Engaging in damage control following a 'bonenkai' blunder


"You blockhead!" (Whack!) That, says Nikkan Gendai (Dec 4), was the sound of Mr A, staff member of a trading firm, at a company "bonenkai" (year-end party) a year ago. Under the influence of strong drink, he exchanged harsh words with his boss and completely lost his cool.

"And the next thing I knew, I grabbed my boss's lapel and punched him," he recalls.

By the time he woke up hung over the next morning, Mr A had blocked out most of the previous evening's transgression from his mind. But then he checked his email and there were a bunch of new messages from his superiors and colleagues. One began, "Damn it man, why the hell did you have to go and slug the section chief?"

Uh oh. Through the fog of his hangover, A vaguely recalled what took place. By then it was 7 a.m. -- time to get dressed and head for the office. Hmmm, he thought. Maybe I should just call in sick.

Or, maybe it's better to be the first one in the office, and offer my apology to the section head. Er, but maybe I should send him an email first and test the waters.

In a possible make-or-break situation like this, what's a salaryman to do? One option would be to submit one's resignation. But that would still not undo the transgression of having thrown a punch at the boss while in one's cups. A verbal apology might go something like this: "I received an email from one of my 'sempai' (seniors) saying, 'Tomorrow when you go to the office, you should go straight [to the boss] and apologize to him, for the indiscretion you committed while drunk, and ask that he accept your apology.'

"So I followed his advice. And I tell you, just to see the look on his face that morning was punishment enough for me."

"After slugging someone, a simple 'gomen nasai' (I'm sorry) won't do," human resources consultant Ariake Kida tells the newspaper. "In some cases the person could even be liable for charges of assault with intent to do bodily injury. There's nothing worse than an act of violence.

"So hangover aside, he's got to get to the office the first thing the next morning and apologize directly to the section head. He should say something along the lines of, 'When I consider my behavior last night, there's nothing I can say. I promise to exercise caution so that such a thing won't ever happen again.'

"If Mr A wanted to really show sincerity, I would have advised him to bring what's called a 'shimatsu-sho' (written apology) along with him," Kida continues. "The standard formula for this would read, 'I committed an act of great rudeness. I have reflected on this deeply and am fully prepared to accept whatever punishment is administered.' Something like that is usually sufficient to blunt the chance that he'll be on the receiving end of the boss's revenge."

In the Japanese way of things, the article explains, a written apology is roughly equivalent to "dogeza" (apologizing while kneeling and bowing until one's forehead touches the floor).

As it turned out, Mr A didn't bring a letter, but on the advice of one of his seniors he stood there on the carpet and took it while the boss vented his spleen. "I'll expect you to pay the 150,000 yen it will cost to replace my broken eyeglasses," he huffed. He didn't demand that A assume the dogeza position, but had he done so, A would have probably complied. The key to effective damage control is to bow deeply and mutter something along the lines of 'I want to keep working at this company. I will endeavor to do my best.' Since others in the office are watching, the boss is put on the spot not to make things worse."

But what if A hadn't shown up at the office, but merely called his boss on the telephone?

"That wouldn't fix anything whatsoever," says Kida flatly. "There are some things you just can't do. These days some young people think they can just send an email to convey an apology. But nobody would take them seriously in such a case. Don't even think about doing something like that."

© Japan Today

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Fire his ass, and arrest the dude. Violence should never be an accepted solution to anything. Drunk or otherwise there is no excuse.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

Do this at any major foreign company operating in Japan (European, U.S., doesn't matter), and you're fired (if you're lucky you don't get arrested). If you have alcohol k like a 13 year old, that's your real level of maturity.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

If you hate your job so much that as soon as your inhibitions are lowered by alcohol you punch the boss, you really need to find a new job. At once if not sooner.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

I've been to a lot of bonenkai over the years and most of them are fairly tame. But things get hairy during the niji-kai follow-up, after most of the ladies have gone home. Once inhibitions are lowered a lot of red-faced screaming happens, and it's the job of nearby colleagues to calm down the screamer. Japanese tend to be much more tolerant of people's indiscretions committed when they're drunk. (Or maybe they're not really as drunk as they seem and commit the indiscretions because they can use being boozed up as their excuse.)

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Saw it happen once during the prolonged farewells after a bonenkai when a newly-promoted 'kacho' (section manager) that everyone disliked got slugged by one of his colleagues whom we all thought should have got the position. But next morning, the whole incident had been forgotten. The 'New Kacho' did not remember it due to drink, and everyone else kept quiet.

But three months later, the new kacho was transferred quietly to the graveyard department window seat, and the other guy took his job! Japan HR at work!

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Not firing the guy sets a low cultural bar for the organisation.

If violence is tolerated, what other toxic behaviour goes unpunished?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This story is absolutely hilarious!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Eveybody who has actually lived and worked in Japan (and not as an "English teacher") for more than just a few years knows that people simply don't talk about bonenkai boneheadedness in the office after the event.

Cute little typical tabloid kuchikomi stuff, though...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Maybe I should just call in sick"

Ha ha ha this Mr. A must not be Japanese, no Japanese ever calls in sick, no matter how sick they are.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I think thebi ggest worries of a bonenkai are how to act around the boss and which female staff member will attend and who gets to sit next to her.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Never been to one bonenkai I actually wanted to go to.

Boring, predictable and expensive.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Maybe that is exactly what Sayed and his normal housewife experienced at the work party they attended. They may have gone home to write a letter of Sincere Apology but noticeing the thousands of rounds of ammo laying around changed their minds.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

****There are lots of people I would love to punch, preferably sober, and sorry, but all of them deserve it. We can just say they slipped.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I did almost exactly the same thing at the work Christmas party last year.

The funny thing is I'm self-employed.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

^ With that pic of Ian Anderson I can kind of understand why.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

^^ Everyone has always wondered what company would hire you based on your comments & pix....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

bonenkai?? Horrendous "events". Just don't attend, simple as that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I enjoy bonenkai myself.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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