Working with Japanese people

In last few years, I got many opportunities to interact with the Japanese people, in Japan as well as in India. Working with the Japanese people never gave me “cultural shock”, but rather gave a feeling of “familiarity” as compared to westerners, may be because the Japanese and the Indians are all part of the same “Asian” or “Eastern” culture. Definitely, there are some things to be understood, experienced and kept in mind, which will make you more comfortable while working with the Japanese.

1)      Developing and nurturing good and long relationships is always like having a ‘good credit history’. It can open many doors for you. Building trust may take time. Once you build trust, you can expect and enjoy long-term healthy relationships with the Japanese. However, one should not breach the trust.

2)      Working as a group/team is expected rather than showing your individuality.

3)      Generally, the Japanese do not take decision alone-even the persons on managerial posts. Several people are involved in decision-making, hence such process might be slow.

4)      Learning/showing desire to learn from seniors is expected/appreciated.

5)      The Japanese people follow hierarchy at work. Seniors are highly respected by juniors.

Hierarchy is taken into consideration while allotting seats in meeting room. Person with higher ranks sit on the side of screen/projector/board, and those with lower ranks generally sit on side closer to door.

6)      There is an exchange of business cards in first meeting. Treating others’ business cards with respect is important. Cards should be handled with both hands and gently. Avoid writing on cards or throwing them casually in your bag etc. as this shows disrespect.

7)      You should show enthusiasm on your face towards work. Showing unwillingness/tiredness towards work or any kind of negative emotions on your face or even in your voice is not accepted.

8)      Many Japanese are introvert by nature. So, if you are new and need help, go and ask for it. Once asked, many a times they go out-of-the-way to help you.

9)      Be ready to do various kinds of tasks – not only whatever is instructed to you, but the related tasks too. General Indian tendency is doing only whatever is told. But this approach may not work in Japan. You need to take interest in overall work, apart from your own task.

A person with multi-dimensional skills is more appreciated. In business meetings, a Japanese counterpart may ask your opinion about something that is not related to your work. If he gets some insight or really good opinion from you, he will be happy and start looking to you as a useful person. Hence, being versatile and equipped with latest knowledge is an advantage.

10) At the same time, do not show-off your skills/knowledge unnecessarily. Be modest (don’t be overconfident) when expressing your opinion. Self-praise or self-promotion should be avoided…. Continue

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