Japan Versus US
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The success of Japanese manufacturing in the global marketplace has stimulated attempts to identify and understand the factors that have led to Japan's competitive advantage. Efforts by North American manufacturers to close the perceived gap with Japan have often been frustrated because of the ability of Japanese corporations to implement new technologies and introduce new products within very short cycle times (Hannam, 1990; Weirmair, 1990; Clark & Takahiro, 1989). One important element in this ability to rapidly implement changes has been the Japanese workers' active cooperation in technological and product changes (e.g. Kuwahara, 1983; Tsurumi, 1978).

Workforce cooperation has been a thorny issue in the introduction of technological change. While there is ample evidence to support either positive or negative effects of new technologies on employees (Shaiken, 1984; Majchrzak, 1988; Zuboff, 1988), it seems clear that the characteristics of the technology alone do not determine employees' acceptance or rejection of any new technology (Manufacturing Studies Board, 1986). Employees' beliefs about the impact of the technology and how the technological change is being managed appear to be significant factors in their decision to actively cooperate with the change or resist it (Slem, Levi, & Young, 1986). When viewed as a means to dehumanize the workplace, increase stress, or threaten one's job, it is likely that the workforce will resist change. If perceived as a means to introduce more challenging and creative jobs, enhance one's career, and lead to a more participative organization, the workforce is more likely to cooperate and facilitate the technological change.

A considerable amount of the cooperation of the Japanese workforce may be attributed to Japanese culture and human resource practices which mitigate the negative consequences of technological change. Japanese cultural influences include strong loyalty to one's corporation, groupism, and an emphasis on work as the major source of self-esteem (Hall & Hall, 1987; Hayashi, 1988; Pegels, 1984). Japanese human resource practices include lifetime employment, seniority-based wage system, consensus decision making, and an emphasis on training (Hasegawa, 1986; Lincoln & McBride, 1987; Smith & Misumi, 1989). These cultural influences and human resource practices are likely to produce a workforce that does not fear technological change and is committed to its success.

The purpose of this project was to compare the attitudes of U.S. workers with Japanese workers about the impact of technological change in the workplace. Because of their culture and human resource practices, it was hypothesized that with few exceptions the Japanese workforce would have more positive attitudes about technological change than the U.S. workforce. This paper will first review how the impact of technological change affects the workforce, and then describe Japanese culture and human resource practices which would mitigate the potential negative impacts of technological change and produce a workforce that facilitates rather than resists new technology.

Model of the Psychosocial Impact of Technological Change

Levi, Slem & Young (1992) describe a model of the impact of technological change which can be used to assess workforce readiness for the implementation of new technology. Figure 1 outlines the three major factors involved in the technological change process. The first factor contains the characteristics of the organization which are affected by the technological change. The second factor involves the way in which the change process is managed. The final factor is the perceived impacts of the change on employees.

As shown in Figure 1, technological change can impact a variety of organizational factors. Technological change can affect task size, complexity, and the physical characteristics of the job. These changes can also significantly change the nature and amount of autonomy, control, and supervision of the task. Not only do specific task characteristics change, but roles are affected and change may produce role ambiguity, role conflict, and role overload. Informal group relationships and relationships between the supervisor and subordinates will be altered. The organization's corporate culture will affect how the change is viewed and in turn be affected by the change itself. In like manner, organizational problem solving and decision making will affect how the new technology is adopted and used, and will be affected by the features of the new technology. Organizational communication can be dramatically changed by the implementation of new technologies, especially communication technologies. Career development paths and job security can be significantly affected by the adoption of a new technology.

The change process itself is the mediating factor in how the workforce views the technological change. The change process includes the quality and amount of the training for the new technology, the participation of the workforce in the decision-making process about the change, the commitment of upper management, and the ability of change agents to take risks. Proper management of the change process can increase acceptance of the new technology.

The final part of the model summarizes the perceived impacts on the employees themselves. Personal benefits are the positive personal effects of technological change. These include improving one's career in the organization and increasing one's marketable skills. Job improvements may include more personal control, increasing challenge, and providing the opportunity to work on more important tasks. Job stress may be due to role issues (conflict, ambiguity and overload) and damaged coworker relationships. Personal insecurity includes anxiety about the future of one's job and anxiety about one's ability to adapt to the new situation. Previous research using the survey on U.S. companies (Levi, Slem & Young, 1991) has confirmed the relationships outlined in this model of the impact of technological change.

This model suggests that workforce cooperativeness in the technological change process is likely to be associated with beliefs about technological change. If the workforce believes that the introduction of advanced manufacturing technology will make their jobs more difficult, damage coworker relationships, and threaten the existence of their jobs, their fears or concerns may lead to resistance to the new technology. Conversely, if the workforce believes that the new technology will make jobs easier, enhance careers, and leads to greater sense of control over the workplace, then they will likely facilitate the implementation of new technology.

Japanese Culture and Human Resource Practices

Japanese culture. The emphasis on work as a major source of self-esteem in Japan, strong loyalty to one's corporation, deference to authority, and groupism all serve to encourage the cooperation of the Japanese workforce and to mitigate the negative consequences of technological change.

Work plays the central role in a Japanese male's sense of identity and self-esteem. Diligence at work has been characterized as one of the hallmarks of Japanese life (Cole, 1979; Dore, 1987). The meaning of work achieves personal significance in the context of the organization. The Japanese culture has values which tie the individual's sense of personal and work success to the corporation's success (Sengoku, 1985). Not only are the Japanese more committed to work, they are also seen as being more committed to an employing corporation (Pegels, 1984; Lincoln & Kalleberg, 1990). Smith and Misumi (1989) point out that the symbolic meaning of work is closely associated with duty to the group and corporation. Unlike the United States and Britain, for example, the Japanese corporation is viewed not only as a place to work, but a community to which an individual can devote his life (Cole, 1979; Sengoku, 1985).

This loyalty to the corporation has been traced to the historical development of the country and its family structure; and it is grounded in Confucian traditions which venerate deference to authority and the value education (Sethi, Namiki, & Swanson, 1984; Tsurumi, 1978; & Morishima, 1982). Employees want to do whatever they can for their corporation. What is best for the organization is often accepted as the right thing for the individual to support. This relationship between the employee and the organization is reciprocal. Employees are devoted to the social organization, which in turn is bound to their welfare. This social value of reciprocal loyalty has made it difficult for large corporations to use layoffs as a way to reduce costs (Sethi, Namaki, & Swanson, 1984).

Loyalty to the organization is closely linked to the collective or group orientation of Japanese culture. This can also be seen as an extension of the importance of kinship relationships in the history of Japan, and how these kinship type relationships were transferred to work organizations (Sethi, 1975; Sengoku, 1985). The social obligation inherent in the closely tied relationship between the individual and the group encourages the individual to commit themselves to the best interests of the group despite serious personal reservations. There is a strong sense that obligation is paternalistically reciprocal, and loyalty to one's group serves as protection against powerful outside forces.

The strong sense of cooperativeness, or harmony (wa), within the group is also founded in Confucianism (Pegels, 1984). The members of a group would not want to do anything that would upset the harmony of the group. Not only does this apply to co-workers, it also applies to superior-subordinate relationships. It often appears that Japanese corporations spend as much time working on developing and maintaining harmony as on manufacturing the product. For the Japanese, harmony sets the stage for action. The collaboration required to coordinate complex decisions about the implementation of technology is facilitated by the collective orientation that demands cooperation and group harmony (Smith & Misumi, 1989).

Given these powerful cultural values, the success and self-esteem of the person becomes so emeshed in the organization that technological change activities that might benefit the organization would elicit loyal commitment and less resistance to the change.

Japanese human resource practices. While current Japanese human resource practices appear to be direct extensions of Japanese culture, it has been reported that most were actually implemented just after World War II to solve pressing problems of labor strife and instability as well as to make changes mandated by the occupational forces of the United States (Smith & Misumi, 1989; Hasegawa, 1986). While not all of these practices were created within the Japanese culture, they were successful because they were consistent with Japanese cultural beliefs (Lincoln & McBride, 1987; Cole, 1979). Human resource practices such as lifetime employment, the seniority system, an emphasis on training and support, and consensus decision making have reduced the risk of job loss and personal threat that often accompany technological change.

Lifetime employment has been described as a human resource tactic that was designed to maintain a firm internal labor market in response to labor scarcity and strife just after WWII (Lincoln & McBride, 1987). Lifetime employment refers to the practice of hiring an employee just after graduation who remains in employment of the company until retirement, usually at age 55-60 (Cole, 1979; Lincoln & McBride, 1987). Even though perhaps no more than 30-40% of the Japanese workforce is actually covered by lifetime employment, it is a pervasive norm that affects the treatment of regular employees throughout Japan. With lifetime employment, permanent employees are not as likely to view the introduction of new technology as a direct threat to their employment (Tsurumi, 1978; Keys & Miller, 1984). In order to deal with the obligation and constraints of lifetime employment, Japanese corporations have large numbers of temporary employees and extensively use subcontractors. In times of technological change (or economic recession), the core employees are retained and temporary workers are laid off. In an economic downturn, components that subcontractors produced are produced by the corporation, and the smaller, lower ranked subcontractor companies are then forced to lay off their employees (Yoshino, 1968; Sethi, 1975).

Employment in corporations utilizing lifetime employment is not based on specific job skills that will become obsolete or replaced by new technology, but on the development of a wide variety of corporation based skills which require a long period of time to be fully acquired. In Japanese corporations practicing lifetime employment, the individual is hired as a generalist who will be developed as an increasingly valuable asset over their career. He (almost always male) is expected to rotate through a number of functional jobs, so frequent displacement may not be as disruptive as it might be in the United States (Sethi, 1975). While lifetime employment limits mobility between firms (Cole, 1979; Sengoku, 1985), it increases the mobility within the firms (Sethi, 1975).

Closely linked with lifetime employment, the seniority-based system of promotion also provides protection for individuals from technological change. Since a large part of an individual's value to the organization is based on developing generalist skills that can only be obtained through years of experience, middle managers need not feel threatened by efforts at change below them (Smith & Misumi, 1989). In addition, the seniority-based system keeps subordinates mindful of the interests and wishes of their superiors. Similarly, the loyalty and strong sense of mutual obligation between superiors and subordinates makes it unlikely that a technological change would be used to injure a member of one's group. For the superior, any assistance they can offer to the success of a technological innovation below them will be recognized as an indication of their ability to work for the good of the corporation.

The protection of group members is further emphasized in the process of participatory and consensus decision making at the work group and organization level. The group members are very conscious of maintaining harmony within the group, and the ramifications of any potential technological change are carefully discussed. If the implementation of a new technology might harm a group member or interfere with their functional operation, great pains are taken to mitigate the negative effects. As a result, the decision making process appears to be quite slow, laborious, and inefficient, but since implementation issues are usually resolved before the decision, the implementation of the decision is very fast (Drucker, 1971).

Lifetime employment and the belief that the workforce is an asset to be developed over a long period of time has produced a greater emphasis on training (Dore, 1987). Japanese corporations spend much more money on training than in the United States, and training is as available to the factory floor worker as to the white collar worker. Displaced workers are routinely retrained for other jobs or assignments.

Based on this review of Japanese cultural and human resources practices, the following differences between U.S. and Japanese employees' attitudes about the psychosocial impacts of technological change were hypothesized:

  1. Japanese employees are more likely to believe that technological change will improve their jobs.

  2. U.S. employees are more likely to believe that technological change will personally benefit their careers.

  3. Japanese employees will experience less personal insecurity due to technological change.

  4. Japanese employees will view technological change as producing less job stress than U.S. employees.

  5. Japanese employees are more likely to believe that the technological change process is managed more effectively than U.S. employees.


The "Technological Change Survey" was developed to measure employees' beliefs and attitudes about the impact of technological change (Levi, Slem, & Young, 1992). The survey was administered to workforces in five electronic manufacturing facilities in California and Arizona. Through collaboration with the Japan Management Association (JMA), the survey was translated into Japanese and administered to employees in three electronics manufacturing facilities in Japan.


In the 36 item Technological Change Survey, employees rated their beliefs about the impact of technological change on a five point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree (e.g. "I sometimes worry that technological change will require more ability than I have to do my job" and "Learning new job skills required by technological changes will increase my marketable skills"). The questionnaire also included statements about their company's management of the technological change process and demographic information. All statistical analyses with the questionnaire data used the five point rating scale, although the results are presented in terms of a combined percent strongly agree and agree in order to make the tables more readable.

A Principal Factors analysis with an orthogonal rotation using the SPSS statistical package was performed on the U. S. survey data (Levi, Slem & Young, 1992). This analysis was used to separate the survey items into the four impacts of technological change factors and the change process outlined in the model. Factors were created using survey items with a loading factor of greater than .30. The alpha internal consistency reliability coefficients for the scales were .58 for Personal Benefit, .78 for Job Improvement, .73 for Job Stress, .75 for Personal Insecurity, and .75 for the Change Process.


All levels of the workforce were surveyed, from production workers to senior man agers. Employees in the United States who received the surveys either returned them to a drop site in the facility or mailed them directly to the researchers with postage paid pre-ad dressed envelops. The return rate was approximately 40% with the exception of one facility where 100% of a random sample of the workforce completed the survey. A total of 915 surveys were returned. In Japan, the translated survey was administered to employees in three electronics manufacturing facilities. The surveys were returned to a drop site, collected by a JMA liaison, and the data sent to the authors. The response rate for the Japanese sample was higher than for the United States, with over 95% of the employees returning the survey, resulting in 544 surveys.

Table 1 presents the demographic composition of the two workforces. Over two thirds of the respondents to the survey in both the U.S. and Japan were under 40 years old. The median amount of time working for the U.S. companies was four to six years, while most of the Japanese employees had worked for their companies for over ten years. Men comprised almost 60% of the U.S. respondents while they comprised more than 80% of the Japanese respondents. About 40% of both the U.S. and Japanese samples were comprised of production and technical workers.


Cultural Bias

It is important to note that there are many difficulties with trying to compare survey results from Japanese companies with survey results from U.S. companies. There are many sources of bias which may distort the comparisons. These potential biases include translation problems, cultural differences in survey response style, and relevant comparison groups for the respondents.

Translation problems arise in finding literally equivalent words for English in Japanese, but more importantly, in ensuring conceptual equivalence of the wording (Lincoln & Kalleberg, 1990). The Technological Change survey was translated by professional interpreters, reviewed by a panel of Japanese and U.S. management experts, and then modified to ensure conceptual equivalence in the translation. The Japanese translation was later back-translated into English to determine if meanings had significantly changed in the translation process.

The patterns which emerge in the data analysis can serve as a check of conceptual equivalence (Przweorksi & Teune, 1970). If the intercorrelations among variables tapped by an equivalent set of survey items displays a similar pattern and supports the researcher's hypotheses about the underlying concepts, it is likely that the survey items are equivalent and valid.

In addition to translation problems, differences between the samples may reflect cultural differences in how one presents oneself. Japanese respondents may have a greater tendency to answer in the middle of a survey scale while U.S. respondents tend to select extreme answers (Dore, 1973). This may be partially attributable to a cultural value about modesty (Smith & Misumi, 1989; Zax & Takahashi, 1967). On the other hand, the Japanese sensitivity about "tatemae" (public face) of their corporation may encourage more favorable public responses than their actual experience, "honne" (Hall & Hall, 1987).

A final set of potential biases concerns the relevant comparison groups of the respondents. If someone is asked how good their company is at some activity, their response will compare their company with other companies they know or to an idealized image of what companies should be like. The comparison groups are likely to be different for each culture.


Cultural Bias Checks

The pattern of correlations among the survey items in the Japanese and U.S. samples are very similar. Figure 2 shows the correlations between the change process and the impacts of technological change for both the U.S. and Japanese samples, and Figure 3 shows the correlations among the factors measuring the impacts of technological change for both the U.S. and Japanese samples. The correlations shown in Figures 2 and 3 demonstrate that both U.S. and Japanese employees responded in similar ways to the questionnaire. The results reported in Table 2 do not reveal either a statistically significant tendency to respond in the middle range nor a tendency to present a favorable public face.

Figure 2
Correlations Between Change Process
and the Impact of Technological Change

Figure 3
Correlations Among the Impacts of Technological Change

Comparison Between Countries

Table 2 presents the technological change survey results for each survey item within each of the factors outlined in the impact of technological change model. All statistical analyses are based on the five point rating scale, although the results are reported as combined % Agree and Strongly Agree for readability. In general, the employees at the U.S. corporations were more positive about the beneficial effects of technological change on their jobs and careers, and less negative about the detrimental effects of technological change on job stress and personal insecurity. In addition, the employees of each country differed on which were the primary benefits and problems associated with the impact of technological change. Employees in each country had mixed reactions to their corporations' management of technological change, but U.S. employees were more positive.

Table 2
Responses to Technological Change Survey

Job improvement. On most of the questions about technology's positive effects on people's jobs, over 50% of the U.S. employees agreed that technology would improve their jobs while less than 50% of the Japanese agreed (t=-7.75, df=1298, p<.001). The more positive attitudes of the U.S. employees were focused on the beliefs that technological change would improve problem solving, ease scheduling problems, increase personal control, make their jobs more challenging, and allow them to work on more important tasks.

Personal benefit. The U.S. employees were also more likely to believe that technological change would produce personal benefits for them (t=-6.68, df=1413, p<.001). While over 70% of each group agreed that technological change was good for employees and would increase their skills, the U.S. employees were more likely to believe that technological change would help their careers by helping them to achieve their career goals and increasing their marketable skills. Only 25% of the Japanese believed that new technology would help them achieve their career goals, although they were more likely to view technological change as good for employees and would improve their skill levels.

Personal insecurity. While the Japanese workforce experienced significantly more personal insecurity due to technological change (t=8.01, df=1413, p<.001), the issues that contributed to personal insecurity differed between the countries. The Japanese experienced more personal insecurity associated with not knowing how technology will affect their job and being concerned whether they had the ability to keep up with technological change; while the U.S. employees were more anxious about learning how to operate new technology.

Job stress. The Japanese employees were more likely to believe that technological change would make their jobs more stressful (t=4.79, df=1226, p<.001). About 50% of the Japanese believed their jobs would be more stressful, while only 35% of the U.S. employees believed this to be true. Although the U.S. and Japanese employees agreed about the relative importance of most of the causes of job stress, there were some differences. The U.S. employees were more likely than the Japanese to believe that technological change would cause role conflicts within the organization, while the Japanese were more likely to believe that quantitative overload would be the result of technological change.

Management of change. Both the U.S. and Japanese employees gave a mixed evaluation of their organization's ability to manage technological change, but the U.S. employees were more favorable (t=-4.46, df=1344,, p<.001). For most of the specific management of change items, there were not significant differences between the U.S. and Japanese employees. However, the U.S. employees were more likely to believe that their companies were good at training new technical skills, and that job decisions regarding technological change were fair to employees.

Other beliefs. Both groups overwhelmingly believed that technological change is necessary for the survival of the corporation with over 90% of the employees agreeing to this. However, the Japanese employees were more likely to believe that technological change would have a major impact on their jobs. In addition, the Japanese employees did not believe they would not be good working with computers and were less likely to believe that computer training would be easy.


The checks on the cross cultural issues suggest that both U.S. and Japanese employees responded in similar ways to the questionnaire. The similarity of a pattern of relationships can be interpreted to provide strong support for the equivalence and validity of a measure across cultures (Lincoln & Kalleberg, 1990). Since the Japanese scores were often more extreme than those of the U.S. workforce, the potential of a response style in the middle ranges was not evident. Likewise, while public face (tatemae) is important in Japan, apparently the Japanese have few reservations about reporting how they honestly feel (honne) on anonymous questionnaires.

With few exceptions, the results did not support the general hypothesis that the Japanese workforce had more favorable attitudes about technological change. This discrepancy led to an additional trip to Japan to conduct follow-up interviews, make site visits, and engage in discussions with Japanese researchers and management consultants to more fully understand these counter intuitive results. Japanese culture and Human Resources practices have been viewed as a series of apparent contradictions (e.g. Sethi, 1975, Matsuda, 1990). This suggests that some of the factors that facilitate technological change also contain elements which are powerful sources of personal concern for the individual employee and could lead to resistance (Cole, 1989). The apparent discrepant results may also be explained by the differences between the two countries' views about technology as organizational solutions, the greater job mobility in the United States, the effect of lifetime employment in Japan, and the differences in how job assignments are performed in each country.

One general explanation for the differences between the two workforces is that U.S. employees optimistically expect technology to solve their organizational problems. Technological change is viewed in the United States as the cure, or "fix", for a variety of organizational, social, and environmental problems (McGill, 1988). In contrast, the Japanese view organizational issues as socially controlled, and are less likely to believe that technology by itself will lead to changes in the way organizations manage people.

Differences in perceived personal benefits of new technology are likely to be due to U.S. employees' beliefs that participating in technological changes would help them to get better jobs at other companies. Changing companies to improve one's career is much more acceptable in the United States than in Japan. In addition, U.S. companies reward employees for specific job skills while Japanese companies train employees to be skilled in all aspects of the business. The Japanese recognize that technological change will improve their skill levels, but this will not necessarily improve their position in the organization or allow them to obtain better jobs in other organizations.

Because the Japanese organizations in this study have a practice of lifetime employment, personal insecurity is not likely to be focused on losing one's job with the corporation. However, technological change brings the threat of losing face. With advanced technology, experienced workers may no longer be experts and their wisdom may no longer be relevant. Individuals may experience stress and insecurity because they have worked diligently to perfect the existing technology and feel they were contributing in a very productive way. With fundamentally new technology, they wonder whether they might fail to master the new technology and thereby let down their group and disrupt harmony.

A great deal of stress may also be generated by the way in which jobs are defined in Japanese manufacturing facilities. Job assignments are purposely vague in Japanese corporations so that each person in the group will feel responsible for the success of the new technology (Pegels, 1984; Sengoku, 1985). Jobs are typically broad based categories rather than narrowly defined specified activities. This gives the group flexibility in quickly changing job assignments and motivates people to strive to meet the objectives of the group rather than just focus on one's own subtask. However, when a new task or equipment is introduced, everyone in the group will feel responsible for its success even though they may not be specifically involved. As a result, employees feel overwhelmed with the anticipation of additional responsibilities. They may routinely find themselves staying after regular hours to make their quotas or delivery schedules. Role overload was one of the greatest concerns of the Japanese on the survey.

Job placement decisions in the United States are often based on one's technical skills in a particular area, while Japanese companies use a more holistic evaluation for job decisions. This may cause Japanese employees to believe that job placement decisions are not directly related to technological change. In addition, when workers are displaced by new technology, they have no control over what their next assignment might be. This is true of their job rotation assignments in general, and white collar workers are likely to be rotated to different cities or countries without consultation (Smith & Misumi, 1989).

The higher evaluations for training may reflect a bias in the U.S. sample because the companies in the sample are considered good at training by U.S. standards, or it may reflect different comparison groups for each culture. Japanese companies are noted for their investment in training (Orlin,1988; Hodgetts & Luthans, 1989). Although the Japanese employees spend more time in training, Lincoln and McBride (1989) speculate that Japanese workers may also expect more from their corporations than U.S. workers do. Given the Japanese worker's acceptance of responsibility to quickly become proficient with the new technology and the greater importance on "losing face" in Japanese culture, it is likely that the individual is much more demanding of training programs in Japan than in the United States.

The primary reason for the surprising level of anxiety about computers among the Japanese workforce is likely due to the greater degree of change represented by the introduction of computers in Japan. The change to computers is a greater challenge in Japan because unlike workers in the United States, the Japanese did not have experience with the transitional technology of typewriter keyboards. Because of the complexity of Chinese characters, there are few typewriters in Japan. As a result, the Japanese workforce must go from pencil and paper and verbal communication technology to computer keyboards. Japanese corporations are having to develop special kinds of training programs to handle the new demands of computer training.

While the Japanese have enjoyed an advantage in implementing new technologies, their human resource practices and culture appear to have a paradoxical effect on the workforce's attitude about change. Follow-up interviews have suggested that what has overcome these relatively more pessimistic attitudes has been the use of crisis motivation, top-down decision making on large scale changes with bottom-up implementation, a reliance on cultural deference to authority and groupism, and top management's long term commitment to technological changes (Slem & Levi, 1990). While these strategies have been successful in the past, there are growing indications in the popular Japanese press that the more negative attitudes reflected in this study, especially among the young workers, are being reflected in behavior. Younger people, professionals and blue collar workers, no longer are as interested in working in manufacturing.

The higher percentage of negative attitudes reflected in the Japanese survey results would be a cause for concern in U.S. manufacturing corporations, however, the relationship between personal belief and organizational action is not as direct in Japan as in the U.S. From a cultural perspective, the expression of one's personal feelings and doing one's duty for the corporation are not closely linked in Japan (Sethi, 1975). While appreciable changes in workforce behavior are not present, Sengoku (1985) posits that these changing workforce attitudes are a significant precursor to changes in Japanese employees' willingness to work. Regardless of the actual behavior of the current workforce, there is concern among top management that their competitive advantage may be in jeopardy and changes in the human resources practices are being explored (Suzuki, 1986). Consistent with previous major changes, Mroczkowki & Hanaoka (1989) point out that the changes are not designed to abruptly destroy the current practices of lifetime employment and employee commitment, but to increase its flexibility and maintain continuity with traditional values and practices.

While the concerns about the changing attitudes of Japanese workers reflects a growing concern about the future of manufacturing in Japan, the results of this study suggest that the greater optimism of the U.S. workforce has not been effectively used to facilitate technological change in the United States. Shaiken (1984) and Majchrzak (1988) have reported on the effects of poor implementation of new technologies in the U.S. The effect of poor implementation practices, long implementation cycles, and resistance to future technological change is not inevitable. Levi, Slem, and Young (1991) found that U.S. workforce attitudes about technological change are more favorable when the management of technological change focused on developing participatory work teams before introducing new technology. This suggests that U.S. companies may be able to gain the benefits of the more positive attitudes of the employees toward technological change by including them in the change process.


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