It seems clear that this situation describes the problems that arise, when the meeting between ascription based and achievement based cultures is not handled in the right way. Achievement based cultures accord status on the basis of what you have achieved, while in ascription based cultures your status depends on your family background, gender, age and education. Things you should avoid when doing business with ascription based cultures is sending young executives to important negotiations, using performance related reward and fast track promotion policies.
The main problem in the situation seem to be the fact that Mr. Yamamoto, coming from an ascriptive culture, does not feel that Janne Sundhagen, coming from an achievement based culture, has the necessary skills to handle such an important negotiation. Ascriptive based cultures must be assured that your organisation has great respect for you and that your are near the top. The fact that Mr. Yamamoto politely insists to speak with her boss might indicate that he does not believe her to be in a position to make important decisions. Her status in Norway is based on the fact that she has successfully negotiated two important contracts, in other words her status is based on something she has achieved. But, as we all know, the Japanese respect age and experience much more than specific achievements. This may lead them to ascribe lower status to her because of her age and gender. The fact that her colleagues are men in their late twenties does not exactly improve her case. As a result of lack of status and power, in the eyes of the Mr. Yamamoto, they would have to arrange a follow up meeting at some time in the future.
This situation could easily have been avoided, had the president of Imaging Inc. been aware of the cultural differences. It is important to send senior people to negotiations with ascriptive cultures, even if they are less knowledgeable about the product. The Japanese were interested in making significant changes to the product in order to meet their needs. They needed to be assured that the persons who attended the negotiation had the power to make this changes. Due to the fact that the Japanese respect age and experience more than specific achievement, the delegation who attended the negotiation could not assure Mr Yamamoto that they had the necessary power to see this through. If the Norwegians had sent some senior people to accompany Sundhagen this problem would have been avoided.
Furthermore senior managers in ascriptive cultures are typically middle-aged men who are qualified by their background. In achievement based cultures we find senior managers of varying age and gender. In light of this we can see that Mr. Yamamoto, coming from an ascriptive culture, was a bit suprised that the president of Imaging Inc. would send a young female to such an important negotiation.
In conclusion, it is clear that there are several aspects that people from achievement based cultures need to take into account when dealing with people from ascriptive cultures. In our situation we could have reached a quicker and better agreement for both parties, had the president of Imaging Inc. been aware of the importance of approaching other cultures in the correct way.
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