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How companies go about forcing employees to quit

45 Comments

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

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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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.

Sounds like a deal, boss! How about this, I'll start looking now, while I have this job. You can give me time to go on interviews and stuff. As soon as I've got an offer secured, I'll leave here? Sound fair?

That way, EVERYBODY wins, right?

18 ( +18 / -0 )

I understand why this is such a big issue in Japan. This has been going on for decades everywhere else. The problem is not the layoff/restructuring. The problem is the stigma attached to being let go by your employer in Japan. I think as more & more people start working for more than one employer over the course of their careers, the issue of getting laid off by your employer won't be such a big deal any more. It's never easy losing one's job, but at least there won't be the huge loss of face hat's connected with it now.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Two years sounds like an offer you can't refuse (although I'm a little surprised to hear that is "typical"). You keep getting paid your monthly salary for two years...and get a windfall so long as you find another job with a comparable salary within two years. Regrettably I doubt many companies offer two years.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This article is written as if employees have no choice but to mooch about at their lifetime employer waiting for the axe to fall. Not a healthy way to think.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

This blurb seems to conveniently forget about the transfers, moving desks into corners, outright bullying that occurs.

And the fact that the so called life time employment was really only for a small part of the overall working population & has now been proven to have been a myth except for a VERY small portion who have already or are about to retire. Must be brutal to realize you have lived a lie & lost a great deal of your life too boot.

Maybe with any luck this system will change, fact is it must if Japan hopes to remain viable, aint looking too good, far too many STILL cant see what most of us have known for ages, the country is still in denial, we have a long way to go!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The reason a "restora" is so painful here compared to the West, is because of the tradition of lifetime employment, which means there are still many companies out there that only hire new fresh graduates. This is changing of course, to be more like the western situation, but it certainly makes a mid-life career change (or just job change) more difficult than it should be.

I know back in Australia virtually everyone i knew would surf job recruitment websites at lunchtime; just to 'check out other pastures'. Some of my friends even taking interviews during lunchtimes, even when they are relatively happy in their jobs. Being out of work (after being fired/made redundant) for more than 1 month is very rare

1 ( +3 / -2 )

GW nails it. Hell, a two year severance package? Sounds great, but I seriously doubt it is "typical". Maybe it's a typo for "two months".

What REALLY happens is what GW describes - bullying, transfers, demotions - psychological abuse to make workers lose their self-esteem and make them feel like they are the problem and not the company. They then quit their jobs voluntarily and are offered nothing other than token severance because after all, they are leaving of their own accord. The best deal they can strike with their employer is to get them to admit they are laying off the worker, so the person can then get unemployment benefits straight away.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

If they want people to leave, they should hire my former manager.

About 3 months after she had been hired, nearly my whole department had either voluntarily retired, quit or transferred to other departments.

The downside however is huge drops in revenue, morale and productivity.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Foreign CEOs was once a popular tactic. Get them to do the dirty work -- which no self-respecting Japanese manager would resort to, naturally -- and then replace the gaijin after the carnage is complete.

The problem is that some of the the foreign bosses,like Goshn, started to turn their trainwreck of a company into profitable operations, and lo, the shareholders wanted them to stay on.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Employees have more legal rights than they may think - including those of us on 1 year contracts, and while a company might try to get you out of the door quickly, they generally can't legally do it. If you suddenly get tapped on the shoulder and the 'retirement' package, if any, doesn't suit you, hold your horses and get some legal advice.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What REALLY happens is what GW describes - bullying, transfers, demotions

The reason this happens (aside from the bullying) is because Japanese employment law pretty much has the employer's hands tied. They cannot simply lay you off; they have to first exhaust all options - which naturally includes reduction of salary, transferring you to another division, etc. It feels like bullying of course, but in reality it is compliance with the law.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

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.

While I do feel sad and terrible for those that take their lives this way. I just can't understand how people do this. I guess they have never been poor, out on the cold streets without food and shelter, and found a way to come through such ordeals? It could also be the feeling of failure - or both I guess.

I see people with fear and the inability to deal with embarrassing situations like loosing a job? Embarrassing is what society has made it to look like, especially here in Japan. I see people live and die for the company INC - I just don't get how people can live and give their life like this.

Here the perfect family is husband and wife. Husbands gives his entire life to the company. Wife is a dedicated housewife. They have kids that go to School. Perfect family. Neighbours are really happy, impressed and proud of you now.

I think this is a pretty good concept and helps keep the society well in place - but I also think it sucks! I don't want my wife to be a housewife all her life, and I surely would never trade my life to a company.

Japan is an advanced sophisticated country, but I also see too many weak minded people who take their lives way too easy. It's a social thing here. Suicide is a way of life. Crazy but true!

Folks need to be more mentally hard core and strong, and overcome these little challenges such as "loosing a job" - That's not the end of the world, when you loose your job, the fun journey of life is just the beginning so buckle in and enjoy the ride - because you never know where seemingly unfortunate situations can take you. Sometimes to much higher levels in life.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

As usual, the expert advice is conflicting

If people stay in a demoralized organization, the damage to confidence and health is too great. The second piece of advice is sensible.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They won’t fire you outright, unless you’ve given them a reason – incompetence, say, or misconduct – that will stand up in court.

They won't fire you outright because they can't. And this is a huge issue in Japan. How many companies pay salaries to unneeded or unwanted workers? This is exactly why companies are going to dispatch companies. Layoffs are hard but I can't say I feel sorry for Taro who has been a pain in his company's side for years but they couldn't legally get rid of him. This is their chance.

For those who are outgoing, well educated and offer something to another company, they have a good chance or being hired - as a dispatch worker. Lifelong employment is long gone. Shame many folks here don't understand that.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

If they want people to leave, they should hire my former manager. About 3 months after she had been hired, nearly my whole department had either voluntarily retired, quit or transferred to other departments.

She has a twin brother, my ex-boss.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

From what I have learnt from working in JP inc, the managers secure their own positions and jobs by firing anyone below them that might have the ability to outshine them in the future and you end up with a company full of dead wood and no one having a clue what they are doing.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Give up your life to your company which then fires you anyway. How sad and useless is that?? Why can't workers just get it into their heads that we only go our workplaces (aka prisons) simply to get hold of some cash so we can live our lives. Bosses of course love it when the worker only exists for his company, the perfect slave!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@southsakai

Suicide is a way of life.

I agree. It's also a way of....death.

Umbrella: you really hit it on the head. Once a job becomes an enslaving practice, it is no longer healthy to continue working there! I can't understand how people are able to give so much of their time and life for a job, while outside life passes them by. I also partially all into this category of unfortunates but it bothers me EVERY...SINGLE...DAY. But, if I were fired tomorrow, I wouldn't feel down about it for too long. Life is too short for that. To Japanese people who have been laid off: Don't commit suicide. That's game over. They win. Sometimes you gotta suffer! But even suffering leads to good things sometimes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

it's almost unheard of to get a two-year severance package. everything the SP write should be read with a grain of salt.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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.

Was a line like that really necessary? Very flippant.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Unfortunately bullying, harassment and stressing employees until they resign is common practice everywhere on the globe. Generally people doing this kind of dirty job think they will save their own job by being zealous only to find out they will be next on the waiting list toward the exit.

The advice of taking the package and leaving without trying to fight or at least to understand your rights under the employment law in your country is not always a good one. I know many cases of people who got 2 year packages still unemployed after 2 or 3 years totally desperate as their chances to find a job after such a long time are almost nil especially if they are around 50.

So it might be hard to avoid burnout when you are pressurized to leave your job but at least officially you are still working and your value on the job market is much higher than if you claim you are looking for a job.

You can also try to compromise as companies don't want bad rap from laid-off employee that demotivate others.You might be able to negotiate to stay in your current job but get outplacement support with an office or even stay at home but for the outside world you still work for the company with same email address.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the past I have seen ... and worked with ... "window watchers" ... people who screwed up in the company but were not fired. And their immediate bosses gave orders that their desks were to remain empty. If I had ever been put in that position, I believe I would have quit. But these people somehow braved on and seemed quite content that they still had a job. After all, they were getting paid to do nothing.

One time I wrote a personal letter for a window watcher that was sent to his acquaintance in another country ... thus the English language had to be used. I got in hot water for that via his boss ... I was told not to do anything for him again ... and then the circumstances were explained to me by my boss. Thus this man returned to being a window watcher ... and I kept my distance.

Today workers like him would be out looking for a job ... and most probably drawing unemployment.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Women have been forced to 'retire' from jobs in my part of Japan because they reached 40. No need for meetings with management - it was socially expected of them. Same thing happens to women having babies.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's all about the amakudari, and people questioning them or the powers that be. You pose a threat, literally or not, and you're gone. They'll put you you crap positions while putting the grandfathered 'retired' employees receiving both pension and pay in plum settings, until you WANT to quit. This practice needs to stop, since, you know, there's so much emphasis on Japan's economy and what not, but it never will while the old men in power still hold the reigns.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan's labour laws are abysmally still i nthe dark ages.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The place I work at just stops giving people work to people they don't want around anymore, and says to them "we don't have any work to give you to do, so you'll start looking for somewhere else to work, right?". If they say "no", they end up sitting around doing nothing until the HR and systems people dig up dirt on them, like computer logs etc. Then they get fired.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some people really are... dead weight within the company. I wouldn't imagine a company wanting to fire someone who is actually contributing to profit. That's why it is very important to log everything and get everyone to sign everything. Counseling is very important, it's the responsibility of managers to properly coach and train as often as possible, if you have a dead beat employee that has been mooching off the company for a while... I blame the managers for allowing that to happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tell these Japanese workers about "right to work" states in the US. Right to work = fire you with no notice without needing a reason whenever they feel like it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But these people somehow braved on and seemed quite content that they still had a job. After all, they were getting paid to do nothing.

How is being a screw up and taking money from a company and not working brave? These are the people that need to be fired but companies aren't able to because of the laws. If anything THIS is what is hurting Japan and companies. No innovation, unable to get rid of dead-weight and the notion that one has a job for life even if they don't perform.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

TawnchanOct. 04, 2012 - 10:33AM JST

Some people really are... dead weight within the company. I wouldn't imagine a company wanting to fire someone who is actually contributing to profit.

You'de be surprised what can happen with fixed employment laws. If the guy who brings in millions does something wrong enough to fire him, while the guy who costs the company his salary doesn't do anything good or bad, they will fire the good guy because they can while mediocrity gets a free pass.

if you have a dead beat employee that has been mooching off the company for a while... I blame the managers for allowing that to happen.

Not always. While carrots work fine for some people, you really do need a stick for others. Without threatening to fire someone (and being able to do so legally), some people will give only enough to meet the minimum requirements. Simply being able to fire people is a huge boon for managers, and you'll see that they actually get better workforces.

Of course, being able to fire someone can't be good without passing anti-discrimination laws, including age, sex, previous job, and nationality (but yes on visa status). Else you will have huge unemployment simply because people that had jobs currently have near zero employment opportunities unless they were really high up in a company.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is the first I've heard of the 8/28 suicide of an NEC employee. I haven't been able to find it (yet) by searching in English, and I'll try Japanese. However, if the author of the article, or one of the readers, could point me to the story, in either language, I'd appreciate the URL.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Balefire

Here are a couple of mentions in the Japanese media:

http://www.terrafor.net/news_lQmiVW6WO2.html?right

http://www.zakzak.co.jp/society/domestic/news/20120924/dms1209241601008-n1.htm

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks, Tokiyo! You've saved me some time, and I'm concerned because I know a lot of NEC folks. I'm hoping he wasn't one of them. RIP whether I knew him or not, though.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@basroil

Definitely.. even if he brought in revenue a billion times over, but does something wrong/bad enough to fire him.. fire him. It's the responsibility of the employee to stay on the right track and the responsibility of the managers to monitor liability.

If an individual has not done anything good/bad.. comes into work doing what he's hired to do, but not an overachiever or an underachiever, of course there would be no reason to fire him.. and there would be no reason to promote him either.

You shouldn't have to use a stick to get someone to do their job.. that should come naturally for the worker per pre-hire agreements.

I am all for work evaluations.. whether it be Annual... bi-annual.. etc. It sets a clear communication point between employer and employee, without proper communication, how would a worker understand what is expected/asked from him? It covers both legalities and mutual understanding... and shouldn't promote any ill feelings because both parties would again already be able to see what is coming, would it be a promotion or termination.

Not all managers take their jobs seriously.. if you are a manager.. manage, it's more than just a title. Responsibility lies in all levels and expectations should be clearly drawn and understood by everyone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I was hired by a Japanese company to fill the gap when their staff all quite, enmass. The owner also hired, directly from the Hello Work offices, a lot of others. In side of 3 months, I was desperate to find a way to get ride of 60% of those new-hires.

And that is one problem with Japan today; specialization has removed the ability of many boys to adapt to new duties and the "employement for life" mentality makes them think that, like college, all they have to do is "get hired" and their work is done.

But the fact is, if a man does not produce $120 dollars for his daily $80 pay, he should be let go; companies don't need staff that sits at a window.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Getting rid of staff in Japan is not easy, even if they are not very good. Add to which they can just claim "depression" or similar difficult to diagnose illness and have a year off paid.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

But the fact is, if a man does not produce $120 dollars for his daily $80 pay, he should be let go; companies don't need staff that sits at a window.

This is an economic tenet that escapes most employees. For the company to be successful, you have to produce MORE value than you're paid. If you're drawing 50,000 yen a day in salary, you need to be providing 80,000-100,000 yen a day in revenue - either outright, or in some other equivalent value. There are fixed costs besides employee salaries that have to be covered by the revenue brought in. Not every business can just jack-up the price of their products to cover the additional expenses.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most foreign employees in Japan world in the ESL industry which would ***never give a severage package. This article is written only for a minority of foreign workers in Japan only.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@cyclemate huh? everyone in the company you work for all up and "quit" before they hired you... why? then 3 months after they hired you... you wanted to "fire" everyone that came after you... why? What type of company are you working for? Did you do the hiring?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I suggest to break the tension get some comic relief. Deficate on the floor in the lavatory. Order takeout in the bosses name and have it delivered! Place a gay mens magazine prominantly on your least favorite coworkers desk so evreyone can see it! Do this discreetly! The company will think twice about not firing you! You can collect your unemployment compensation and leave with a clear head!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"...I'm also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too... "

@gogogo

I kinda agree with you. Where I work, the notion of having everydody develop and perhaps even grow within the company is an alien concept. Seems to me managers are afraid of full-timers taking their place, doing a better job than themselves. Full-timers most of the time seem bored, incapable of thinking in any new way possible. The part-timers, at the same time, are not exactly go-getters. They bow and say "wakarimashita" all without contributing in the slightest.

There used to be quite some foreigners there. Most of them have quit.

What is toughest for me to cope with is the passivity that exists. The only way people show their "ganbare attitude" is by coming in early or staying late, doing some saabisu zangyo. And then the managers are happy.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As usual, the expert advice is conflicting.

Kids giving advice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ever been with an rikaichan here for 'too many' years?

Dirty tactics all the way!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is nothing new. Even in the elite companies that offered so-called lifetime employment in the bubble days workers, including top managers, were pushed out when they were getting too old. Old can be defined as reaching 50. Thus, diligent company mean suddenly found themselves farmed out to lousy subsidiaries or turned into window watchers. The poor guys were told their company was a family and they sacrificed themselves and their real families and were bewildered that when they because black sheep for no apparent reason.

A close friend with a doctorate from a top Japanese university was pushed into a subsidiary as he was reaching 50. Fortunately he could start a consulting company and took early retirement, which really pissed off his company. He was lucky, and one of the few.

Today it is worse. My advice to any company employee is not to take in the company loyalty crud. Don't live for the company. Live for yourself. Thus, when the capitalist henchmen start to try to push you out you will have the detachment and determination to resist. Under no circumstances should you resign. However bad it might be in the company it is far worse on the street. And remember that your company "family" won't do a damn thing for you once you are out. Also remember that the best time to look for a job is when you have a job.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Two years of severance is very common at Japanese companies, as the following news article from the Nikkei newspaper confirms:

NKSJ Seeking 400 To Voluntarily Retire From 2 Insurance Units

TOKYO (Nikkei)--NKSJ Holdings Inc. (8630) said Friday that it will solicit the voluntary retirement of 400 workers from subsidiaries Sompo Japan Insurance Co. and Nipponkoa Insurance Co.

These two insurance companies are to merge in the first half of fiscal 2014. The voluntary retirement scheme is part of the holding company's broader effort to rationalize the businesses in advance.

NKSJ will seek to have 200 employees from each unit voluntarily retire. The offer will be made to workers aged 40 and older. Those who say yes will retire March 31, 2013, receiving extra retirement packages worth 1 to 2.5 times their annual salaries, plus help finding other employment.

The 400 workers represent roughly 6% of all employees in the targeted group at the two insurers.

(The Nikkei, Sept. 8 morning edition)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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