Bitching about our bosses is probably one of the best things about socialising with coworkers. They’re to strict; they’re a push-over; they have coffee breath and get way too close when they talk; whatever the issue, complaining about the boss is a great stress reliever and helps us get through the day.
According to a recent survey taken across four countries, however, expectations of bosses and opinions of what makes a good one vary wildly between countries. Not only that, Japan ranks as the country with the lowest “boss satisfaction” rate of all those surveyed.
Of course, my boss is the greatest, and I would never even dream of saying a bad word about him <cough>Christmasbonus<cough>, but the difference between the opinions of those surveyed in Japan and those in other countries, most notably China, is startling.
The survey, taken by Japanese company Recruit Management Researchers, was conducted over a series of four months and gathered responses from a total of 1,200 business employees from China, Japan, Singapore and India.
Given a number of questions and scenarios, 300 employees from each country were asked to choose one of two responses, with the aim of determining what their “ideal boss” would be like.
Of the four countries, though, the Japanese employees were almost consistently the odd ones out, often favouring a more team-focused management style and, seemingly, shying away from individual responsibility.
- That’s an order, soldier!
With regard to rules at work and following orders, employees were given the following options and asked which they thought was the better kind of boss:
Boss type A: If I go against my boss’s wishes or direct orders my boss will reprimand me even it I produce good results.
Boss type B: Even if I go against my boss’s wishes or direct orders, so long as I produce good results, my boss won’t mind.
It may come as little surprise to those who have worked in a Japanese company to learn that Japanese employees showed a tendancy to seek guidance from a boss who goes by the book no matter what, with more than 60% choosing Boss type A as their ideal.
Contrastingly, 70% of Chinese and more than 60% of Singaporean and Indian workers felt that the results-focused Boss type B would make the better leader. As I learned from personal experience while trying to open a bank account in Japan but having forgotten my personal ink stamp, Japanese people go by the book, come hell or high water…
- There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team’!*
Given the choice between the following,
Boss type A: My boss pays close attention to my individual performance and whether I achieve my individual goals.
Boss type B: My boss takes into account the contributions I made to those around me rather than focusing entirely on whether I achieved my individual goals.
more than 70% of Japanese employees chose Boss type B, again stressing the importance of teamplaying and overal performance. Of the Chinese responses, however, 55% said that they preferred a boss who judged them more severly and would manage them on a personal level.
- Bring it on, Captain!!!
But before we write Japan off as a nation of work-shy weaklings and start praising China as Asia’s go-getting top dog, there’s one more interesting piece of data to look at.
Despite Chinese, Singaporean and Indian workers consistantly favouring a boss who expects the most from them individually, it’s the Japanese who relish a good challenge and prefer a boss who sets them near-impossible tasks.
When asked to compare “a boss who sets easily achievable targets and prefers consistency” with “a boss who demands much of me and who takes risks”, Japanese employees actually selected the latter. Quoted as being “scared of failure”, meanwhile, individually-judged Chinese workers opted for a boss who demands less of them.
Finally, the creators of the survey sent a stern message out to Japanese bosses, telling them that, in the multi-cultural working environment of the 21st century, it is vitally important to be aware of expectations of managers and to cater for individual workers’ needs. In order to get the most from their foreign employees, Japanese bosses must realise that the typical Japanese mangement style might not go over so well. The survey also showed that, while 82% of Indian and a whopping 89% of Chinese employees surveyed said that they were satisfied with their current boss’s management style, barely 50% of Japanese employees felt the same.
Adopting a more global management style might not be the easiest task for Japanese managers, but with those their current employees seemingly so hard to please, taking on a few foreigners might not be such a bad idea after all!
*but there is an ‘i’ in pie. Ten house-points to the first reader to name that movie reference!