Part 11.Competition in Japan : good, the Bad , and the Ugly

Competition in Japan : good, the Bad , and the Ugly

From the outside, Japanese are viewed as a peaceful people, embracing harmony and cooperation, and avoiding confrontation and conflict.
However , there is a harsh competitive side to Japanese society that outsiders seldom get a glimpse of.
This is especially true in the area of education.
From a very early age, students compete to get in to the best junior high schools, high schools, and universities.
Since the name and prestige of one's school so strongly influences one's future, the competition becomes fierce, and this only entrenches the ranking of schools all the more.
The same phenomenon occurs in the competition to get a job, especially with banks, large manufactures, and other reputable companies.
Some say the Japanese take this competitive system and tendency to rank schools and businesses too far.
Those who fall through the cracks often become highly discouraged.
But at the same time, one can say this system produces a sense of fairness.
A person who cannot pass an exam or interview at each stage in the game yields to the one who did.
It is a system of meritocracy that counteracts traditional systems where personal connection was often all that mattered.
Competitive energy, if channeled properly, can also foster teamwork.
Perhaps the best example of this is the annual sports festival held at primary and secondary schools.
Here the competition is also terribly fierce but youngsters compete as a team, being randomly assigned to harmlessly named "red" and "white" teams ( an auspicious color combination in Japan).
It may well be that this experience of repeatedly giving one's all for the team from a very young age is what makes the Japanese such diligent workers as adults.
And yet, the competitiveness can take its toll.
Many youngsters spend three or more years going to cram schools, which means they have to give up not only valuable playtime but also important childhood activities like music, sports, travel,and other forms of recreation.
Some critics claim they sacrifice their childhood for the vanity of their parents.
A similar consequence of competition is that university level students have to spend much of their final year of university searching for a job when they should be studying in the classroom.
It seems unfair that the company that will occupy the rest of their lives robs them of a precious year which they should otherwise devote to learning and developing themselves as young adults.
All this competitiveness raises the question of how well Japanese can compete in the global arena.
Although Japanese scientists and scholars do receive their share of Nobel Prizes, Japanese universities do not rank very high in worldwide assessments.
And though during Japan's economic boom its electronics manufacturers were unrivalled, their position in now being taken over by companies in other countries.
It seems that in many areas Japan has lost its competitive edge due to a lack of innovation and flexibility.
Could it be that those lost years in childhood and university are the reason?
posted by noraneko9999 at 17:39| Comment(0) | 自己学習 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


Part 10.The Shifting Sands of Japanese Linguistic Gender Difference

The Shifting Sands of Japanese Linguistic Gender Difference

Japanese people often find it difficult to learn a language that has grammatical genders because the concept of an object being male or female is totally alien to them.
Taking an example from French, why is a glass(verre) "male" and a cup (tasse) "female"? On the other hand,one of the difficulties of speakers of mastering Japanese, as is frequently lamented by non-native speakers, is the different particles at the end of a sentence that are traditionally used only by men(such as "ze") or only by woman (such as "wa").
In addition, what amazes many of those who study Japanese is the multiple ways of saying "I" for both men and women - for example, "boku" and "ore" for men, and "watashi" and "atashi" for woman.
They quickly realize that gender in the Japanese language is not just an abstract grammatical concept- it is a real-life distinction that needs to be tended ti in actual speech.
So they struggle to avoid using wrong word endings or inappropriate expressions, such as "suteki(pretty)!" - reserved for woman - or "sugee(wow)!" - reserved for men.
What confuses these learners more is that nowadays such distinctions are becoming blurred.
It is not hard to find young men who routinely use "watashi" or "..yone", and woman who refer to themselves as "boku" and say "sugee!" Maybe women are adopting more male language as a way of defying male / female stereotypes; or perhaps the gradual blurring of gender in speech reflects the greater equality women have acquired in various areas of everyday life including the business world.
Women voice their opinions more often in meetings instead of quietly waiting ti be asked, as was traditionally expected.
And there are now more female bosses than ever before.
Consequently,female bosses are finding it difficult to find the right speech style for giving commands to their male subordinates.
For instance, while a male boss may address a subordinate as "kimi," this in not a word that women would traditionally use.
Furthermore, while a male boss might feel perfectly comfortable saying, "Kore yattoite(Get this done for me)," a female boss might feel compelled to phrase it as , "Korewo yatteoite kudasai (Please be sure to do this for me)," because women are expected to talk more politely than men.
Unfortunately, such a speech style can sound as if she is imploring instead of commanding the subordinate to do the job.
Alternatively, a direct imperative such as "Korewo yarinasai(Just do this)," sounds like she is mothering. Neither is appropriate as an instruction coming from a superior.
This dilemma suggests that gender differentiation in Japanese is affecting Japanese working woman in unexpected ways.
But now that female bosses are becoming increasingly common in Japan, Japanese male coworkers should learn to take "....kudasai" as a command , not a request.
At the same time, Japanese female bosses might have to get used to saying, " Kore yattoite," without feeling they are being impolite or mannish.
posted by noraneko9999 at 16:04| Comment(0) | 自己学習 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


Part 9.Styles of Managing Conflict: It Takes two to Tango

Styles of Managing Conflict: It Takes two to Tango

When the "similarity assumption" is coupled with the golden rule of the Japanese society, namely, the famous words uttered by Prince Shotoku in the 7th century that "Harmony is to be valued," surely a frictionless society emerges-or does it ?
Researchers speak of five styles of dealing with interpersonal conflict, namely: Aggressive, Accommodating,Compromising, Problem-solving, and Withdrawing.
In the Aggressive style a person tries to have his or her own way when an interpersonal conflict arises, aiming to "defeat" the counterpart, In contrast, a person adopting the Accommodating style would "yield" to the counterpart at the time of interpersonal conflict, letting that person have his or her way.
In the Compromising style, one meets the counterpart halfway by accepting a mix of gains and losses.
On the other hand, in the Problem-solving style. one tries to find a "win-win" solution by thoroughly communicating with the counterpart in the conflict.
Finally, a person adopting the Withdrawing style tries to avoid conflict altogether.
Such a person does not even admit there is conflict in the first place,or tries to avoid the person whom he or she is in conflict with, hoping the issue will somehow disappear on its own.
The theory goes that the best style for resolving conflict is the Problem-solving style: it is the only way to work out the conflict thoroughly and provide a solution that satisfies both sides.
However, in order to adopt this style, one must first acknowledge the conflict exists and then engage with the counterpart.
Unfortunately, admitting the existence of a conflict goes against the highly prized Japanese golden rule of harmony.
As a result, many Japanese opt for the Accommodating style or Withdrawing style, or at best the compromising style.
Unfortunately, this may give an American the impression that the Japanese counterpart is uncooperative or not serious about resolving the conflict.
Conversely, when an American tries to adopt a Problem-solving style, the Japanese counterpart may wrongly take it for an Aggressive approach.
Things get trickier when one person has made a blunder and needs to get out of an embarrassing situation.
In Japan you are expected to simply apologize without offering much of an explanation.
An unqualified apology-which is often followed by a prescribed remark such as, "That's OK, never mind (ieie,iidesyo)." by the one who accepts the apology - shows that you admit the responsibility, whereas offering an explanation looks live you're trying to make excuses.
In America, however, the act of allowing a person to apologize with an explanation is viewed as a constructive step toward resolving the conflict in the Problem-solving style.
therefore, in the international stage, the Japanese should learn to view an explanation of an error not as an excuse but as an act of courtesy.
Like wise, Americans need to bear in mind that Japanese people often refrain from offering explanations or making their standpoint clear for fear of disrupting the harmony.
posted by noraneko9999 at 15:45| Comment(0) | 自己学習 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする