Managing Ethnic Diversity in a Japanese Joint Venture in Malaysia
Author(s)Smith, Wendy A.
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AbstractThis paper uses data from a longitudinal study of a Japanese joint venture in Malaysia to examine the management of ethnic diversity, especially in the context of religion. The transfer of Japanese style management to a multi-ethnic workforce was a complex exercise for the Japanese managers themselves, who were largely untrained and inexperienced in international management contexts. Due to the Malaysian government's New Economic Policy of 1971-1990, which emphasised development through export-oriented manufacturing, the Malaysian employees in the venture were largely first generation urban working class or new middle class, a situation in which they had not only to adapt to Japanese work ethics but also to the experience of employment in a modern organization. Malaysian society was subjected to a process of rapid social change under the NEP but traditional values and practices remained from the peasant and pre-industrial cultural base of its three ethnic groups, the Malays, Malaysian Chinese and Indians. I examine this complex reality by focusing on the experience of employment in the venture for the Malay Muslims, and juxtapose their system of Islamic values and work ethics with the Japanese values arising from the Japanese Management System which was substantially transferred to the venture.
TypeDepartment of Management Working Paper Series