Series Things to keep in mind when working at Japanese companies (Part 1)
This series of articles is for those who have just received 内定 (naitei - an offer letter) and who will work in a Japanese company in the near future. The content is mainly about 正社員 (seishain - fulltime employee) but those who work バイト (baito - part time) can of course also refer to it.
Perhaps if you're just starting out in a new company, you will be surprised by many things in the first days, first weeks or even in the first few months. From the principles and rules of the company to the content of the work and then, there is the pressure from the job and from the top. So, when you join a company, you should find a way to work as effectively as possible, and to harmonize with the Japanese work style. Here are some of my experiences, a person who is currently an official employee in Japan.
In my opinion, if you want to work well in Japanese companies, the first thing you should do is to understand the working culture. Among the majority of current Japanese companies, 人間関係 (Ningenkankei), 上下関係 (Jyougenkankei), hierarchical or superior-subordinate relations or the relationship between colleagues of the company is one of the things that gives me headaches. This isn’t because I’m a foreigner in my company, Japanese people are of the same opinion.
In the company instead of the age the position, period of employment, experience and know-how play important roles. I could experience that when I first joined the company. As the youngest, inexperienced and then foreigner, I thought that it would be difficult to convince other people and employees to do things my way. When I actually started working, things didn't seem as I expected them to be.
As a merchandiser (my current position), the Japanese who work part time and who are as old as my father or uncle, are always respectful and using honorific form when talking to me. However, on the other hand, there are other official employees, who are the same age as me, the same rank as me, but joined the company 3 months before me, always claiming to be my senpai (senior colleague). The way they address and speak to me is quite rude and sometimes they are making outrageous demands. This was one of the things that confused me when I started working at the company, but I hope that you can understand or anticipate this working culture.
Besides that, I also want to talk a little bit about personal ego. When working with others, disagreements on the working style are unavoidable. As a newcomer, although you think that your opinion is correct and even better than the one of your bosses, you shouldn’t consider yourself as number one and refuse instructions. I think this is a very sensitive thing when you can’t do what you want or think. Gradually, it will make you feel discouraged and dissatisfied with the job and colleagues.
The problem is, you're new to the company and not much experienced. So even if you think you're right, you can’t be sure that you've covered everything and considered the errors that may occur. And if errors occur, you obviously take the responsibility for your decision but your boss must find a way to correct them for you, too. Even if you're right, your boss will still think you're a beginner, so they'll tend to give more directives to avoid unnecessary mistakes for the company. In short, when working, whether you're a baitosei (part-time employee) or a full-time employee, give up your personal ego for a smooth job.
During my work, I saw several cases of new employees, including Japanese and foreigners, who tried to solve problems and didn't ask their bosses in advance, resulting in company’s losses. In particular, there are cases in my company where customers themselves mistake the prices and then called the company to complain. The person who answered the phone was a Japanese girl who had just joined. Because she couldn’t convince the customer, she decided to lower the price of the product and refund the amount of money without consulting her bosses. After that, the customer repeatedly asked the company to supply goods at low prices because an employee agreed with the price demanded. This put the company in a very difficult position, they either lose customers or they continue suffer losses. In fact, if she consulted her boss, her boss could have given her the advice to negotiate with the customer or to raise the price to an acceptable customer level without causing long-term damage to the company like that.
Hopefully these two basic things will help you "better survive" when starting at a Japanese company. In the next articles of the series, I will continue talking about sets of skills that are necessary for working here. Please stay tuned and check out my upcoming articles.
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