japan: a country of strong culture and customs

By in Appreciation, Insights, Recognition Strategies, and Webinars
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This blog post is the eighth in a series on recognition best practices around the world. It’s written in connection with our recent webinar “Global Recognition: 10 Success Factors”. Listen to the recording of the full webinar or download our white paper for more detailed information.   

When I travel overseas for work, I typically feel like I can blend in with the locals and try not to be too “American.” But I failed miserably at this in Japan. It wasn’t because the country was so different—but because there are such strong customs and social etiquette in Japan, that I kept committing many social faux-pas. In fact, my Japanese colleague teased me non-stop for every “rule” I was unknowingly breaking. Stand on the left side of the escalator, not the right. Don’t pour my bowl of rice into another bowl. Allow people to exit the subway before pushing my way in (ok, that one is probably universal in every country). However, despite all my social faux pas, there was no country that treated me more politely, kindly, and professionally than Japan.

This idea of formality and custom also extends into the workplace. Employees are ambitious and driven, and they will work hard whether or not they are formally recognized for their efforts. It’s part of the culture to work hard, stay extra hours, and do whatever you can to help your manager and the company succeed, and employees will do it without being asked. Yet, employees value and want praise and feedback on their work, as it shows someone is paying attention to their performance.

Workers also want specific criteria of what and how to recognize. They want clear communication of why recognition is given, and want a reason for recognition, whether it’s for extra effort, results, or career achievements. “If you recognize me, I don’t care what I get. But if you give me lots of cash and don’t acknowledge me, it’s meaningless.” – Professional Services employee

They even want guidelines and training on when and how to give appropriate presentations for recognition. Being prepared and doing it correctly is important to make the recognition moment meaningful. The culture and customs inherent in Japanese employees remind them that saying thanks and showing appreciation must also be well-done.

To learn more about 10 Success Factors for Global Recognition, listen to our webinar or download our white paper. You can also read about cultural nuances in recognition in France, UKMexico, AustraliaBrazilChina, and Germany or check out our fun infographic about Employee Recognition Around the Globe.

By christina chau
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