Uncertainty Avoidance, according to Hofstede's model, refers to how comfortable the people of a certain culture are with structure as opposed to flexibility. Notable disparities in negotiating styles between those nations scoring high and low on the uncertainty avoidance index have been known to cause significant conflict. This conflict is mostly likely to occur when people who prefer structured activities because they entail less risk encounter people from a culture with a more spontaneous style. Those with a structured mindset are likely to regard a lack of structure as a form of disrespect -- as if the culture does not care about risk because the deal or the negotiation is not as important to them. According to Goodwin "Uncertainty avoidance concerns planning and stability as a way of dealing with life's uncertainties: those high on uncertainty avoidance have a strong desire for consensus, and deviant behavior is unacceptable. Because high uncertainty avoidance cultures provide rules for dealing with other group members, individuals in high uncertainty avoidance cultures do not judge inter-group interactions to be as difficult as those in low uncertainty avoidance cultures" (p. 27).
Uncertainty avoidance in the United States is relatively low, ranking a 46; but Japan on the other hand ranks extremely high on the Uncertainty Avoidance Index, scoring a 92. As a result, Americans doing business in Japan need to be aware that Japanese businesspeople are not as willing to take risks as are 'free-thinking' Americans. They are likely to follow strict rules and procedures of protocol, which expatriates need to become extremely familiar with if they are going to successfully conduct business in Japan (Evans, Pucik & Barsouxs, 2002). All of these roles and protocols will, therefore, be included in the training program.
Long-term vs. short-term orientation is the final dimension of Hofstede's model. According to ClearlyCultural.com (the website that provides the different index rankings discussed in this paper) this dimension was added only after Hostede determined that the other four dimensions were unable to completely explain the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. Therefore, Hofstede developed the following list of difference between the long-term and the short-term orientation of cultures that will be discussed individually in the training sessions:
-ordering relationships by status and observing this order
-having a sense of shame
-personal steadiness and stability
-protecting your 'face'
-respect or tradition
-reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts
According to the Long-Term Orientation Index, Japan ranks relatively high, with a score of 80. The apparently short-sighted United States only scores a 29. Clearly Japanese businesspeople are much more likely to think in the long-term than businesspeople from America, which is not surprising considering that American's live in a culture that focuses on immediate gratification. This is a difference that could potentially cause significant conflict between American and Japanese businesspeople, and thus it is one that needs to be given serious consideration when proposing business deals.
Discussion of Hofstede's Model
Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions model is undoubtedly helpful in the identification of cultural differences. However there are certain drawbacks to the model that need to be considered as well. According to ClearlyCultural.com "Even though this model has proven to be quite often correct when applied to the general population, one must be aware that not all individuals or even regions with subcultures fit into the mould. It is to be used as a guide to understanding the difference in culture between countries, not as law set in stone"
As Buckley (1994) points out, American businesspeople are prone to think in terms of a "national culture"; that is, they associate a nation and its inhabitants with a single cultural stereotype. However, in reality, almost every country is comprised of a variety of different cultures and cultural norms. These subcultures may not operate in the same way that the dominant culture operates, so it is dangerous to simply lump every person in Japan into one of Hofstede's categories. Making assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes a businessperson can make when dealing with a different culture.
Training, Preparation and Repatriation
The training programs will consist of expatriate training and repatriation training for employees and their spouses. The expatriate training will focus on the following:
1) Creating a higher level of knowledge regarding the cultural differences between Japan and the United States, including all of the difference discussed above in the Hofstede analysis
2) Providing practical information regarding daily living, including housing, monetary exchange rates, transportation and shopping
3) Developing an action plan specifically designed to help the expatriate adjust to the new environment in both his or her professional and personal life.
Once the initial expatriate training is completed, the preparation stage begins. Preparation before and during the assignment relies on extensive training and research. While it is important to do research on the country in general, it is just as important to research the particularly company or industry with which negotiations will occur. Also, when examining the differences between American culture and Japanese culture, it is essential to distinguish norms from values and attitudes. The reason this distinction is important is that norms are easier to change than values and attitudes because values and attitudes tend to be more deeply ingrained (Stahl & Caligiuri, 2005).
Repatriation is also a critical part of the international business process. According to Stroh, Black and Gregersen (2005) "Contrary to what most managers in the home country think, repatriates have to adjust to significant changes when they return home. These changes may include new political systems, transportation systems, social groups, eating habits, and so on -- in short, many of the same components of the culture that were unfamiliar when the employee first moved abroad. Of equally great importance, the employee is not the same after an international assignment of 3 to 5 years (p. 191). PCN must therefore take into account each of these factors when assigning and calling back its expatriates in Japan.
There are always risks involved when doing business in a foreign country, but there are a multitude of opportunities available as well. Therefore the potential risks should not prevent PCN from pursuing a business venture in Japan. This does not mean, however, that it is acceptable to just 'dive in' without doing one's research. Costly mistakes can be made from failing to properly explore a nation's cultural differences, and these days, costly mistakes can be fatal mistakes. Therefore it is critical for American companies desiring to do business in Japan, or in any foreign nation, to gather the facts, and use them to their advantage.
Buckley, P.J. (1994) International business vs. international management? International strategic management from the view of point of Internalisation Theory. International Journal of the Economics of Business 1, 95-104.
Evans, P., Pucik, V., & Barsouxs, J.L. (2002). The global challenge: Frameworks for international human resource management. New York: McGraw-Hill
Freedland, B. (2003, August) Market research in Japan: it's one of the world's biggest consumer markets, but when it comes to market research, Japan is way behind. Japan, Inc. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NTN/is_46/ai_108722588/
Goodwin, R. (1999), Personal relationships across cultures. London: Routledge,
Hofstede, G, (1980) Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
"Hofstede Index." ClearlyCultural.com. Retrieved from http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/power-distance-index/
Peltokorpi, V. (2008). Cross-cultural adjustment of expatriates in Japan. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19(9), 1588-1606.
Stahl, G.K. And Caligiuri, P. (2005). The effectiveness of expatriate coping strategies: The moderating role of cultural distance, position level, and time on the international assignment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 603-615.