Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why it is hard to do Business with the Japanese

To say it is difficult to do business with the Japanese is putting the situation very lightly. Despite what you may think, doing business with the Japanese is like trying to get a lion and a rabbit to have turkey dinner together. The Japanese are the hardest people to work with by far. Some of you may be thinking, `But they are so nice and understanding all the time. They must be real easy to work with.` Truth be told, they are not so nice and rarely understanding. They are nice on the surface and only say they understand the situation. Before you so off on a tangent, please allow me to explain.

There is a common believed myth floating around that the Japanese work together for the greater good of all employees and the company. This is the biggest lie I have ever heard about Japanese society. In a Japanese run company everyone is out to get each other. There is almost no trust, while at the same time, lies and rumors fly around like flies at a slaughter house. It is a cold cut-throat environment which causes many people to develop some serious mental illness; just ask any former Geos J-staff about developing a serious mental illness.

The Japanese tend to micro-manage everything to the point of killing off any room for on the fly decision making and flexibility. They follow `policy` and `procedural` regardless of what the situation may demand. In many cases, I have witnessed Japanese follow protocol even when it is clearly obvious a little outside the box thinking is necessary. More surprising is when someone does bend the rules a little to get something done, their fellow co-workers attack them like sharks. They will try to get each other fired over the smallest misstep. They will go after their boss and anyone else who shows any crack in the armor.

On the corporate level the Japanese are real stone cold bastards. They attempt to make everything personal. In house fighting is common and often resulting in business wars which are the thing of legend. If you get caught in the crossfire there is a good change you are going down. If you get in the way of a power struggle the Japanese will send you to the gallows real quick. They do not care who you are or how much experience you have; if they want what you got they will go to extreme ends to get it. When they realize you have power from within the company it burns them up inside. There will be those in a Japanese company who will always seek to take out the person above them. So sadly, in order to maintain your power and influence you have to play politics with them very carefully.

Overall, I must say the Japanese do keep things interesting. Yet, at the end of the day, all the cold blooded business wars they get caught up in usually results in lost profits and constant pressure and stress. I think if they would just get laid more they might chill out a little.


Anonymous said...

Hey man...stumbled upon your blog randomly. Just wanted to let you know that I've loved reading about your experience living and working in Japan. My wife is Japanese and I hope that one day we get to live in Japan...but until then I live vicariously through blogs like yours. You've got a 'voice' in your writings and a really unique perspective. Keep up the good work.



billywest said...

"The Japanese tend to micro-manage everything to the point of killing off any room for on-the-fly decision making and flexibility."

I've seen this way too often. To be fair, I've also seen some uncommon flexibility and dynamic decision making as well. But yeah, most of the time, the only real results-oriented working folk you see on a daily basis here seem to be customer service staff (Often the most respect-worthy workers in Japanese society, I feel); Most others are concerned more with the method to achieve the results than the actual results themselves. That's why some very talented people often find themselves at odds with their co-workers when they achieve individual successes. They're often seen as harmony-breakers and have to be careful not to go too far outside the box when putting their talents to work.

billywest said...

By the way, I can't leave a comment at your other blog without the "Name/URL" option in the "Choose an identity" section.

Just letting you know.

V said...

An interesting and honest perspective. I think a lot of people come here believing what they've heard about Japan - that it's some kind of Utopia. If we look critically at our own countries, can we really say anything better about them? A human being is a human being after all. So yeah, I agree the behaviour is appalling and that it is wrong the world over, and that many people really don't expect to find it in Japan but it's as much here as it is everywhere else.

TheGhost said...

I try to work with the Japanese when I can. Yet, it seems that at times they would rather follow methods which have long been proven to cause labor strikes do damage to company image.

Quality workers sign on with quality companies. This is a proven fact.