Japanese corporate human resources management insight: Team work

After World War II, Japan was defeated but they could reinvent themselves to be a developed leading country. What is the main factor that made them arise from a poor country as a war-loser to be one of the most powerful economic countries? The answer is “Human resources”. Most Japanese are known as hard-working people and good at teamwork. So we are going to look through and find the effective way of how to work as a team There are 5 theories in the Japanese human resources theory which are cultivating a teamwork mindset, Japanese job application, X, Y, X theory for employee management, Human Resources management, and Japanese management. 


Cultivating a teamwork mindset

Japanese people are well-known for good teamwork while working individually is not that good. Why is that?

Refer to the western thinking way, Professor Geert Hofstede who described the cultural dimensions theory which is one of the most famous theories in the business world. He studied many country culture across the world and found that it could be described in 6 dimensions which are Power distance index (PDI), Individualism vs. collectivism (IDV), Uncertainty avoidance (UAI), Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS), Long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation (LTO) and Indulgence vs. restraint (IND).

Because Japan is located and lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire where a large chunk of Earth's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. More than 50% of the country is mountainous and covered by forests, also with many islands. Regarding geography, this is why staying as a group in order to survive through this cruel environment is a must. This has been continued for thousands of years and developed to be the current Japanese culture that emphasizes collectivism rather than an individual. Moreover, they are happy to sacrifice themselves in order to save their people and tend to rely on each other for a long time. In some villages, there is a legend about “Carrying an elderly to some remote area and left there to die” to save food for the remaining villagers. This is an example of sacrificing themselves to let the community live.

In the Japanese language, there is a basic concept revolves around dividing people into Uchi (in-groups) and Soto (out-groups). It is the language usage concept. Self-introduction also needs to speak of “the Company” first then their own name because the company is the most important thing in Japanese human life. It is the identification of their social value and more important than their individualism. The Japanese family also encourages them to think about “Public first” which has been planted since they were a kid. The school also gives priority to working as a group whether daily cleaning schedule from primary school to high school. Moreover, joining a club is a must for every Japanese student because they believe that it makes their life more valuable as a member both in schools and universities. Most of the Japanese people try to find the company for themselves and be “someone”. Japanese media also show the importance of being in a company such as Super Sentai movie or Anime which represents teamwork power.

The most effective influencer is the Japanese company culture which also emphasizes that the collectivism is more important than the individualism and it is originated from the Samurai culture called “Bushido”

“Bushido” is a code of conduct that believes in the only one boss or one affiliation in a whole lifetime. The samurai or warrior must sacrifice everything in their life for their boss which includes their personality and life. If the boss dies, the samurai must ritual suicide by disembowelment follow their boss. This is the top honor as the samurai and as a human which rather than falling into the hands of their enemies.

After World War II, Japanese people have dedicated themselves to developing their country's economy. However, the Bushido has not disappeared, instead it has turned into the worship of the company or affiliate. The Japanese company system gives a lifetime hiring as the first priority which makes employees stay at the same company until retirement. In case there is a company change, it is only in the same company group. No change to other non-relating companies. Employees believe in the company that they will take care of them and their family forever and the company also believes in their employees’ dedication. This is the Japanese belief which made Japanese people good at working as a team. Employees are like the samurai who serve to the company who is the boss and they have to serve for a lifetime while the company has to take care of their employees and family. As you can see from the Japanese expat in Thailand, they receive more salary and welfare together with taking care of their family. This is their social value that gives to each other with their best effort between the company and employees.

Another important Japanese culture is the name card exchanging activity. The Japanese always exchange their name cards at their first meeting to indicate another person's “Social value level” so they can react properly regarding another person's level. They prioritize the exchanging name card activity, the name card paper type, and the name card box as the valuable items. If any improper language or behavior happens, it will be the worst impression for a long time.

As we know about the cultivating Japanese teamwork mindset since born until die, and from the ancient time to these days, we will talk about the Japanese job application system in the next chapter. 

By Veerayuth Pojsatheankul

International relationship human resource development specialist, Old Japan Students Association Professor, Translator, Public Speaker