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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 compa-
nies 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 tradition-
ally 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 fewerhours 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 complet-
ing 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 her-
self 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 con-
sider 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 compe-
tent 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 work-
ing with others. Good grades and campus leadership activities had got-
ten 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?


Original text

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 compa-
nies 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 tradition-
ally 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 fewerhours 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 complet-
ing 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 her-
self 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 con-
sider 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 compe-
tent 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 work-
ing with others. Good grades and campus leadership activities had got-
ten 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?


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