When Japanese corporations first started operations in the United States, they faced conflict situations because of their US employees' ethical positions . For instance, in Japan, employees believe in lifetime employment. In the United States, employees ( especially managers) frequently engage in job- hopping . The Japanese perceived US employees as lacking in company loyalty. In a Newsweek article Asa Jonishi, then senior director of Kyocera Corporation, said, 'Most Americans are very, very individualistic - you could almost say egoist; they are quite different from the way we would like our people to be' (Powell, 1987).
Initially, Japanese corporations had cultural conflicts not only because of the individualism of US employees, but also because of their lack of experience with 'egoistical women'. By the time Japanese corporations came to the United States, the corporate culture in US companies was sympathetic to assertive women. In the 1980s the US female employees of Sumitomo Corporation of America, for instance, complained of discrimination on gender grounds. They went as far as to file a suit against Sumitomo, claiming that they were expected to restrict their career ambitions to clerical positions. They clamoured for opportunities in management positions. Sumitomo settled the suit by offering to increase the number of women in management positions.
Since their early years in the United States, Japanese corporations have learnt to deal with potential cultural conflicts arising out of different perceptions of how corporate culture should be shaped. If managers are open to diversity and different modes of thinking, differences do not have to lead to conflict.
Many US employees who had worked for companies where authoritarian systems were prevalent in the 1980s took to group decision making when they started working for Japanese corporations. Powell (1987) reports that the then assistant general manager of Haseko, Pat Park, commented about his experiences of working for a Japanese corporation: 'There are many times when I'm the janitor here picking rubbish. But there are also times the major decisions are made because I say so. There's more equity in Japanese companies.'
What can we learn about conflict resolution from the experience of Japanese global corporations who came to the United States? First, global corporations have to be prepared for a period of learning when they locate themselves in a new culture and recruit large numbers of employees locally. Second, they have to invest in imparting culture awareness training to the local employees.
The key to the resolution of cultural conflicts is to present the beneficial aspects of the new corporate culture to newly joined local employees. Why did the American Pat Park adapt to a consensual decision-making corporate culture, which is the hallmark of a Japanese corporation? Because he felt that he was not just a cog in the wheel, but somebody who could make a difference to what was happening around him. If Haseko was locating itself in a culture where people experienced difficulty in working in a group situation, its employees would have needed appropriate training before being 'unleashed' within group decision-making situations. Further, the global corporation should make it clear that it is assessing newly joined employees to see if they fit its corporate culture. If the employees are lacking in intercultural skills, they probably are not suitable for a global corporation.