Monday, November 19, 2012

Korea Facing: Similar but Different

By Don Southerton, BCW Editor

Following a recent workshop, I had the opportunity to chat with the local subsidiary's Korean CEO. He hoped I'd shared with his team how the company in Korea and the US differed from the Group's sister firms--many wrongly assuming a high level of conformity across the Group. I assured him that "yes," I shared in the training how even within the Group each company had it's own unique culture. And, not only did sister companies differ, but how the Koreans recruited and working at companies within the Group were different. On parting I added, and the CEO agreed, that a key point to be shared was that Koreans dispatched to support the division's overseas operation over time came to see things differently than the Korea-based teams.

Building on this...
Prior to a global workshop on the ever changing Korean workplace, a senior Korean executive once asked that I also explain to the group that despite perceived outward appearances and their homogenous society that no two Koreans are alike....In other words he asked that I help dispel common stereotypes, etc.

I agreed, and did my best to pass on the message that like Westerners--behaviors, mindset, and experience varied among Koreans...this despite strong corporate culture and indoctrination.

In particular, factors contributing to how Koreans might differ can include: generational issues, global travel, work, and educational experiences, and significantly how they were mentored in a management style.

As for the later, during a team building workshop held several years ago, a senior Korean manager openly shared some insights on Korean management styles. He noted that within his Korean division teams were mentored by seniors in one of several styles.... For example, some senior managers fostered a "soft" management style of collaboration, while others used a "hard" autocratic style. Elaborating more about how he was mentored, he learned to first present the challenge to his team, then ask his juniors for their thoughts. And in the case of working in the overseas' subsidiary he learned to ask the American colleagues for their ideas vs. directing the team on what to do--a style he'd been taught by his longtime boss.

Questions, comments, feedback? 


  1. When it comes to cars I think Japanese cars are more reliable compare to Korean cars. No wonder why there are a lot of people that like
    import cars from japan.

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