Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why do Japanese businesspeople work till late?

A bureaucrat's comment
About this question, a Japanese bureaucrat made a comment on his blog. He had experience working with EU bureaucrats in Belgium so he compared Japanese and European work style. It indicates the vast gap between the two. Japanese bureaucrats work till midnight every night, but EU employees work till 6pm with a 2hour lunch and a higher salary than Japanese.

He was interested in this gap, so he asked EU people about the difference. He learned four reasons.

Reason 1: Europeans are tolerant of others and themselves but Japanese aren't
An EU legislation was due to reconsider until a certain date, but a European bureaucrat in charge did nothing after the date. The EU committee explained to the parliament "The person in charge was busy on his long holiday." The parliament replied, "I see. No problem." If this case occurred in Japan, the person in charge's boss would get fired, the parliament would go mad and mass media would buzz.

Reason 2: Europeans do the same work for a long time, but Japanese do one type of job for a few years*
European people are easy to look at the overview of their work. Japanese people, however, have to catch up with them because of their little experience and knowledge.
*Why do the Japanese government and many companies transfer their members to other departments every few years? I have no idea, but some people said it is concerned with the Japanese career-long employment: If a person work the same company, he / she has to have experienced many groups to manage a department.

Reason3: European groups have severe delegation of authority, but Japanese don't
European people don't explain all about their work to their bosses. It seems to take them a shorter time to explain something to their boss than Japanese do.

He thinks there is the same root between Reason 3 and 1. Most Japanese businesspeople know how difficult it is to say "I have no idea." Their bosses take it for granted that their subordinates know all. It leads to on increase in explanations. For intolerance for themselves, the bosses want to know all. For intolerance for others, they never forgive people who say "I have no idea."

Reason 4: European customers are tolerant, but Japanese customers are not
European register clerks are eager to chat with co-workers, in spite of making long cues. There are 30 minutes- long line in front of registers at McDonald's. European customers don't complain and wait.
In Japan, some people think "Customers are Gods." This bureaucrat was more politely welcomed when he bought a rice ball (1.2$) in Japan than when he bought a car in Belgium. He thinks that Japanese business services try to listen to and remedy all customers' complaints, so it makes some business people's physical and mental health seriously suffer.

My opinion
I think this bureaucrat's comments are proper because I experienced a similar situation to the above comments in Japan. (I have no experience to work with foreigners.) In particular, Reason 3 is familiar to me. In my company, sometimes the time to make documents for the bosses may be more than the time to make documents for my clients because of little delegation of power in my company. It's non-sense, I think. I have some favorite points and some disappointing points of my company, this is the most disappointing, I think. I would like to be severe at my work but tolerant for other people.