Corporate in-house jocks now seen as a liability


"The 'tai'ikukai-kei' staff have the mental fortitude to hold up in tough situations," a company personnel manager informs Nikkan Gendai (March 20).

"Tai'ikukai-kei" refers to those who spent their university years building up relationships through athletic clubs and varsity sports. And certainly the tabloid concedes, in situations where brawn is called for over brains, these are good people to have working for you.

Being more physical than mental, they soldier on without complaint, even when forced to deal with constantly changing orders. And nothing seems to stress them out. Naturally they're good for putting in extra overtime and have the staying power for late-night post-event gatherings; and because they understand the organization takes priority, they can be depended upon to maintain the proper decorum.

But the situation for these company sportsmen has changed considerably of late. At a certain trading firm where sportsmen are said to number about 70% of the staff, a division head sighs, "A lot of these young guys seem to have no ambition. I suppose it would be all right if they were thoughtful and patient, but they won't take the initiative. If you want people with the ability to use their brains to resolve problems, then you're better off hiring humanities majors. There's no point in bringing in any more of these jocks."

It just so happens that the manager quoted above also rose in the ranks through his athletic club connections. But the other day he had the occasion to visit his alma mater and was shocked while watching a practice workout, where he saw a player pose this question to the coach: "What is the aim of practicing at this point in time?"

Without so much as a disapproving grimace, the young coach gave the student an explanation. The discussion continued until the students were satisfied with the coach's reasoning.

What a contrast that was compared with, say, Meiji University's famous Rugby club, where underclassmen are entitled to speak one, and only one, word -- "Hai!" -- in response to orders from their seniors.

This change in unquestioning discipline explains why the division head is now confronted with staff who ask him, "What's the point of undertaking this job?"

Since the system now mollycoddles subordinates, the hierarchical relationships between superiors and their subordinates has changed. Now, when a manager at a company says, "Just shut up and do what I told you," nothing happens. The old plunge ahead, bite-the-bullet, dogged tenacity of yore has vanished.

The athletic clubbers tend to be particularly useless in the results-oriented IT field, where quick results warrant top priority. Here, even salesmen who appear to be robust hunks are regarded as uncouth louts.

"These are hard times as far as landing a job is concerned," says the staff in his 30s who works for an IT company. "As a large organization, we have a positions set aside for graduates with athletics backgrounds. But no sooner do they start work than they're stigmatized as being 'IT-illiterate.' They have no 'sempai' (seniors) in our organization to look out for them, and since they don't get along with the technical staff, nobody in the workplace knows what to do with them."

With knowledge and skills becoming increasingly specialized, the practice of bringing varsity sportsmen into the company now appears to headed toward extinction.

"There was a time when the only thing a young salaryman needed was the knowhow and physical stamina to follow his superior's orders, which were 'Do what I tell you to do,'" business consultant Atsushi Fujimoto tells Nikkan Gendai. "The reason why the situation has changed completely for the athletic types, who are most closely identified with this aspect of corporate culture, is linked to the collapse of organizations. It doesn't necessarily follow any more that an army can expect to emerge victorious merely by soldiers obeying their officers' orders."

© Japan Today

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I know of a small company where the boss's daughter married a judo jock, who was adopted into the family as a yoshi. He was supposed to take over managing the company, but proved to have zero business acumen. To make matters worse, the couple eventually split, and I think they had to pay him alimony to get him out of the family. Big mess. On the other hand, I know of a transport company in Osaka with a retired Osumo-san as president, and he turned out to be quite savvy at the business. It's impossible to generalize.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Just shut up and do what I told you," nothing happens. The old plunge ahead, bite-the-bullet, dogged tenacity of yore has vanished.

I think this should be written as:

"Just shut up and do what I told you," nothing happens. The old "follow orders unto death" stupidity of yore has vanished.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is so funny to me that it takes these guys so long to realize that the "Jocks" are not useful beyond their capacity to soldier on. Throughout history they are the soldiers in every sense of the word. A necessary force in society, but not one that creates change.

The manger here is absolutely right. You need the humanities people who can bring their creativity and outside the box thinking to the table. Ordinary people rarely make major changes in history. It is always the quirky person, the rebel or the artist that bring the creativity required to really change things.

Yes the artistic and humanities people are more difficult. They won't work themselves to death, they will push back on silly rules, they will be disagreable, they will challenge you, but above all they will deliver on taking initiative and changing things.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Strange, he wants more initiative, but the moment one of these "jocks" question the regiment, he looks over to a university who is just like he said stuck in its way

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I was studying at University one of my professors, an Englishman, told the story of a colleague who used to come into the office early, get a cup of coffee and read his newspaper. This colleague was (by the standards of the time, the 1950's) viewed as a "hard worker", simply because in those days presence in the office was equated with working, in other words the mindset was presence and quantity oriented rather than results and quality oriented.

My lecturer used this anecdote as a starting point for a discussion on the changing nature of work, discussing results oriented systems, tele-commuting, flexi-time, etc.

When I came to Japan and saw one of my coworkers fast asleep at his desk, with his colleagues passing comments like, "Poor guy, he works so hard; let him sleep.", I was reminded of my lecturer's anecdote. Japan is still back in the 1950's in terms of performance management.

Personally I prefer to work in "bursts", putting my head down for 5 or 6 hours straight and tackling a really difficult task properly and completely... then I'm exhausted and I want to go home. In those 5 or 6 hours of concentrated effort I've done more work than most of my Japanese colleagues get done in 2 or 3 days, and I've cleared everything in my in-tray... but no, I have to stay in the office twiddling my thumbs. It drives me crazy. Give me a list of things you want done and I'll do them all, even if it's 150% times the normal workload. But once I'm done I want to either be given something else to do or be allowed to go home. I hate having nothing to do.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

In an indirect way this is the most positive story I've read in regards to Japan's future. There may just still be hope for Japan yet.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"What a contrast that was compared with, say, Meiji University’s famous Rugby club, where underclassmen are entitled to speak one, and only one, word—“Hai!”—in response to orders from their seniors."

So in other words it has nothing at all to do with 'jocks' or people studying the humanities, and everything to do with yes-men who expect people to follow their orders without question. Sounds like the problem is, ahem, not with the people asking questions.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Well, when I saw the headline I thought it was talking about Scots and thought, how strange. Then I read the article and dusted off my memories of US slang. I am surprised that a large organisation was quoted as still having an allocation of positions for these types. ridiculous.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

HA HA this was a hilarious & pathetic read, I wud HATE to work at such a crap place, hurry up & do us a favor & go outta business, haha

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm actually a little confused by this article. Is the point that "jocks" are proving to not be ambitious enough and don't take enough initiative in their salaryman job roles, and that they should indeed be more ambitious and take more initiative rather than having to always be told what to do? Or is the point that modern jock employees now question their seniors too much and still don't do what they're told?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Remember what Woody Allan once said? I do not know which movie. It was sent to me recently. "Those who can't do teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym!"

Why would anyone want to hire a gym teacher except for a school with a real gym?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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