Sunao as Character: Its Implications for Trust and Intercultural Communication Within Subsidiaries of Japanese Multinationals in Australia [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 113 (3):543-555 (2013)


Drawing upon the findings of a grounded theory study, this article addresses how sunao-sa influences intercultural communication and the process of building and developing trust between Japanese expatriate managers and Australian supervisors working in subsidiaries of Japanese multinationals in Australia. The authors argue that sunao is related to other concepts in business ethics and virtue literature such as character and its constituents, empathy and concern for others. How sunao as a value, influences the process of interpreting intercultural behaviour in relation to providing accounts, excuses or apologies in situations where a breach of some norm has occurred, is also explained. Although sunao has a particular role in hierarchical relationships between manager and subordinate, the paper concludes that becoming mutually sunao is crucial in learning and understanding the perspectives and expectations of a counterpart so that trust can deepen and flourish. The study makes an original contribution in an area that to date does not appear to have been researched from a management perspective and purports that sunao as character is an important factor in the culture of Japanese multinational organizations and indeed, international management in that context

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