Japan Today



The stupid rules of 'black' companies that employees mechanically obey

By Michael Hoffman

“Love your work! Love your merchandise! Love your customers!” Is love so easily commanded?

The company you work for can – almost certainly does – loom larger in life than the government you live under. Government at its worst can crush your freedom, wreck the economy, and wage wars of conquest on unoffending neighbors. Short of that – confining the argument to democracies at peace – its impact on private life is minimal and transitory, inept more likely than oppressive, conditional besides on popular support, withdrawal of which terminates the government. An employee, of course, is free to change jobs if an alternative presents itself, otherwise that freedom is purely theoretical and the boss you’re stuck with can do his or her worst – which can be very bad indeed, Spa (Sept 12) finds.

Some of the magazine’s stories frankly challenge belief, and its failure to name either the companies it charges with such gross behavior or the employees who are the companies’ victims and the magazine’s sources sows further doubts. The reader must decide if the stories merit serious attention. There is reason to think they do.

The novice’s career  at “A. Company,” a used car dealership, begins with the equivalent of boot camp – 500 people sharing a month-long dormitory retreat for “training” which, Spa hears from 29-year-old “Yuichi  Higuchi” (all names introduced in quote marks are pseudonyms), focuses very lightly on professional skills and heavily on “mass hypnosis” – “reciting the company rules over and over in unison,” future prospects linked to enthusiasm demonstrated.

“Love your work! Love your merchandise! Love your customers! There’s no product that can’t be sold – only salespeople who can’t sell!” The volume rises, heads spin, thought dims, stress builds – to the point of people collapsing and ambulances needing to be called, Higuchi says.

The fallen carried off, the sessions roll on.

Higuchi survived – unhypnotized, it seems – only to succumb later to disgust. This was not the life he wanted. He got out – to do what or where we’re not told. The company founder, he mentions in passing, has been divorced three times, symbol of what an employee is expected to give and give up – everything.

What Higuchi calls hypnosis, “Tetsuya Kawamoto,” 33, no less sourly calls “soul training.” He sells office automation products for “B. Company." “Ryo Iwai,” 33, a systems engineer – “a sector rumored to be rife with ‘black companies,’” comments Spa – says his employer, “C. Company,” has renamed its list of rules a “mission statement.” It changes little. Group recitation is a common thread running through all three accounts – collected under Spa’s headline “The stupid rules of black companies.”

B. and C. Companies’ rules or principles or values, whatever they’re best called, seem less extreme, as reported here, than those of A. Company, hardly stupid at all in fact, however foolish a grown man or woman might feel having to chant them aloud in daily group meetings – “shouting till we’re hoarse,” grumbles Kawamoto. They stress the importance of communication, of trust, of results, and though the old samurai ethic of loyalty is not invoked in so many words, it seems to lurk beneath a modern self-oriented surface best expressed by article one of C. Company’s mission statement: “Life is happy for winners, pitiful for losers.”

This sort of group-think harks back to the 1930s, when Konnosuke Matsushita ((1894-1989) instituted it at Matsushita Denki (now Panasonic), the appliance maker he’d founded in 1918. “Service to the public by making quality goods at reasonable prices” is the first of seven precepts he had his employees recite every morning. The second: “Fairness and honesty in all business dealings.” The fifth: “Courtesy and humility.” One imagines Matsushita cringing at A., B. and C. Companies’ coarseness.

Readers who charge Spa with exaggeration if not outright invention are referred to allegations that surfaced this summer against used car dealer Bigmotor Company, said to have pocketed inflated insurance payments for repairs to vehicles deliberately damaged by employees – willingly or unwillingly complicit.

© Japan Today

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Most companies are a little bit black. It's just about how much they can get away with legally and morally. Morals you can largely forget about in capitalism anyway, unless a big show of it can help make a sale. Government, over which the citizen has theoretic democratic control, is there to protect the employees from abuse but when it has been infiltrated by the influence and ethos of business it even helps deprive employees of their final trump card, labour unions. That there are black companies suggests a failure of government to do its job and too much corruption of its powers by business.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )


Governments have not been infiltrated by anyone. They have never given a toss about ordinary people. We are a resource to tap, slaves to work and toy soldiers to fight wars with. Above all, we are expendable, existing only to support their wealth and power. Black companies represent the infiltration of the government ethos into commerce.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Well, comrade, of course, governments do the bidding of the elite power, be it landowners, royalty or militaries, but that is increasingly capitalist enterprises and their shareholders. It is no surprise that increases in wealth and income disparities have come about with intensification of policy which suits big business, since the 1980s. Before that, during the 50s, 60s and early 70s, before the decision to jettison Keynes and go full-on economic fundamentalist, governments had to be more mindful of the possibility of socialist revolution and at least provided a more equitable economic and social life. In the USA, around US$47 trillion dollars has been scammed from the bottom 90% since the 1970s and median workers now earn $42,000 less than they would have done if equality had remained as it had been in the three decades after World War II. Meanwhile, shifting more and more decisions to the market allows citizens very little say in long-term policy or their own well-being. Without government, that is all we would have and eventually we would all be living a life of subsistence as companies adopt monopoly positions to deny wages and working rights and conditions. Government is - or should be - our buffer against this possibility. There is no mechanism by which capital will show long-term concern for workers. It's certainly a useful idea for business to spread around that government is not in your interest.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

An employee, of course, is free to change jobs if an alternative presents itself, otherwise that freedom is purely theoretical and the boss you’re stuck with can do his or her worst

There is no "free market of labor". You can change jobs and become homeless and starve. Precarious labor with workers living paycheck to paycheck is a feature, not a bug of late stage capitalism.

It put power in the hands of management, and the spectre of poverty keeps the workers in check and not asking for much. The government colludes with business by making the social safety net with your taxes as threadbare as possible. The corporatocracy loves black companies , rarely prosecutes their crimes, and if prosecuted hands out ridiculously insignificant punishments.

Corporate crime pays.

The oligarchs got a little nervous that the balance of power was shifting during the pandemic, but are quickly looking to set things in order.


1 ( +4 / -3 )

The novice’s career  at “A. Company,” a used car dealership, begins with the equivalent of boot camp – 500 people sharing a month-long dormitory retreat for “training”

This is also significant. In the beginning the model for turning peasants into workers was the military, which had already been able to train them to fight like a machine using interchangeable parts and treating them like interchangeable parts. This, of course, found a ready ear in military-friendly and militaristic governments such as the UK and US. The military ethos is everywhere in business, not least in Japan. Every year, in April, I used to be able to see new recruits to Mitsubishi Denki on drills, marching/jogging in time along the road in the morning chanting slogans in time.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

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