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Japanese Work Ethics Vs American Ethics

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Essay title: Japanese Work Ethics Vs American Ethics

"For an American to consider the Japanese from any viewpoint for any reason, it is important for us to remember that they are products of a unique civilization, that their standards and values are the results of several thousand years of powerful religious and metaphysical conditioning that were entirely different from those that molded the character, personality and habits of Westerners" ( De Mente, p.19). To understand the Japanese, it is necessary to have an understanding of their religious and philosophical backgrounds. My research suggests that basic ethical values in Japanese business systems are influenced by three philosophical and religious traditions: the Shinto Ethic, The Confucian Ethic, and the Buddhist Ethic. Boye De Mente adds a fourth which he labels the Parent-Child Ethic. Shinto was the primitive religion of Japan before Confucius and Buddha . The chief deity of Shinto is Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess from whom the Imperial Family of Japan traces its origin. Lesser clans, in turn, claim descent from the lesser Shinto deities. Shinto has only one command, the necessity of being loyal to one's ancestors. This precept binds all Japanese in a bond of unity to a degree unknown in rest of the world. Shintoism stresses that harmony is necessary to keep man and things right with the cosmos. Each individual is obligated to do whatever is expected of him whatever the cost so as to bring honor to his family. Those in superior positions are obligated to take care of those who serve. Selflessness, kindness, helpfulness, loyalty, will bring trust, honor, confidence, and respect from others.(Cowles, p. 623) Confucius insisted on respect for superior persons and things. The five basic relationships are between ruler and subordinate, father and son, elder and younger brother, husband and wife, and friend and friend. The younger or inferior was to obey to the older or superior but at the same time the superior has obligations to the inferior.(Cowles, p.1507). The parent-child relationship rises to be an outcome of this teaching. Confucian principles stress piety, fidelity, obedience, kindness, loyalty to one's superior, self-control, discipline (strong work ethic), and superior/subordinate vertical structures of society. Most Japanese are Buddhists. The Fourfold Noble Truths of Buddhism assert that all is sorrow, that sorrow springs from desire or craving, that desire may be eliminated, and that sorrow can be overcome by following the middle path. This Eightfold noble path is marked by right belief, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right frame of mind, and right rapture. It's goal is the attainment of self knowledge which allows man to live a contented life (Cowles, p. 1507). Western culture is based on Christian philosophy which preaches the equality of men and emphasizes man's freedom as a rational being. Man has a free will and can choose to act in accordance with this principle. Consciousness, choice, and freedom are the key principles. The fundamental work philosophy in the US is capitalism. Webster's dictionary defines capitalism as "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market." Shaw suggests that capitalism is based on the premise that "people are basically acquisitive, individualistic and materialistic in practice and capitalism strongly reinforces those human tendencies" (Shaw, p. 32). These basic philosophical differences have resulted in very different corporate ethics for western and Japanese cultures. Because of their ties to their past, the Japanese place more emphasis on the long term success of their country and the long term growth of their company and connected partners who are seen as family. Akio Morita, Chairman of Sony has commented that western society looks ten minutes ahead while the Japanese look ten years ahead (Morita, p.84). The Japanese employee is regarded as a representative of the company and he/she is expected to bring honor to the company. Company needs come before personal needs. As a result the individual must operate within the confines and social circles of the organization and its goals and values. Japanese companies operate by common agreement rather than on individual opinion. To ensure loyalty and proper instruction, employees are hired right out of school and trained in the company way before they can be spoiled by outside influences. Management style is based upon personal loyalties and seniority within a group. This makes it difficult for managers to shift from one job to another within a company and even more difficult to move to another company. In Western society the company is only a means to an end, namely the way

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