Salaryman Wednesday in Tokyo
Among other things, I had an long talk with one of my co-workers about working in Japan, superior-subordinate relationships, Japanese office culture, hard work and lifestyle.
As I am leaving my company at the end of this month, I have been reflecting on my time, what I have learned and have been chatting with coworkers about it all.
It was never more evident of the reality of “rank and position” (similar to the military) than was in our conversation yesterday.
I tought that, at times my coworker was deliberately making me feel subordinate (when that language or stance wasnt necessary in the situation) in order to maintain his superior ranking position. I guess you could say that he wouldn’t level with me on some points in our conversation.
In general when working at a Japanese based firm (traditional):
He said “that you need to just simply obey, even if you disagree with something” in order to follow the rules. Even if I had an opinion, I should hold off on it, complete the task, then “reflect” on the task afterwards and then, at that time, suggest my idea or state my opinion. This would be harmonious.
I further felt that if I did provide my suggestion (without simply obeying the rules), my superior would take it as a personal attack on him (and disrupt the harmony of agreeing to obey the rules).
Conclusions he made: I am not flexible, I don’t match the Japanese traditional company style, and I have too much pride. I could say that I am adaptable to a certain degree (which means sacrifice of your internal beliefs aka hiding your own opinion), the Japanese traditional style will be augmented to be more of a hybrid style (not based on rank, but rather skill), and my “too much pride” is more of “confidence in myself.”
We leaving a clients office lobby area near the elevator. In the corner of my eye, I caught another man (not the client, but a visitor) and temporarily held the elevator door open, while saying to the man “Are you getting on?” My coworker pushed my arm off the “door open” button, pressed the “door close” button and was upset at me for talking to the man.
The problem was that I shouldn’t have talked to the man, because:
“he has nothing to do with me” and
“don’t concern yourself with others” and
“if that man wanted to get in the elevator, he would have said something, so you don’t need to care about him” and
“you probably scared him as he wasn’t expecting you to say anything to him”
I am sorry for having common courtesy – is what I wanted to say to my coworker, but that would disrupt the harmony – so I said nothing, bowed my head and said “I am sorry” 大変
Mind you, at the end of our long discussion about Japanese culture and my role and rank in Japanese society, he started telling me about his 3 trips to New York City in his youth, how awesome it was, how he used credit cardsand how he knows more about Manhattan than me.
Later at home, after eating leftover chicken pasta, I had a talk with my roommate Tyler about having strong inner morals, sticking up for yourself and internal beliefs. That was interesting.
Please comment on this topic!!! I would love to hear (and learn) other peoples perspectives on the above story and thoughts!!