Enhancing Leadership and Employee Relations in a Cross-cultural Setting

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Case Study: Leadership and Employee Relations - Bridge Intercultural Consulting


A Tokyo-based manufacturer encountered significant difficulties in managing its U.S. subsidiary, particularly in handling a multicultural workforce and improving the relationship between the management and employees. The company aimed to identify the underlying causes of conflict, promote better relationships between leadership and employees, and enhance cultural understanding. Bridge Intercultural, a leading provider of U.S. cultural integration and organizational performance services, helped the company overcome these challenges.


The primary problem was an obvious tension between the subsidiary’s Japanese president and the U.S. employees. This friction arose from profound miscommunications, fundamental differences in management and feedback styles prevalent in Japanese and American corporate cultures, and a personality clash. The president found it increasingly challenging to retain U.S. employees, a challenge made worse by his unfamiliarity with engaging and managing an American workforce effectively.


The solution was a comprehensive approach to bridge the cultural and communicative gap between the Japanese president and his American team. This involved:

  • Observation: Carefully monitoring interactions between management and employees to pinpoint sources of contention
  • Dialogue: Facilitating open, objective conversations with both parties to gather perspectives on the underlying issues, frustrations, and expectations
  • Identification: Highlighting specific areas of conflict and misunderstanding that needed addressing
  • Coaching and Mentorship: Providing personalized coaching for the president, focusing on adapting his management style to better resonate with American employees. Coaching included situational practice and role-playing exercises, allowing for a safe space to refine his approach and communication skills
  • Continuous Support: Offering ongoing mentorship to ensure the president could implement and sustain the changes in his managerial conduct


The intervention led to several positive outcomes, gradually transforming the work environment of the U.S. subsidiary:

  • Improved Reputation: The president’s efforts to adapt his management style were recognized, leading to an enhanced perception among employees
  • Increased Talent Retention: Addressing the root causes of dissatisfaction contributed to higher employee retention rates
  • Better Leadership-Employee Dynamics: The initiative fostered more harmonious interactions between the president and his team, characterized by mutual respect and understanding
  • Enhanced Performance: With more transparent communication and effective management practices, Bridge Intercultural’s support and guidance significantly improved employee performance, demonstrating its tangible impact on the company’s bottom line


The president appreciated having an external, neutral confidant who offered guidance without jeopardizing his standing within the company. This partnership gave him a valuable outlet to discuss concerns and receive unbiased advice, helping him distinguish between interpersonal, cultural, and performance-related issues and find ways to improve.


This case underscores the importance of cultural competence and effective communication in managing a multicultural workforce. By recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by the Japanese president in an American context, the company was able to improve employee relations and overall performance, demonstrating the value of tailored leadership coaching and mentorship in international business environments.

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