Language, Ideology, and Cross-cultural management:
Cases of Japanese managers in Hong Kong and the United States
With the increasing presence of Japanese companies overseas, many of them nowadays invest a great deal in English education, aiming to improve their English language abilities. However, is English the main and only challenge that Japanese companies face when managing local employees? Do people with better English abilities have a stronger advantage when attempting to achieve their goals than those who do not? This presentation aims to answer these questions based on fieldwork conducted in two Japanese companies, an apparel retailer in Hong Kong and a ramen chain in the United States. Despite their differences, the top managements in both companies believe in the potential of Japanese culture and aim to spread Japan-centered ideology across cultures through their products and management that is considered to be superior to that in other companies. Stories from these two companies show that one of the major factors that determine their relationship with local employees is not the language ability, but rather, the extent to which they attempt to impose Japan-centered ideology on the locals or, in another words, the extent to which they expect the local employees to “Japanize” their behaviors. This implies that language is a tool to express deeply rooted ideas, such as how employees interpret Japan-centered ideology and take action based on it. The findings of this study suggest that companies should invest more in educating employees to improve their ways of thinking and highlights the necessity of respecting and learning from local people rather than simply focusing on language education.