Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Not Motivated by Money

“When I was younger I thought that everybody was motivated by money. But now, I think that it depends on the person. People want to be proud to say that they work at the company they do. I think that employees want a lot more flexibility these days, especially women when they have children. They may look to a foreign company to give them that.

I think something that is important is feeling proud of the work they do and the organization that they belong to. I think that people’s expectations of what they can earn are under control……as far as I can tell people don’t earn any more than they did twenty years ago here. There’s been deflation and all the rest of it. Some people get paid really weird salaries. I look at them and can’t believe that they get paid so much and then I look at other people and can’t believe that they get paid so little. It can be a bit odd. But of course money is always ‘there’ – you have to get paid to live but I don’t think that it is a key driver, at least among the people that I have worked with. If it was, then in my early days there would have been less staff turnover because I was (financially) pretty generous.

And of course, this is not to say that everyone in our own culture is driven by money. However, I think that there can be a little bit more moral judgment of people who make their work decisions based on money. For example, if you are working for a domestic company and you leave to work in a foreign company for more money – I don’t think that you would be particularly well respected by the colleagues that you left behind. I had one guy leave last year and probably it was because they were offering him more money. I remember that I was a little bit shocked because I was assuming that the norms of loyalty held, but the response to him among his colleagues was not very positive especially in light of the fact that money may have been the reason. Back home though, we would completely understand and accept it. So yes, it’s more complicated here. The commitments are more profound in this country.”