Multicultural Negotiation Strategies Between the United States Germany and Japan Essay

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One common truism in the world of business is that mergers often fail. The task of negotiating a company merger with two other multinational companies is thus a daunting one. There are many reasons which cause mergers to fail, but one of the most common is that of miscommunication between the multiple entities. The fact that one of the nations is from Germany and the other is Japanese may further complicate matters, given that Japan is a traditionally high-context culture, where the content of what one says is less important than the manner and to whom one says it; speech also tends to be much more indirect. In contrast, Germany, similar to that of the United States, tends to be a very low-context culture where the explicit meaning of what a speaker conveys is all-important.

Issues Negotiating in a Diverse Cultural Environment

What is perceived as an obstacle or a difficulty by an individual from one cultural context may not be perceived as such by someone from a different context. From the perspective of an American from a low-context culture, the ability to negotiate based upon explicit meanings is often seen as a great benefit. In contrast, Japanese negotiators have often complained that Americans are difficult to deal with in negotiating situations because of the heterogeneous nature of the culture, which can make it difficult to read negotiator’s signals (LeBaron, 2003). This suggests that Japanese negotiators were always looking for subtle, subtextual messages as well as reflects a different demographic composition between the two nations. Even when negotiating with Germany, excessive bluntness that may be seen as admirable and trustworthy in one culture may be viewed with suspicion in another.

Culture can even affect the manner in which the negotiation is carried out. For example, societies such as Japan are often referred to as polychronic cultures, where start and end times of meetings are fluidly observed, and there is often a great deal of importance placed upon the socializing aspects of meetings which take place after hours (LeBaron, 2003). Disagreements are not verbalized openly. In fact, it might be considered impolite to bring up challenges directly, which can frustrate the opposite negotiating party, who feels as though they are being forced to read minds (LeBaron, 2003). There is also often a clear hierarchy in terms of who can give definitive answers, and even if a member of the party is enthusiastic, he or she may not actually be representative of the final decision-maker.

In contrast, individuals from monochronic cultures like the United States and Germany prefer to begin and end meetings on time. Characteristically, they prefer formally-scheduled breaks versus after-hours socializing and wish to have a clear agenda, rather than to take a long period of time to establish the positive character of the opposite party.

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They prefer to have recorded meetings with minutes (LeBaron, 2003). They also often allow all members of the party to articulate opinions with less explicit hierarchy (LeBaron, 2003). It should be noted that although this is the preferred method of negotiation in the United States, there is no singular strategy which is always superior. Rather, custom tends to dictate what specific parties prefer and are familiar with.

Instead, a good idea in a multicultural setting is to make all of the parties aware of the fact that they may have different negotiating strategies and to set specific terms for the negotiation process. Even if there will still be variations between the different cultural representative groups, heightened awareness will ensure that there is less chance that members of the negotiating parties will take offense or misinterpret what others are saying. There should also be an equitable schedule that is mutually satisfying to all parties concerned, one which ideally bridges the differences and expectations of how the negotiations will proceed.

Issues Which May Influence Negotiations

Particularly in low-context cultures, negotiations are often viewed as a means to an end. For high-context cultures, the negotiation may be entered into with the expectation of merely feeling out the other party to determine if he or she is worth doing business with. In the absence of immediate agreement, this can create frustrations and conflicts for the representative of the low-context culture. Additionally, given that the proposed negotiation involves a suggested merger, many of the issues which may arise during any negotiation of a merger may further stymie dialogue and discussion. The idea of a merger, particularly if one party is much stronger or dominant than the other, is often innately uncomfortable to at least some members of the formerly independent organizations.

Mergers provoke unrest because they can take the form of uncomfortable blends of two corporate cultures, even when they are not occurring between multinational entities. “ In the absence of a clear statement of what the merged company will stand for, how the organisation will operate, what it will feel like, and what will be different compared to how things are today,” the parties involved may be resistant and feel that the stresses of undergoing the merger are not worth their while (Siegenthaler, 2010, par.2). Also, if the emerging corporate culture of the newly-merged entity as well as the negotiating strategy seems to emphasize the….....

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Kilman, R. (2012). Distinguishing between compromising and collaborating. Mediate. Retrieved from:

LeBaron, M. (2003). Culture-based negotiation styles. Beyond Intractability. Retrieved from:

Shonk, K. (2018). 5 win-win negotiating strategies. Harvard University. Retrieved from:

Siegenthaler, P. (2010). The most common causes for companies failing to integrate and profit from M&A activity. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: acquisitions-fail.html

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