How to deal with Japan’s cultural differences during the pandemic

How to deal with Japan’s cultural differences during the pandemic

How to deal with Japan’s cultural differences during the pandemic

Dealing with Japan’s unique cultural differences during the coronavirus crisis.

As in every other first world country, Japan’s multinationals are now struggling to respond to the worldwide shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with cultural clashes and misunderstandings the norm in this traditionally structured society. Team cohesion and performance can easily be affected should expat managers not be especially aware of their Japanese staff’s feelings at this crucial point in time. Crisis management means different things to Westerners than it does to their Japanese equivalents, with favouring a foreign corporate culture seeming not to represent leadership in a crisis.

The spike in stress at this moment in time can catch out even experienced expat executives in Japan-based companies, allowing them to make basic mistakes which undermine the cultural sensitivity necessary in high level positions. For example, the Japanese reaction to a crisis is to band together for the good of all, whilst the present pandemic requires separation and distancing. Teamwork, togetherness and dedication to a single goal are highly regarded in Japanese culture, with social distancing doing exactly the opposite.

Working from home is another issue, as Japanese employees find it isolating, especially if it’s basically unsupervised. The result can be social distress and a disturbing feeling of being distanced from the usual group ethos. This discomfort can be actually felt as a physical pain, as the employee is left out of effective communication. Western expat executives need to be aware they’re expected to provide not just clear guidance as to the way forward but also a message of hope, tricky at this difficult time in a society with intense awareness of the importance of body language.

One way to deal with the above is to accelerate your micro-management skills to include overcommunication with all members of your office staff, whether they’re working at home or not. Making every single office staffer part of the team appeals to the Japanese psyche, as does concern about the wellbeing of employees’ families. The introduction of shared goals is important, as this boosts the teamwork which is an important part of the Japanese business world.

Related Stories:

Latest News: