It was my first day in high school. Standing alone in the middle of the play ground looking for anyone I know or can talk to, my eyes was searching all over the place. A pretty blond girl standing alone was a scene that, for sure, attracted my attention then. The moment my eyes saw her, my mind started thinking of ways to talk to her. After some time wasted thinking, I saw a girl I know approaching the blond. Not willing to waste such opportunity, I marched forward toward them. We had a nice chat through which I got to know the blond girl.
She turned out to be a very nice and friendly French girl who just arrived to Egypt few days ago. Not being able to forget her for the rest of the day even before I sleep, I kept thinking how I would ask her out the next day. After long night hours, morning finally came and I was off to school. Although I though the lines I would open my conversation with her many times, I kept hesitating whether to approach her or not when I saw her the next morning. To my surprise, the moment she saw me, she actually called on me, walked towards me saying hi while giving me a kiss on the cheek.
With this, I understood that she actually likes me too and she wouldnt reject my invitation for going out together. However, I was astonished when she replied I have a boyfriend. That was just confusing. To me, the kiss on the cheek was a clear message that I adore you. It was only years later that I understood that for the French, a kiss on the cheek is just saying hi. This kiss just meant totally different things for both of us. Unfortunately, this intercultural miscommunication does not only happen in personal relationships; it also occurs in many international deals with millions of dollars on stack.
One such example is the famous case of Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing in America. In this paper, I will try to analyze the Mitsubishi case as a consequence of intercultural miscommunication between American men and American women cultures, and the Japanese and American cultures. Mitsubishi Case Summary Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America (MMMA) started in 1985 as a $500 million 50-50 joint venture, called Diamond-Star, between Chrysler Corporation of the United States and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) of Japan.
According to the case, MMMA purpose was to produce subcompact cars at a plant that would be located in Normal, Illinois. In October 1991, MMC bought Chrysler 50% and assumed full responsibility for the Diamond Star Company whose name changed to MMMA later in 1995. In April 1996, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a suit seeking damages of as much as $300 thousands per women on behalf of 300 female plant employees. The suit came after 15-month investigations of several sexual harassments complaints at MMMA.
Men vs. Women The idea of different subcultures for males and females, although they live in the same country, taught the same values, and eat the same food, is not new. Although men and women live under the same conditions, they are expected to behave and respond differently. Thus as Maltz puts it: The different social needs of men and women have led them to sexually differentiated communication cultures, with each sex learning a different set of skills for manipulating words (Maltz, p. 200).
Maltz explains this by saying that each one of us learns his communication culture through the period of, approximately, age 5 to 15, when boys and girls interact socially primarily with members of their own sex. Not only boys and girls learn to respond differently, but they learn, self-consciously, to differentiate, with exaggeration, their behavior from the other sex (Maltz, p. 203). If we talk in terms of Hofstede four dimensions of cultural differences, then American men culture could be described a culture that emphasizes individualism, high power distance and masculinity.
This could be seen in their communication style. According to Maltz, American men tend to interrupt the speech of their conversational partners; they tend to dispute and challenge their partners utterance, ignore the comments of others, control the topic, and do much more, than women, declaration of fact or opinion (Maltz, p. 198). These features of men communication style are just ways to express their dominance, or as Maltz again puts it, mens dominance in conversation parallels their dominance in society (Maltz, p. 198).
Another way to display dominance was highlighted by a research done Richard Savin-Williams on young boys in a summer camp. He found that boys used verbal commands, name calling or other forms of verbal ridicule, verbal threats, and refusal to obey orders as forms to show their dominance over other boys (Maltz, p. 208). Thus American mens culture tends to emphasize on the importance of asserting their dominance and being publicly recognized through aggression and competition. On the other hand, American womens culture favors collectivism, minimum power distance, and femininity.
According to researches done on little girls, researches have noticed that girls tend to play in private groups where participants are typically invited. The games are typically group collaborative games where participants are treated equally. Typical phrases used by girls in their games were lets, we gonna, we gotta, or we could. This reflects the collaboration, unity, and equality usually found in girls culture. According to Maltz, ordering and bossing is not legitimate in the girls world as it denies the equality between members of the group (Maltz, p. 205-206). Men and Women in Mitsubishi
Coming to reflect the above on the Mitsubishi case, one can clearly see a number of inter-cultural misinterpretations. According to the case, the most common complaint from female workers was having to endure language that carried sexual innuendos or blatant sexual propositions. As noted before and as concluded by Maltz in his paper, men and women have different interpretation of verbal aggressions. Men see it as one conventional organizing structure for conversational flow and a way to assert their dominance. Women on the other hand see it as negative, disruptive and as personally directed toward them (Maltz p. 3). Thus in many times, while men was just expressing themselves, women would take it the wrong way.
Furthermore, as the research on summer camp kids showed earlier, men/boys use name calling and violence to assert their dominance. This is not only directed towards women, but, as noted in the case, other men were also taunted. If we go back to the research done on little kids, we will find that one of the findings of the research was that non-dominant boys were rarely excluded from play, but instead they were made to feel their inferiority in no uncertain terms (Maltz, p. 7). Thus these harassments were actually directed to remind inferior members of their status. These inferior members included men and women. The reason the complaints were mainly from women could be explained, again, by the research done by Lever on 5th graders. Lever found that girls simply could not deal with quarrels and that when conflict arose they made no attempt to settle it (Maltz, p. 205). Instead, they would use their common way of protesting, the silent protest (Maltz, p. 197-198).
On the other hand, men who were taunted would reply back in most of the times which was the reason for the police being called to the plant over 86 times in the past six years. According to the mens culture, silence means agreeing, so they would push it further with silent members. Additionally, the auto industry has always been a male industry, especially the manufacturing part. As noted in the case, the final assembly, which was mostly male before was called the zoo and was the area where most of the harassments took place.
If we add to this the fact that Mitsubishi was not the first auto manufacture to have this problem and earlier Honda, Nissan, and Toyota had had the same problems, one could see that this might be a general problem in the industry. An industry which was dominated with males and now is being entered by women, thus the aggression of the male members to assert their dominance and protect their territory via insuring the new entrants in the group would feel their inferiority. Japanese and American intercultural analysis Japanese and American culture has always been two very contrasting cultures to compare.
These two cultures reflect two extremes along Hofstede scale. According to Hofstede, the American culture is one that puts high emphasize on the individual and individual accomplishments. Where as the Japanese culture is one that values the group and emphasizes the group unity (Hofstede). That was clearly shown by an experiment that was done by Dr. Richard Nisbett and Takahiko Masuda, where students from Japan and the United States were shown an animated underwater scene, in which one larger “focal” fish swam among smaller fishes and other aquatic life.
When asked to describe what they saw, the Japanese students started mostly by describing the scene and 70% more statements about the whole scene. Conversely, “Americans were much more likely to zero in on the biggest fish, the brightest object, the fish moving the fastest,” Dr. Nisbett said (Goode). This difference between the Japanese and the American is a key one that would explain many of the differences between the two cultures. For the Japanese, the key element is the group unity, harmony, and continuity. To single out of the group is something undesirable.
This is very much reflected in the decision models of both cultures, where control in the U. S. is localized in leaders or decision makers. In Japan, the ideal thing is to conceal the locus of control, as Stewart puts it decision in Japan seem to happen (Stewart, p. 161) To continue with Hofstede four cultural differences, Hofstede identifies the Japanese as intolerant for equal distribution of power. Hierarchy is inseparable from orderliness; a group is not properly organized unless its members are ranked is how Taylor describes the Japanese culture (Taylor, p. ). On the other hand, the American is a culture that takes pride in being the land of opportunity. It is the land where everybody is equal. Hofstede identifies the Japanese culture as on that shows the highest levels of uncertainty avoidance. Thus they rely heavily on rules and precedents to remove any uncertainty. The US lies on the other end of the scale with noticeable tolerance for uncertainty (Hofstede, p. 165). The fourth cultural dimension further differentiates the American and Japanese cultures.
The Japanese culture highly prefers femininity characteristics with emphasizes on collaboration and harmony. This is very apparent in their communication style where they tend to preserve an appropriate level of vagueness and ambiguity in their talk. Thus making the Japanese culture a very high context culture in which meaning is understood from the context. This is done to preserve the faces of everyone involved in the situation as to insure the harmony and collaboration of the group (Ulfhielm, p. 124-125). In contrast, the American culture is very much on the masculinity side.
Competitiveness and material success is the core of the MBO (Management By Objectiveness) which was invented by the Americans. American and Japanese in Mitsubishi The problem in Mitsubishi was that managers tried to apply Japanese norms in the American cultures. This could be seen in a number of examples. Complaints were raised to the EEOC because employees had found no response from the higher management for their complaints. Instead, these complaints were announced publicly to the whole company which actually had made the situation worse.
If we analyze this behavior from the management under the former analysis, we can see that Japanese managers were just responding in the same way they used to respond back home. By announcing the complaint to the public, the Japanese manager was looking for two things: 1- He was looking for a group decision where the whole group would be involved. 2- He was announcing that there is something that threatens the harmony of the group, expecting the group to respond, as done in Japan, to restore this group unity.
This call for group unity was further displayed in the first reaction of the MMMA management after the charges were filed. They urged their employees to participate in a protest march on the EEOC offices in Chicago as to enforce the group unity. According to the case, the Japanese manufacturer was trying to implement a harmonious structure that resembles their structure in Japan. In doing this, the Japanese has ignored the cultural differences and blindly applied their same management techniques in the U. S. plant.
Again based on the former analysis, one can not expect individuals who are used to plain, direct messages (the Americans) to understand the hidden messages in the Japanese communication that is full of indirections and suggestions (Stewart, p. 148). For example, as the Japanese highlights the importance of face preserving as to insure group unity and harmony, a Japanese manager never yell or name call an employee. Instead, to express his refusal and un-acceptance of the employee behavior, he would use a nervous laugh or a prolonged silence. Both of which, would indeed, be understood by the American as approving his act.
As pointed in the recommendations presented by Martin in the case, such culture miscommunications have resulted in a gap in accountability in MMMA. The Japanese were expecting their American employees to act in the same way Japanese employees do back home, where the Japanese acts, feels, thinks, and decides as if the network, and symbolically the group, would act through him (Stewart p. 138). This didnt work in the American culture where people are motivated by materialistic and individual recognitions. Coming from individualistic culture, Americans respond best to merit-based appraisal.