attached to what is being said in the US, it is how and when issues are most valued in Japan. The American business persons immediately get down to business without waste time on introductory topics and courtesy exchanges (Holliday et al., 2016). If a conflict arises, they resolve it directly and openly. When Tim tried to reduce the price and achieve the approval of Mr. Kusushi, he failed, which caused anxiety and misunderstanding. On the part of the Japanese, such behavior might seem like a violation of business communication. The explanation can be found in terms of the concept of avoiding conflicts: the Japanese prefer to avoid them and think for a long time to make a correct decision. Since Tim was not aware of this point, he thought that the potential supplier wants to decrease the price.
The American business school is based on a strong emphasis on personal initiative and achievement. Individual competence, professionalism, and responsibility for individual achievements are highly valued: to call someone incompetent in the American business environment is tantamount to insulting. In their turn, the Japanese are more inclined to be focused on the common interest, which is driven by collectivist orientations (Holden, Michailova, & Tietze, 2015). They have been taught not a strict logic of thinking, not grammar with its rules, but a subtle language of politeness. The Japanese often avoid directly refusing and perceiving consent as a virtue. Therefore, when Tim pressed Mr. Kusushi at work and continued to do so during the evening, he smiled and said “yes” (Holden et al., 2015). In addition, the handshakes and touching business partners, which is a widespread way to show commitment, are not accepted in Japan. Nevertheless, the fuzziness of the Japanese style of communication is primarily caused by the desire to maintain harmony in society.
The current situation shows that Tim wants to leave Japan and quit negotiations, which means that two companies will not collaborate. One may recommend hiring a Japanese business consultant who is aware of the local communication specifics. Even though one of the employees of the team is married to a Japanese woman, it is not sufficient to build business ties. Another recommendation is to try to act more like Mr. Kusushi, avoiding excessive body and eye contact and being more patient (Huff, Song, & Gresch, 2014). The Asian market is promising yet unique in terms of culture, which vividly shows that the Western partners should adjust. In addition, harmony support is of great importance for the Japanese, and aggressive and pressing behaviors are unacceptable. One should suggest that Tim needs to change his business style in communication with the Japanese partners instead of reducing prices. Thus, the local business consultant changed attitudes to leading business in Japan, and the orientation towards collectivist values should be useful to repair the existing misunderstanding.
Holden, N., Michailova, S., & Tietze, S. (2015). The Routledge companion to cross-cultural management. New York, NY: Routledge.
Holliday, A., Kullman, J., & Hyde, M. (2016). Intercultural communication: An advanced resource book for students (3rd ed.). London, UK: Routledge.
Huff, K. C., Song, P., & Gresch, E. B. (2014). Cultural intelligence, personality, and cross-cultural adjustment: A study of expatriates in Japan. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, 151-157.