CASE 15.1

A Challenging Workplace

As a leader in campus organizations, Samira Tanaka, a student, often led

projects and took deadlines very seriously. Her strong work ethic led to

an internship offer at a Japanese automotive company.

At orientation for her internship, Samira learned that Japanese companies

historically had little diversity in terms of race and gender. Women

in Japan were not as prevalent in the workforce as in North America. In

an effort to adapt to North American norms, Japanese subsidiaries had

well-developed diversity policies. For example, Samira tracked the usage

of minority-owned businesses in the company’s supply base. This ensured

that the company invested in local businesses that operated in traditionally

economically disadvantaged areas. Investing in the local community

was already an important business value in Japan, so this was a simple

adaptation for Samira’s company.

The company culture was a unique blend of Japanese and North

American work styles. The employees in North America worked fewer

hours than the employees in Japan. Around the office, it was common for

employees to hear Japanese and English. However, management still had

some internal conflict. Japanese advisers were perceived as focusing on

the creation of consensus in teams, often leading to slow decision making.

North American workers were seen as rushing into projects without

enough planning. Feedback was indirect from both Japanese and North

American managers.

Samira successfully completed two internship rotations and was

about to graduate from college. Her new manager often asked her to

follow up with other team members to complete late tasks. As she had

been taught in school, she was proactive with team members about

completing their work. Samira thought she was great at consistently

inviting others to participate in the decision-making process. She always

offered her opinion on how things could be done better, and sometimes

even initiated tasks to improve processes on her own. Although she saw

herself as an emerging take-charge leader, Samira always downplayed

her ambitions. In school, she was often stereotyped in negative ways for

being an assertive female leader, and she didn’t want to be seen in that

way at work.

Some of her peers at work advised her that it was important to

consider working at a plant near her hometown because it would be

closer to her family. However, she was not interested in following that

advice. Samira thought it was more exciting to work near a large city

or to take a job that involved travel. She didn’t think it was appropriate

to discuss with her peers her family concerns in relation to her future

job needs.

Toward the end of her final internship, Samira received a performance

evaluation from a senior manager. Her manager praised her as being very

dependable, as planning deadlines well, and as being very competent at

her tasks overall. However, he also told her she was increasingly perceived

as too pushy, not a team player, and often speaking out of turn. This

often irritated her peers.

Samira had never seen herself this way at work and did not understand

why she was not seen as aligning with the company’s core value of

working with others. Good grades and campus leadership activities had

gotten her this far, but this evaluation led her to question whether she

could work for this company after graduation.

Samira ultimately realized that her workplace was different from

the campus atmosphere she was used to. If she wanted to be an

emerging leader in the workplace, she had to better adapt to her new

environment.

Questions

1. What similarities and differences can you identify between North

American and Japanese working styles?

2. In what way did this company reflect the characteristics of other

Confucian Asia countries?

3. Why do you think Samira was not seen as a team player?

4. What universal leadership attributes did Samira exhibit?

5. What other suggestions would you have for Samira in this situation?

Assignment :

Read The Case Study above 6.3 address the following in a paper:

  1. Thoroughly analyze the situation and the needed areas of improvement.
  2. Determine the needed leadership style to help develop a solution.
  3. Outline an action plan for a resolution.
  4. Make additional suggestions based on your personal experience to prevent issues like this from happening in the future.

Directions:

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