Spurious Loyalty of Japanese Workers: In Search of Psychodynamics of Substitutive Mother in the Form of Organization

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Title: Spurious Loyalty of Japanese Workers: In Search of Psychodynamics of Substitutive Mother in the Form of Organization
Year: 1999
Authors: Watanabe , N., & Takahashi , K.
Abstract:

It has long been believed (or it has been recognized as a proposition) that Japanese employees are deeply committed to, involved in, attached to, and strongly loyal to, the organizations they join From 1970's until 1980's, "Japanese Style of Management," including human resource management principle and policies have gathered comprehensive popularity both of management practitioners and researchers and they tried to substantiate the proposition above

The characteristics of Japanese style of management could be summarized as follows:

(1) Long-term or life-long employment: Company employs workers until retirement age as long as there is no serious management crisis or disciplinary action.

(2) Seniority wages. Wages are usually determined by personal attributes, including such factors as length of service, age, education, and gender.

(3) Group-based management: Harmony and consensus of work group they work for is emphasized. Individual's self-assertion and decision is relatively neglected in the group.

(4) Within-company skill acquisition: Company takes care of the skill and knowledge acquisition of the employees in the company cost.

(5) Eager recruitment of new graduates: Company is likely to hire new graduates, socialize, and rear them as the company-specific human resource.[1] It is reluctant to hire persons who quit the another company.

Recently, however, as a continuing recession in Japanese economy, most of which once were praised as splendid Japanese management principle and policies are rather highlighted their faults.

Although criticism became emphasized on Japanese style of management, the proposition on Japanese employees' high level of commitment to organization has been appealing to researchers and practitioners. There exists a myth among researchers and practitioners that employees working for Japanese companies are very loyal to their company and do not easily quit it. That is why, the company provides a lot of care and protection with the employees through above mentioned Japanese style of HRM

This myth, however, has been almost denied by previously conducted cross-cultural studies on organizational commitment (e.g., Lincoln & Kalleberg, 1990). The results of previous studies showed that Japanese workers' organizational commitment is not so high as we guess, rather lower, compared with the workers who are working in various industrialized countries. This result was not acceptable for the researchers and practitioners who had supported the effectiveness of Japanese style of management. As the result, a number of controversies has raised why the common sense (proposition or myth) was not supported by empirical studies (e.g., Watanabe, 1997).

Through the controversies, one plausible explanation was presented. It is that definition and content of organizational commitment with which we have dealt are too ambiguous and too straightforward. The argument has been addressed that previous studies only dealt with one facet of organizational commitment, particularly emotion-based commitment and neglected the other components of organizational commitment. Meyer and Allen (1997) posits that there are three facets in commitment to organizations in nature, namely affective, continuance, and normative commitment.

Affective commitment refers to the employee's emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization. Employees with a strong selective commitment continue employment with the organization because they want to do so. Continuance commitment refers to an awareness of the costs associated with leaving the organization. Employees whose primary link to the organization is based on continuance commitment remain because they need to do so. Finally, normative commitment reflects a feeling of obligation to continue employment. Employees with a high level of normative commitment feel that they ought to remain with the organization.

Viewed from this theoretical framework, previous studies only dealt with affective commitment, which is primarily measured by Porter et al.'s (1974) Organizational Commitment questionnaire (OCQ). OCQ has been well known as the scale for measuring employees, emotional attachment to the organization. It is, however, inadequate to measure the other components of commitment: continuance and normative. As mentioned above, it
is very clear that Japanese style of HRM could function as a social system, which strongly promote the employees' continuance commitments rather than affective one. Under such HRM system, it is very costly for workers to quit the organization they have worked for, since they have almost no alternative organization to employ them in better, at least, the same conditions. So, they need to remain in the company even if they do no longer have any emotional attachment to the organization.

Under these circumstances, Japanese workers' overall organizational commitment is developed in an unusually skewed way, which means only the continuance component is exaggerated and the growth of the other components cannot be highly developed. Organization tends to guess that development of continuance commitment goes with the development of affective and normative ones. The notion shared in the organization that "they lemployees] must have emotional attachment to the company and have ethically correct ideas, because they do not quit the company" is prevailed and accepted by top management As a result, the employees have to pretend as if they had certain level of affective and normative commitment to the organization as high as they did on continuance commitment in order to prevent the top management to uncover their "spurious loyalty" to the company. It is therefore valuable to scrutinize these complex intra-psychic situations surrounding Japanese workers from the psychoanalytic framework.

Keywords: Loyalty, Japanese Workers, Psychodynamics, Substitutive Mother, Organization
Language: English


Date: 6/15/1999
Location: Toronto, Canada
Name of Event/Conference: 16th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO

Submitted by:
Elizabeth Novogratz

Corresponding author:

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