Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) is one of the many Neo-human relations theories developed by social psychologist Abraham Maslow (Health Knowledge, 2006). It portrays the fundamental human needs starting with physiological needs at the base of the pyramid, gradually transitioning into the need for self-actualisation. It can be used as an important tool to analyse organisational cultures and to understand how the theory manifests itself differently in the form of practices influenced by cultural values.
It is reported that around 22% of the Japanese employees work over 49 hours per week which only 16% of American employees do (The Guardian, 2015). The concept of ‘Inemuri’ (taking naps at work) as well as ‘Karoshi’ (deaths through overwork) is unique to Japan. In Japan, the challenging work culture satisfies the psychological need of belonging to the organisation or a group (The Economist, 2008). It is said that Japanese workers get the least amount of sleep adding up to 6 hours and 22 minutes on a work night (The Guardian, 2015). In the pursuit of belonging, their physiological needs are neglected which can explain the occurrences of ‘Karoshi’ and ‘Inemuri’. However, it is important to understand their underlying cultural values that lead to such practices.
Hofstede identified five cultural dimensions which are as follows (Vasile ad Nicolescu, 2016):
- Power Distance
- Uncertainty Avoidance
- Long/short term orientation
Japan is said to have a high power distance, which means they believe in a hierarchical corporate culture where decisions are usually made by those in power. They believe in Collectivist work environment and prove their commitment and loyalty to their superiors by partaking in after-work socialising and forgoing their vacation days (Lincoln, Kalleberg, 1990). In regards to Individualism Japan only had a value score of 41 while the U.S had a value score of 91(Bergiel et al, 2012). According to a research conducted by Imperative, only 28% of the American workforce believe that their work is a primary source if personal fulfilment and a way to help others (Forbes, 2016) which suggests that they are more inclined to fulfilling their physiological needs. In terms of uncertainty avoidance, it is said that the Americans are more willing to take risks.
It is interesting to note how cultural values define the key factors behind the motivation to work. Additionally, it affects interpersonal relationships within the organisation which sets the tone for organisational practices and corporate cultures.