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Analysis of the Famous Mitsubishi Case Under the Light of Men-Women and Japanese-American Intercultural Communication

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Introduction

It was my first day in high school. Standing alone in the middle of the play ground looking for anyone I know or can talk to, my eyes was searching all over the place. A pretty blond girl standing alone was a scene that, for sure, attracted my attention then. The moment my eyes saw her, my mind started thinking of ways to talk to her. After some time wasted thinking, I saw a girl I know approaching the blond. Not willing to waste such opportunity, I marched forward toward them. We had a nice chat through which I got to know the blond girl. She turned out to be a very nice and friendly French girl who just arrived to Egypt few days ago. Not being able to forget her for the rest of the day even before I sleep, I kept thinking how I would ask her out the next day. After long night hours, morning finally came and I was off to school. Although I though the lines I would open my conversation with her many times, I kept hesitating whether to approach her or not when I saw her the next morning. To my surprise, the moment she saw me, she actually called on me, walked towards me saying hi while giving me a kiss on the cheek. With this, I understood that she actually likes me too and she wouldn't reject my invitation for going out together. However, I was astonished when she replied "I have a boyfriend". That was just confusing. To me, the kiss on the cheek was a clear message that I adore you. It was only years later that I understood that for the French, a kiss on the cheek is just saying hi. This kiss just meant totally different things for both of us.

Unfortunately, this intercultural miscommunication does not only happen in personal relationships; it also occurs in many international deals with millions of dollars on stack. One such example is the famous case of Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing in America. In this paper, I will try to analyze the Mitsubishi case as a consequence of intercultural miscommunication between American men and American women cultures, and the Japanese and American cultures.

Mitsubishi Case Summary

Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America (MMMA) started in 1985 as a $500 million 50-50 joint venture, called Diamond-Star, between Chrysler Corporation of the United States and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) of Japan. According to the case, MMMA purpose was "to produce subcompact cars at a plant that would be located in Normal, Illinois." In October 1991, MMC bought Chrysler 50% and assumed full responsibility for the Diamond Ð'-Star Company whose name changed to MMMA later in 1995.

In April 1996, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a suit seeking damages of as much as $300 thousands per women on behalf of 300 female plant employees. The suit came after 15-month investigations of several sexual harassments complaints at MMMA.

Men vs. Women

The idea of different subcultures for males and females, although they live in the same country, taught the same values, and eat the same food, is not new. Although men and women live under the same conditions, they are expected to behave and respond differently. Thus as Maltz puts it: "The different social needs of men and women have led them to sexually differentiated communication cultures, with each sex learning a different set of skills for manipulating words" (Maltz, p.200). Maltz explains this by saying that each one of us learns his communication culture through the period of, approximately, age 5 to 15, when "boys and girls interact socially primarily with members of their own sex". Not only boys and girls learn to respond differently, but they learn, self-consciously, to differentiate, with exaggeration, their behavior from the other sex (Maltz, p.203).

If we talk in terms of Hofstede four dimensions of cultural differences, then American men culture could be described a culture that emphasizes individualism, high power distance and masculinity. This could be seen in their communication style. According to Maltz, American men tend to interrupt the speech of their conversational partners; they tend to dispute and challenge their partners' utterance, ignore the comments of others, control the topic, and do much more, than women, declaration of fact or opinion (Maltz, p.198). These features of men communication style are just ways to express their dominance, or as Maltz again puts it, "men's dominance in conversation parallels their dominance in society" (Maltz, p.198). Another way to display dominance was highlighted by a research done Richard Savin-Williams on young boys in a summer camp. He found that boys used verbal commands, name calling or other forms of verbal ridicule, verbal threats, and refusal to obey orders as forms to show their dominance over other boys (Maltz, p.208). Thus American men's culture tends to emphasize on the importance of asserting their dominance and being publicly recognized through aggression and competition.

On the other hand, American women's culture favors collectivism, minimum power distance, and femininity. According to researches done on little girls, researches have noticed that girls tend to play in private groups where participants are typically invited. The games are typically group collaborative games where participants are treated equally. Typical phrases used by girls in their games were "lets", "we gonna", we gotta", or "we could". This reflects the collaboration, unity, and equality usually found in girls culture. According to Maltz, ordering and bossing is not legitimate in the girls world as it denies the equality between members of the group (Maltz, p.205-206).

Men and Women in Mitsubishi

Coming to reflect the above on the Mitsubishi case, one can clearly see a number of inter-cultural misinterpretations. According to the case, the most common complaint from female workers was "having to endure language that carried sexual innuendos or blatant sexual propositions". As noted before and as concluded by Maltz in his paper, men and women have different interpretation of verbal aggressions. Men see it as "one conventional organizing structure for conversational flow" and a way to assert their dominance. Women on the other hand see it as negative, disruptive and as personally directed toward them (Maltz p.213). Thus in many times, while men was just expressing themselves, women would take it the wrong way.

Furthermore, as the research on summer camp kids showed earlier, men/boys use name calling and violence to assert their dominance. This is not only directed towards women, but, as noted in the case, other men were also taunted. If we go back to the research done on little

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