Japanese Women Managers’ Employee-Oriented Communication Styles

[We’re pleased to welcome author Kiyoko Sueda of Aoyama Gakuin University. Dr. Sueda recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “Japanese Women Managers’ Employee-Oriented Communication Styles: An Analysis Using Constructivist Grounded Theory,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sueda briefly describes the research and its significance.

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

I was motivated to pursue this research for mainly two reasons. First, although the number of women managers in Japan is relatively small, they are generally thought to be good communicators at work. However, with the exception of a few quantitative studies, little empirical research exists on how they communicate with their colleagues. Thus, this study should complement the current limited quantitative study by exploring women managers’ communication styles qualitatively. Second, as most of the existing research was conducted in Western cultural contexts, many of their discoveries about female communication styles may not be transferrable to Japanese managers and executives.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Some of the traditional characteristics of Japanese employment system, such as permanent employment and internal promotion systems, have become unstable in recent years, and an external labor market is growing. Thus, various schemes of employment exist within the same organizations. Moreover, shortages in the Japanese labor market are increasing to serious levels. Thus, organizations in Japan inevitably need to diversify their employees at all levels.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

As the number of female managers is still small, recruiting participants of the study was very challenging.

Although the existing literature has generally contrasted the “relationship-oriented” communication styles of women managers with the “task-oriented” approaches of their male counterparts, this study extends beyond the question of whether Japanese women managers are relationship or task oriented. The research found Japanese women managers engage in employee-oriented communication by making their work environment open and friendly, flexibly changing their communication styles depending on with whom they are talking, and using multiple channels of communication to achieve their professional goals.

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