Teamwork is Japans Thing

Motivation is never a critical issue. Perhaps because of the country’s history as a feudal planting and harvesting culture, Japanese workers tend to be consummate team players. Corporate Americans spent millions of dollars in attempts to establish efficient, productive work teams, with a questionable degree of success. To the Japanese, however, teamwork is as natural as breathing.

Intense loyalties and deep personal attachments develop in the ka, or work group. Socializing after business hours assists further to strengthen social bonds and is part of each employee’s duty to the company. Individual sacrifice and devotion to team efforts are the norm. That structure sometimes leads to over-conformity, but management strives to place talented people in position where they can best serve the organization.

New recruits enter the workplace by participating in a solemn ceremony that stresses loyalty and dedication to company values. That is the beginning of a long rite of passage, usually about 12 to 15 years. For the first six years, their salaries remain fixed. Only after they have demonstrated a capacity for hard work and a respect for their boss can they move up the ranks. And only after a dozen or so years of service are they eligible for top jobs within the corporate hierarchy.

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