Poverty in the midst of riches is a persistent and widening Japanese theme. “Japan Inc” stumbled badly in the 1990s and has yet to right itself. Companies stopped hiring. Young people graduated from university with no place to go. For want of better opportunities, they took part-time jobs.
Now, more than a third of the Japanese work force is part time. Even full-time employees complain of being overworked and underpaid. Pleading penury, many have put off marriage, indefinitely if not forever. Anger gave way to resignation, of which the “herbivorous male,” easygoing, disengaged and unambitious, is a prominent symbol.
Spa!, in an annual supplement, cracks the whip. If you’re earning less than 3 million yen a year it’s your own fault, it says in effect. The economy is bad but yields to those who squeeze it. What’s the difference between high and low wage earners? Essentially, in Spa!’s view, failure of the latter to grow up.
Eternal youth has its place but not in business. “I spend my weekends rehearsing and partying with my rock band,” says a 46-year-old at the low end of the medical supplies business. Your privilege, sniffs Spa! – but clinging to teenage dreams is no way to get ahead in the world.
Two points emerge from the magazine’s interview with investment consultant Tokio Godo. One: Communication is life in the business world. Be good at it and you’re on your way to success. Shrink from it – as many young people do nowadays – and your present rut will be a permanent one.
Two: Don’t lead two lives, one on-duty, one off. Be “on” all the time. Even hobbies, even shopping, should be, however distantly, work-related. Both, to the true communicator, offer scope for enlarging knowledge and contacts. Being a weekend rocker is no disqualification, but the man’s attitude (Spa! says) is – he works only to live and lives to rock. Maybe he’s happier that way. Maybe we all would be. But that’s another subject.
Surveying 200 low-income company employees, Spa! discovers some dreadful personal habits that, in its opinion, make rising in the world pretty much impossible. They include workplace behavior but are not confined to it – naturally enough, if, as Godo claims, anything you do anywhere reflects the attitudes and skills you bring to your job. For example: 81% of respondents have never been to a wedding. So what? It matters because it indicates a narrow (or nonexistent) circle of friends, and a corresponding lack of social savoir-faire. Can that possibly be good for business? Eighty percent say they often back out of engagements at the last minute, which suggests not only unreliability but discomfort with people and a preference for solitude. That’s not a preference that favors the corporate ladder-climber.
Among the most common workplace sins are spending too much office time surfing social networking sites, which 97% of respondents confess to, and a tendency to daydream at work (75%). Evidently many people find their jobs less than absorbing, and seek to escape them rather than make them better.
Then there’s shopping. What’s in your shopping bag reveals more about you and your potential than you may realize, Spa! finds. The relentless pursuit of the new and fashionable is a bad sign – it shows lack of firmness of purpose. The man who drops into a convenience store and spends 3,000 yen, as 64% of respondents sometimes do, is on the wrong track – he settles too easily for the easy way out. Likewise for the man who buys lottery tickets instead of investing in stocks.
Fully 98% of respondents use their smartphones at mealtime. It’s the most widespread vice of all, edging out the 97%, mentioned above, who troll SNS sites during working hours. If economic revival depends on a more focused attention to the off-screen world, it could be a long time coming.© Japan Today