- This research mainly examines the superior-subordinate relationship between
Japanese managers and Thai subordinates working in joint ventures in Thailand,
especially the management style of the Japanese and the reactions of the Thais,
Cultural adaptation of Japanese expatriates and Thai subordinates is also explored.
Through this study, we gain better understanding of the Japanese-Thai interpersonal
relationships, communication patterns, work ethics, and other cultural values with
particular emphasis on recurring themes such as concepts about work, vertical
relationship, authority and supervision style, and gender issues. The in-depth
interviews were conducted with ten Japanese managers, six Thai managers, and 12
Thai subordinates in Thailand in 2001.
Findings show that although there are some similarities in Japanese and Thai
cultural values at work, conflicts, frictions, and misunderstandings still exist between
Japanese superiors and Thai subordinates because of their cultural differences. Both
parties also have some stereotypes and negative myths of the other party.
Concerning concepts about work, Japanese superiors prefer immediate
actions from their Thai subordinates when problems arise whereas when the Thais
encounter some difficulties in solving problems, they hesitate to inform their
superiors. Since there is no clear job description in Japan, the Thais often feel
uncomfortable when their job responsibilities overlap with their colleagues.
Moreover, unlike Japanese people, Thai employees do not have a strong commitment
to the company.
Vertical relationship explores how the Japanese and the Thais build and
maintain their relationships at work and after work hours. The Japanese believe that
relationships should follow job accomplishment while the Thais think that good
relationships should be established before working. After-hour activities are
suggested as means to strengthen relationships between superiors and subordinates.
Furthermore, Japanese superiors tend to use different strategies to supervise
their Thai subordinates; those strategies include scolding, expecting expression of
opinions, information sharing, and delegation of authority in decision making
processes. However, the strategies seem not to work properly in Japanese-Thai joint
ventures due to cultural differences at work.
Although gender can be a barrier in career advancement in Japan, Japanese
expatriates do not see this as the case in Thailand. However, most of the Thai female
subordinates complained that women were less likely to get promotions while Thai
male subordinates thought that career advancement was blocked because managerial
positions were occupied by and reserved for Japanese expatriates.
At the end, three cases are presented to illustrate how Japanese superiors and
Thai subordinates adjust in intercultural work settings. Each case consists of two
individuals' work experience and adaptability. We can see the importance of
individual differences as some Japanese superiors and Thai subordinates realize
cultural differences and try to adjust to the intercultural work settings while others
hold back and, finally, resign from the company.
To avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, and to work together effectively,
Japanese managers and Thai subordinates should realize their cultural differences and
learn the other's culture. If problems arise, they should be open-minded and willing to
help each other solve the problems.