Need help on culture differences

We are a privately owned Japanese corp. We have 3 plants in the USA. The U.S. operations were managed by an american vice-president until he retired. We now have a Japanese vice-presidnet here from the parent company. The problem is that he doesn't understand the difference in American and japanese work culture. For example instead of merit increases every one gets the same, instead of flex lunch times every one must take lunch at the same time, and etc.

What I am looking for is some publications, data or anything else that the 3 Human Resource Managers can use to try and explain the differences. Speaking with him does not seem to work. If any one has been through thsi or has any ideas please let me know.


  • 15 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Nissan just located a new million square foot, 7000 ee plant here and this is giving the American HR reps, floor supervisors and engineers fits too. I spent 3.5 years on my last job working for a Chinese owner and his Executive VP wife. Even though they were raised and educated to high levels in the US, they still insisted on Chinese work ethics, Chinese bookeeping creativity and Chinese logic. You are not going to change the man. He was sent here to change you.

    Good luck and let me know in six months if I was wrong.
  • Don,I will let you know what happens. but I am an old Irishman,and pretty hard to change some times.
  • "....they still insisted on Chinese work ethics, Chinese bookeeping creativity and Chinese logic. "

    CHINEESEE OVErtiMe too? ;;)
  • I worked for an Israeli firm. Showing the company President OSHA regulations, FLSA rules and regulations, FMLA, etc. was useless. He politely took the information and proceeded to toss it into his garbage can. Oh, he did smile when he did it.

    They know. They don't care.
  • I suddenly had a vision of the movie Gung Ho.
  • That's the same thing that came to my mind. Maybe as a training video. Good Movie!
  • He'll understand if he gets fined or shut down. A good whopping litigation might help!
  • 1) I told her once that it is a violation of law to alter the job assignment of an employee on an H1B approved job. Her answer: Don't care for that. My company. You change job to what I say.

    2) I told her once that it is a violation of law to not return to work a woman out on FMLA for childbirth. Her answer: Don't care for that. My company. You tell her she fired.

    This was a constant daily battle. Both of them have masters degrees. His is in economics and hers is in marketing. They know the law. They understand the ramifications. They simply do not care and often the company is their personal cash cow and plaything.

    They would go to court at the drop of a hat and spend two years in litigation rather than settle for 15 thousand.
  • Were they in the US legally or were they NOMADIC FOREIGN NATIONALS? You could've threatened them with having pOrK run them through S.A.V.E..
  • I too thought of "Gung Ho", and as I recall the ending the Americans proved they could do the job and the plant was saved, but the final scene was of all the workers, apparently somewhat enthusiastically, doing jumping jacks in the exercise area, a Japanese culture method. So either the workers compromised, or they accepted the new leader's style. We don't really know for sure what happened to that fictional plant in the future, but, Craig, I'm afraid you're looking at an uphill battle to change this man's vision of how a plant should be run.

    I'm guessing your employees are non-union, so their leverage is very limited. Now certainly high turnover, poor production results, etc. will get the attention of the parent company, but odds are they'll just send in another clone.

    Your two examples of equal pay increases and a set lunch hour may be different, but I'd be more worried about bigger issues like lay offs, pay cuts, reduction in benefits, job eliminations, etc.

    Learning to work for a new boss is a basic employment requirement from the beginning of time. Some of us are currently bosses and expect our employees to do it our way, because we have bosses too who expect us to do it their way. Your employees are unlikely to change you any more than you can change your boss.

    Well, enough soap box talk from me. Good luck to ya. It'll work out.
  • If he works for who I think he works for, they are not unionized there or here, maybe the only automobile manufacturer in America that has no union. The Japs ought to take a clue from that. Sadly, you cannot change the basic mindset of adults. These people tend to think of workers as robots, similar to the thousands of automated metal ones they have hanging overhead and sliding out from walls, slapping on doors and spray-painting and welding, none with names other than Aisle 5, position 16, unit L. That guy never files a claim.

    You import the idea that workers should be treated as value-less robots, and you eventually have a union. And the cycle repeats itself.
  • Don, we are not one of the OEM's, but a supplier to them. You both bring up a good point. We are non-union and there seems to be two things that they are afraid of, unions and the IRS. Maybe we have to approach this as union avoidance. As far as lay offs and turnover, we have been in a hiring freeze for the last year, and are required to use temps. as replacements (a whole another problem). Our increases for the last two years has been 2% across the board, except for mid-level and above that has been less than 2%. As you from your past experience there are many other issues involved. I apprecaite everyone's imput and we will keep trying to change the mind set.
  • Mississippi had no experience with the auto industry until Nissan plopped down right in the middle of town. It's hard to imagine that they also control all the suppliers and wage rates at those places too, but they do, about 25 of them. The temp business is booming in this community, wages are held pretty much in check, tremendous number of hours worked, professionals falling over each other to get their resumes out to other places so they can leave auto....all the things that actually make unionizing look good.

    There have been three attempts, each has failed. You may be right that this is the way to approach it. But, even if you convince him of that, he will have a Japanese approach to solving the problem with an American workforce.

    Best of luck.
  • Craig, being from TN I know where Pelham is and that it is a small community where your firm is probably the big dog. Without knowing more, I admit I'm way out on a limb with my advice, and you are right to speak up on behalf of your employees.

    BUT, my earlier point was partly to suggest you pick your issues to fight for. You indicated hiring freezes and using Temps, so job security would seem to be a concern. Yet, there are pay raises, albeit modest ones, so not all is bad, especially where job opportunities may be limited without traveling to Chattanooga.

    Changing a mind set makes sense. The question is which side must adjust. Maybe there is a middle ground of understanding. Good luck.
  • David you are right we are the "big dog" in Grundy county. but Nissan is only 15 miles away and there are multiple other auto supppliers within a 20 mile radius.

    Job security is a very good point to pursue in the union avoidance area. I have been discussing this thread with our HR mgrs. in MI and KY and we will be putting together a presentation for the VP.

    Thanks to all of you for your input it has been a hugh help. Also thank you to Carole for the email.

    I will keep every one advised to how this progresses. Thanks again.
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