The Japanese word "risutora" literally means restructuring and sounds harmless enough, but its actual meaning is layoff, as in, “The company is restructuring and no longer needs your services.” Before 1993, explains Shukan Post (Oct 5), the word was all but unknown. 1993 was the year the economy went sour. Jobs, once for life, became precarious. Anyone could get “tapped on the shoulder” anytime.
On Aug 28, the electronics giant NEC announced it would shed 10,000 employees. Consumer electronics more than any other single sector is what turned Japan into Japan Inc. Now it’s reeling under the high yen and irresistible competition from South Korea and China. It’s cut 130,000 jobs already and there’s no end in sight.
Within hours of NEC’s announcement, an NEC employee jumped to his death from its main office building. He was 39 years old and not in line for restructuring. But he apparently knew, or felt, what corporate employees can’t help feeling nowadays: If not today, tomorrow; if I survive tomorrow, I may not the day after.
Short of suicide, what should you do if you’re vulnerable to, or actually facing, a layoff? First of all, says Shukan Post, know the company’s tactics.
They won’t fire you outright, unless you’ve given them a reason – incompetence, say, or misconduct – that will stand up in court. The trick is to get you to leave voluntarily. This is done with carrots and sticks. The carrots are seductive early retirement package (two years’ salary is typical) and help with your upcoming job search. The stick, if you dig in your heels, is repeated summons to “interviews” with top management whose theme is that your continued presence is a drain on company resources and patience. Until last year, there might be two such confrontations in the course of a year. Lately there are likely to be 10 or more. It wears you down.
A typical interview goes something like this, Shukan Post says. Management will stress that it’s not your fault but the economy is what it is, the company is fighting for its life and must “slim down. They will assure you that your skills suit you for employment elsewhere, and promise every assistance in setting up contacts. A refusal on your part invites another round, and another.
It’s hard to function in an environment where you know you’re not wanted. What’s the best course? As usual, the expert advice is conflicting.
Some counselors urge resistance, others favor accepting the inevitable. Recruiting consultant Ryo Ogata used to follow the former course but has since had second thoughts.
“I used to advise people to tough it out,” he says. “But most people can’t keep up their confidence as the pressure persists. If you lose too much confidence, you’re not going to look good when you finally do decide to go job-hunting.”
The advantage, he has come to believe, lies with leaving sooner rather than later, wresting as high a settlement as you can, and flinging yourself into a second career before discouragement destroys your resolve.© Japan Today