Heard the one about the company employee who got chewed out by her boss? Next day she was absent. Around mid-morning, there came a call from her mother: “My daughter’s afraid of her boss. Couldn’t she be transferred to a different department?”
Or how about the bank freshman inadvertently passed over by an office memo making the rounds. He burst into tears and sobbed, “If I’m being ignored, I quit!”
Shukan Asahi (Oct 23) has a collection of anecdotes like these. The humor inspired by company recruits is no doubt as old as company recruiting, but this year’s crop is different, the magazine says. The significant milestone they represent is the entry on the corporate scene of the first full-fledged members of the “relaxed education” generation.
Relaxed education (“yutori kyoiku” in Japanese) is actually traceable back to 1977, the bare beginning of a gradual softening of the forced feeding that characterized postwar education. Emphasis back then was on a rote memorization of facts. It was so rigorous it seemed to produce psychological symptoms, varying from shrinking timidity to aggressive bullying. Common to both extremes, and to much in between as well, was a perceived inability to think creatively and flexibility, to deal with any situation that wasn’t in the manual.
In 1992, lesson hours were reduced and "yutori kyoiku" began to define the school atmosphere. In 2002, the process climaxed with an end to Saturday classes and a 30% reduction of the curriculum. Teaching, once defined in terms of “guidance,” shifted to a less intensive “support” mode as students concentrated on developing their individuality first, their knowledge second.
Kids who entered elementary school in 1992 are 24 today, and entering the work force en masse -- the first generation of recruits educated from the beginning in a comparatively “relaxed” manner. To Shukan Asahi and the employers it speaks to, they are relaxed to a fault, almost to the point of being dysfunctional.
As the magazine tells it, they can’t communicate, have no sense of responsibility or esprit de corps, and wilt under pressure. Even going drinking with the bosses after hours -- a time-honored practice in Japanese corporate circles -- is too much trouble for them; they persistently decline invitations that previous generations of recruits regarded as an honor. The upshot is that the boss wanting to bring the team together for conviviality and mutual encouragement, must do so over lunch, which has the distinct advantage, from the youngsters’ point of view, of ending at a fixed time.
“I assigned a freshman staffer to design new teaching material,” Shukan Asahi hears from the director of a leading juku (cram school). “When he didn’t do it and I gave him hell, instead of reflecting on his behavior, he just grinned and flashed the peace sign at me. And this is someone who’s been to grad school!”
Mitsubishi-Tokyo-UFJ Bank has developed its own response. Of this spring’s 530 new career-track hires, more than 100 have been deemed so lacking in basic manners that they’re being sent to do time as volunteers at welfare facilities.
“This experience will help them understand what it means to be a member of society and to see things from other people’s point of view,” a bank personnel officer tells the magazine.© Japan Today