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Foreign staff at Tokyo brokerages find flattery gets them everywhere

77 Comments

"They keep getting promoted time after time. And they're overpaid too," the man in his 40s, the staff member of a Tokyo-based securities firm, complains bitterly to Nikkan Gendai (Feb 25).

If the tabloid is to be believed, the foreign staff at securities firms in Japan are "second-rate sycophants" who couldn't make it in their own home countries. But they manage to get ahead because they are so-called "heart-core shakers," i.e., they know how to toady up to their bosses.

"Quite a few of them are virtuosos at butt-kissing," is how the source puts it.

For example, there's the time when a certain foreign staff member (nationality not mentioned) invited his Japanese boss and his wife to a Christmas party. Corks on bottles of pricey champagne popped one after the next, and the worker, batting his blue eyes, made the wife join in for an off-key duet of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" in Japanese. He then, in fractured Japanese, praised his boss in front of his wife as being "great to work for."

Another foreign staff member overheard his boss mention that he wanted to try Belgian beer. "I know a place!" he exclaimed. The establishment happened to be a stand-up bar, so the worker brought a chair for the boss from his home, and the boss wound up being the only customer seated in the place. "I brought it 'cause I thought he might be tired," came the limp explanation.

"Before, my company was operated like the loyalty-based culture of an empress's court," recalls the aforementioned Japanese employee. "The workers who performed their jobs faithfully would get promoted. But now the system of merit-based promotions has changed, and there are lots of female managers in their 40s and 50s, who are infatuated with foreigners."

"Even if these guys do second-rate work, they're super first-rate when it comes to making buddies with the right people on the job," another Japanese worker in his 30s complains.

According to one story, a certain foreign staff member went so far as to arrange to move close to where his boss lived, and each morning had his wife pick the boss up and drive the two of them all the way to the office, in hopes they would form a closer relationship while commuting.

There is even a rumor floating around that to cater to the supervisor's desire for his son to become a cosmopolitan, the foreigner introduced the boy to a residence hall at his famous alma mater, and presented the boss with an oil painting that had been in his family for generations. A young Japanese staff member would have to be really sharp to overcome a foreign rival at this kind of game.

"Under the influence of globalization, in Japanese companies it's no longer the personnel department that determines workers' future. Rather, it's the supervisors now who hold all the power," explains business journalist Noboru Kurihara. "So all personnel matters hang on their decisions. Brown-nosing them becomes more and more effective.

"So instead of resenting the foreign staff, you'd better learn to refine your techniques at buttering up the bosses, even to the point -- in Kurihara's words, "kisu-asu ni nareru gurai" -- "of getting used to ass-kissing."

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

77 Comments
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i smell jealousy

12 ( +12 / -1 )

"But now the system of merit-based promotions has changed, and there are lots of female managers in their 40s and 50s"

Nooo!!!! The horror!!! Nothing like full-on Japanese-style xenophobia, sexism and racism ("batted his blue eyes") to start the morning. Reminds one of how insecure and desperate the middle-aged men of this country really are.

24 ( +23 / -1 )

Butt-kissing is screwing up businesses everywhere. Performance is only a small part of some jobs where lackluster results are always easy to be downplayed by managers. Keeping their "friends" around so they look and sound good to the boss and filter the good work from subordinates, while taking credit, so they can control how progress is made and new ideas are presented. Organizational managers are loathed at companies where butt-kissing prevails. They come in and see the problems immediately, but seldom do they get to trim the necessary fat to increase performance before being let go because they are destroying the status quo. So, if the status quo is to have a struggling or weak-performing business, pucker up (or get out the vaseline).

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Sounds like hoohey.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

This really says that Japanese management isn't doing their jobs properly, if they're being swayed by something like a Christmas party invitation, making promotion decisions by their feelings and not actual output by workers . The whole article screams 'Japanese management is unprofessional!'

19 ( +19 / -1 )

Is it April 1st? Come on JT, you know better than to print this tosh.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What a load of crock. "...brought a chair for the boss from his home..."? That is just bull.

16 ( +16 / -1 )

Two words: "Sour grapes"

6 ( +9 / -3 )

"...and presented the boss with an oil painting that had been in his family for generations."

...which he had purchased for $2.95 at a Salvation Army shop.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

This article is hilarious!

Some of the stories seem to have been made up, though.

I can't imagine anyone struggling into work with a chair for the boss... also it would have to be a very high chair for a stand-up bar so the whole scenario seems unlikely.

Anyway, from what I've seen Japanese workers can also be masters at "kissu a-su" so they should be given credit for that too.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Kiss the hand that feeds u. Makes sense no?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@Virtuoso my thoughts exactly! @choiwaruoyaji ditto! kiss ass, kissu-asu... why not oshiri chu chu? or simply goma suri

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In my English teaching days, I saw some foreigners get promoted that were classic boot-lickers in the eyes of the other foreign (and also Japanese) staff. And yes, they were failed nobodies back home, so I don't dismiss this as just jealousy. I would not doubt foreign brown-noses are more agressive due to cultural differences.

Seen some useless toadies who happen to be Japanese too though. They infest everywhere, hardly a local problem.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

This story is so made up.

“Under the influence of globalization, in Japanese companies it’s no longer the personnel department that determines workers’ future. Rather, it’s the supervisors now who hold all the power,” explains business journalist Noboru Kurihara. “So all personnel matters hang on their decisions.

That's how it should be. How would somebody in the personnel department know how well a worker has performed? His boss would know.

The loyalty, non-performance-based culture is ruining Japan Inc.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

This is just more "us" & "them" nonsense. I really hope the Japanese who read this crap don't sincerely believe it.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

This is just more "us" & "them" nonsense. I really hope the Japanese who read this crap don't sincerely believe it.

Or finally understand that the gwaijin have learned how to play their game better than they do.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If you are one of those types who despise ass kicking you will learn the hard way like I did that indignation invites severe reprisal. Also, as I climb the corporate greasy ladder I also can in some ways comprehend the attractiveness of having subordinates who like you, listen to you and that you think you can trust as opposed to growlers and groaners. Anyways, we will all be dead soon enough.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

One worker bemoans the demise of the "loyalty-based culture". But isn't "loyalty" just a euphemism for "toadying"? What these guys seem to be moaning about is foreigners being better at fawning than they are.

Some of the made-up stories are hilarious though.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think the stories are true. I once wiped my boss's arse with my tie when he ran out of toiret pe-pa-.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the tabloid is to be believed, the foreign staff at securities firms in Japan are “second-rate sycophants” who couldn’t make it in their own home countries.

This doesnt apply to just the securities industry. Japan is full of foreigners who couldnt cut it in their own country and leech off the 'gaijin' image in their chosen 'profession' while living in Japan - just look at the English teaching industry....

5 ( +11 / -6 )

 Japan is full of foreigners who couldnt cut it in their own country and leech off the 'gaijin' image in their chosen 'profession' while living in Japan

Probably true but, come on, give us charisma men a break... if we didn't have Japan where would we go?

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Japan is full of foreigners who couldnt cut it in their own country and leech off the 'gaijin' image in their chosen 'profession' while living in Japan.

I like it how this complaint is often raised but yet the Japanese are apparently not interested in raising their standards to make it harder for such leechers to find so much success here...

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Anyway, what's wrong with a bit of 'oshiri ni chu'?

As kids we learn how important it is to bootlick the teacher so it's just carrying that over into adult life.

But one has to be careful to strike the right balance... too much brown nosing can make you start becoming the boss's whipping boy.

However, on second thoughts, if the boss is an attractive 40- or 50-something Japanese woman then I am OK to be the whipping boy.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

“Even if these guys do second-rate work, they’re super first-rate when it comes to making buddies with the right people on the job,”

Eerily reminiscent of how Japanese Wa is achieved. No use crying "foul", you wrote the rules!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

LOL! funny article. lots of parts are true indeed but that is how it goes around here.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Come on, this happens at all companies...and from first-hand experience, Japanese do it to just a pathetic standard to what is mentioned in this article. Ass-kissing is hardly a new concept. The only way to beat the ass kissers is to produce the goods, and get recognised for being the best in the world at what you do (as Chris Jericho would say).

2 ( +5 / -3 )

This doesnt apply to just the securities industry. Japan is full of foreigners who couldnt cut it in their own country and leech off the 'gaijin' image in their chosen 'profession' while living in Japan

Really? I know it's an old stereotype, but really? Can someone who can't make it in their own country really make it somewhere else?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Article is about bad management then? That game has been around for ages and many Japanese excel in it. Article is about a bitter old man who is underperformer and has bad social skills taking out his grump on a foreigner. Btw, work is not only about work, it an environment and if you aint social in it, dont surprise staying behind.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

My advice is to watch and learn. Much better than complaining.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Amazing. In my experience it is Japanese staff who excel in sucking up to the boss. Whoever the source for this story was, sounds like a complete loser to me.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

What baloney! Someone needs to explain the difference between 'working your job faithfully' and merit-based promotion to the guy in the story . Two entirely different things. Many people work hard or may even work long hours but are almost completely useless. I work with a few people just like that. He may be one of them.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Can someone who can't make it in their own country really make it somewhere else?

Mr. Big, Bob Sapp, etc. come to mind...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

as soon as the japanese people take english seriously these same foreigners will be gone

0 ( +5 / -5 )

If you do not like working for someone, open your own business.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

as soon as the japanese people take english seriously these same foreigners will be gone

In other words, never.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Nothing like an ass kisser

0 ( +1 / -1 )

****Most important thing learned from this article is how to say ass kisser in a Japanese accent! キスアス!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@garomakaikishi

as soon as the japanese people take english seriously these same foreigners will be gone

As opposed to the people who learn Japanese back home? None of the kids where my Japanese step-son goes to school speak Japanese at all, despite years of "learning" it. And the teacher too is horrendous from what my step-son tells me.

I have been frickin amazed at the dismal level of university students "learning" it too.

Those who are serious about learning a language will though. Not that it's a rare thing - there are millions of multi-lingual people in the world. Anybody can learn anything if they try.

Changing the subject, how sad that loyalty is passe and selfish ambition is everywhere we look.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Best to just start your own company and excel in a business then be an ass kissing slave for the rest of your life, regardless of profession.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

foreign staff at securities firms

you had me lost at securities firms.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Bravo! to all of the above... I work in this environment with'gaijin' doing the same thing! I'm not gonna get jealous because I can't do it as well as they can. Good on them. If you sit back and watch it, you will actually start to be entertained!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is just more "us" & "them" nonsense.

@Speed

I agree fully. I have seen this "Japanese people vs. everyone else" mentality played out countless times over the years. It's why I wouldn't work in a Japanese company environment -- managers praising the foreign employee when he/she does something well, and then admonishing/shaming the Japanese staff for not measuring up to the foreigner; a motivational technique I've seen wielded many times in Japan. It breeds resentment (evident in this article) and results in a damned if you do, damned if you don't climate for the non-Japanese person.

Related to this, a recent article in a Japanese-language student newspaper that my children sometimes read encouraged Japanese youth to learn English, not so that they could better understand the world, broaden their base of friends and work together with the English-speaking community, but rather so that they could better compete with foreigners. That was the whole premise of this article targeting elementary school students. Pitiful to say the least. I resent this sort of us vs. them, sekai ichiban (#1 in the world), competitive mindset in this country.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

So... let me get this right, a bit of champagne, Christmas carols and a going out for a Belgian beer with the boss constitutes arse-kissery? Come on.

If the employees were buying expensive wrist-watches, holidays or jet-skis for the boss - thats not so cool. But going for a beer or karaoke, nothing wrong with that.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Man I almost pi$$ed myself reading this, hilarious!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Talk about foreigners complaining about things annoying in Japan. Here is a Japanese guy complaining that he is not being treated "equally" while working at a foreign brokerage. Well... I work at a Japanese company and guess what, I don't get treated equally either and I don't expect to. Really... so he's saying that all promotion is based on merit in Japan. Come on, plenty of bottom kissers in Japan too.... actually probably more. For upper level Japanese managers to get so out of touch with reality someone must be feeding them with a boat loat of it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The guy is just not with it... First and foremost... these foreigners are the one's that are talking to the clients and the clients want to deal with "one of their own" for the most part. These guys are not working in operations or settlements since a very proficient level of Japanese would be a must and it is cheaper to hire OLs. Also, if you are the one talking to the client then your butt is on the line at a foreign broker. If you don't bring in enough commission then you're fired. I've been inside the industry for a long time. If anything the Japanese sales guys are a bunch of kissers that only can do well if the spend a lot of the company money taking out their clients to drink and so on. The foreign staff do not often spend money boozing up their clients because most of their clients live overseas and business is done mainly on the phone. Who ever wrote this article is totally full of it and was probably fired from a foreign broker due to lack of performance.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It's hilarious to see gaijin accused of brown nosing...alot of Japanese salarymen are amongst the most deferential and obsequious a**e kissers I have ever met. I've met young rookies who even admitted they started to smoke "because their boss does" - pathetic!

Japanese joining foreign firms, I'm told, are often the kind of people who cannot, or will not, fit into a Japanese company, or who expect to be given comfier terms and an easier ride by foreign bosses. When it doesn't work out that way, they get bitter about it. Hence articles like this. I'm sure 'locals' working in Japanese companies overseas might make the same kind of complaints, but the difference is that Japanese companies don't even pretend to give equal opportunities for advancement when it comes to the nationality and race of employees.

And after Olympus, hands up who honestly thinks that this will change ?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

@Piltdown Man

managers praising the foreign employee when he/she does something well, and then admonishing/shaming the Japanese staff for not brings to mind my friend, not really gaijin but sort of... (he's Chinese born and raised in Japan and took a Japanese name before graduating high school). While he was going to high school during the day, he also attended a computer programming school at night so when he graduated high school, he had a high school diploma and a degree for computer programming. He was hired and his co-workers were all college graduates from prestigious colleges who looked down on him. He fixed a problem they were agonizing over for months and the company president praised him and berated his co-workers. ("This technical school graduate solved this problem while you all blahblahdaigaku graduates couldn't figure it out?!! What's up with that? Stop resting on your laurels and get cracking!" vein...)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Another day, another Kuchikomi article pandering to fears of insecure oyaji xenophobes.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Yeah, but it makes for great reading while playing on th PC at work, sitting at the bottom of the pile, kissing my way upwards!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@frontandcentre

Japanese joining foreign firms, I'm told, are often the kind of people who cannot, or will not, fit into a Japanese company

I heard that too. I don't know for sure though. In the states, no matter what the field (clerical, retail, sales, light industrial), I worked with all ages and people of all backgrounds and it was good exposure. Over here in Japan, I applied to a foreign company known for employing those Japanese kids who went to international schools; emphasis on the kids. These kids are privileged. They haven't experienced office work or done any arubaito previous to being hired at this company so they don't really function well in the office. I don't think any of them could hack it in the similar position in the states. I thought it was just me being sour grapes but I found out some others thought the very same thing when I happened along on a couple of blogs and forums months later!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

" “second-rate sycophants” who couldn’t make it in their own home countries. "

Anyone who worked at securities firm in Japan would realize this is true maybe 80% of the case. I met some who had talent and were being in Japan because of family or something. But the vast majority were the second or third stringers who could not make it in NY,London,Hong Kong,etc.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I cannot comment how far this is true, but I have experienced Japanese who had tried to put me down. I was working as a Vendor for a Japanese company. There were other Japanese vendors who did some things as mentioned above - and more worse. They would directly degrade us many times and would try to be close to the bosses. Luckily my boss (client counterpart) was good and did not give room for any such things. Bt kissing is there everywhere - and some level of this is required to raise in the corporate world, believe me this has been proved (not really butt kissing but office politics). This will be encouraged by bosses who have done it or are doing it - a real serious boss would not encourage such a thing. So should not blame a bt kisser...but the boss I think.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If the tabloid is to be believed

At the sort of semi-conscious level of the salaryman oyaji on his morning commute, it will be.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Really? I know it's an old stereotype, but really? Can someone who can't make it in their own country really make it somewhere else?

Headhunters!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Good luck to them-making a go of it in any society is difficult ;doubly so if one is non native.

Sour grapes kuchikomi.

Monku wo iu na

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I didn't like working for someone else and opened my own business. Full on case of insecure Japanese guys and the gaijin syndrome. Just promote the gaijin misunderstanding and hate here? Can tell you that personal relationships with the person who employs you is paramount to success. Show the person who is paying your wage, contributing to your professional growth that you are on the same page, and away you go?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a former Investment Advisor back home in Canada, I can tell you that brown-nosing is what you have to perfect in the industry. Anyone who thinks that you get rich in that business in any other way knows nothing. But you have to do it for clients. This story is totally fabricated, however entertaining. Anyone who works in a Japanese office where locals spend most of their time bending over, literally, jumping nervously for the bucho, and tripping over themselves when called upon by senpai knows that efficiency and productivity in Japan is not important. Any news service that prints a story like this with the caveat above is not a news organization anyway.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Your derivatives - they're so ... taut! And I've never seen projections so ERECT!"

C'mon, who hasn't at least once flattered the boss in this way?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yubaru, you are totally correct. Japanese businessmen have always relied on butt kissing to advanced their careers and now that some foreigners are playing ball now too they are afraid. Its always been like that and thats why you only get "yes men" in executive positions.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

David, I experienced first hand just how badly some Japanese folks will go in their butt-kissing and back-stabbing to get ahead. The smiling face, the honey-sweet comments, the "little" favors, going out of their way to ensure that the boss is taken care of and them always making it known that it's them that are looking out for the boss.

Felt like tossing cookies afterwards.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These Japanese weekly tabloids must be like the National Enquirer, which publishes 50% facts and sometimes totally ficticious information. It even has a warming to that effect. Best thing is not to even read them, or if you do, do not believe in their stories. They just have no agenda or anything to report on, so they just make it up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These are the boys and girls who keep Starbucks in business. I see them hanging out there every day on my way to McD's for my 100 yen coffee - ahhh! Today was the last day for 100 yen coffee at McD's, tomorrow it's back to 140 yen...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

These Japanese weekly tabloids must be like the National Enquirer, which publishes 50% facts and sometimes totally ficticious information. It even has a warming to that effect.

Since the "Nikkan" in Nikkan Gendai means daily, it can't very well be a weekly. And would you please be kind enough to give an example of the "warning to that effect" carried in the publication that the stories are fictitious, either in original Japanese or in English translation? Be sure to cite the page it appears on, so I can confirm this.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Himajin,

Really? I know it's an old stereotype, but really? Can someone who can't make it in their own country really make it somewhere else?

Three words - waning pro athletes

2 ( +2 / -0 )

lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

He then, in fractured Japanese, praised his boss in front of his wife as being 'great to work for.'

Did the foreign worker say, "he is great to work for" or "this company is great to work for?" Japanese know what flattery is, and so it is usually bad form to compliment someone directly. Instead, some peripheral aspect that is related to them is identified (praise optional) so that the compliment is indirectly received if at all. For example, "You are the best teacher ever" versus "I learned a lot in this class." If one does otherwise, one must be enthusiastically sincere and show one's "bakagaijin" card at the door.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've worked in 7 countries world-wide and Japan has the worst case of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" that I've ever seen. A lot of the work I end up doing is "unofficial" stuff, favors for people which doesn't pay off straight away, but down the track you'll get a favor in return or a promotion or something else. The entire "giri" (obligation) based culture in Japan means that any "gift" (be that an invitation to a party, some extra work done on the side free of charge, flattery in front of someone important, etc) needs to be repaid, and the interesting thing is that the Japanese get really uncomfortable when they feel obligated to someone and try to discharge the "debt" at the earliest opportunity.

All thats happening here is that foreign employees have seen this and are playing the system. The same opportunities are open to everyone, it just seems that the Japanese worker in this article is either too stupid or too complacent to play the system.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Three words - waning pro athletes

That cracked me up, Fadamor.

Seriously though, I know a lot of successful foreign guys, none of them strike me as men who 'couldn't make it in their own countries'.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think I'm very successful here in Japan. But I didn't kiss arse. I worked very hard to move up the Corporate ladder and now, years down the road people learnt of my reputation and offered me jobs to help them revive their biz after the earthquake. I really think it's high time the Japanese workers stopped having jealousies and start improving themselves professionally.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This seems absolutely like what Japanese employees do, while foreign workers are more ballsy about stating their opinions, making their case, and taking their boss on.

Sounds like sour grapes to me. Or a terribly small sampling size, one off anecdotes etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This doesnt apply to just the securities industry. Japan is full of foreigners who couldnt cut it in their own country and leech off the 'gaijin' image in their chosen 'profession' while living in Japan - just look at the English teaching industry....

Would be more valid where the foreigners create the industry and how it runs, where teachers are just another foreign entertainer class in Japan. Stay while you are young and underpaid but "return to your home" before you make a move to management or get paid on par with Japanese staff (unless you teachers are getting the bonuses now). Blaming foreigners for how that imdustry works feels a bit like "blame the victim".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As they say in my hood' : Don't hate the player, hate the game.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"they're overpaid"

People are paid what it's perceived they're worth. I know people who should not be paid anywhere near what they're paid, and others who aren't paid anywhere near what they should be. It's all based on perception.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A completely believable story.

When I first came to Japan 20 years ago with no qualifications, I was immediately earning more money than Japanese people working probably two or three times harder than me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The securities industry must be another world in Japan. My experience is that HR controls everything, and merit increases are minimal. Promotions are given after x years of doing the same job without comlaints or questions.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just think about this too.... how often were you ever complimented for things back home? Now think about how often you are complimented for seemingly normal things here. The Japanese Culture is 20% kissing butt and you gotta think they're good at it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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