Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Younger employees increasingly resisting transfers

30 Comments

“Suddenly, I’m being transferred to some place out in the sticks – no prior notice at all; I hear it from my boss the day before.”

If you find this extraordinary and/ or intolerable, you’re in step with a younger generation of disgruntled company employees whose fathers and grandfathers would have accepted that sort of thing as normal. The speaker, quoted by Shukan Post (Dec 16), is a 37-year-old man working in the financial sector. He continues: “It was very hard on my family. But I had no choice. They asked me about transfers when I first joined the company, and I said OK.”

It’s not OK, though, for 42.7% of male and 57.5% of female company employees aged 30-49, according to research published last year by Chuo University’s Work-Life Balance and Diversity Promotion Research Project. Those polled would do everything possible, they said – including, in extreme cases, quit – rather than accept a transfer. Japan Inc no longer commands the unswerving loyalty and obedience it once took for granted.

Why the surge of resistance? The reasons Shukan Post quotes are what you’d expect – the family or boyfriend/ girlfriend you don’t want to leave behind, the cost of setting up another household (considerable even if the company assumes part of it), the emotional stresses and strains of having to build a social life from scratch, and so on.

But these factors have always been present. The difference is that once they were taken in stride. No longer.

Transfers, Shukan Post explains, were integral to career advancement. As a freshman, you did your basic training at corporate headquarters, then got sent out – to branches in Japan, to affiliates overseas, wherever. That way you got to know everything your company did and everyone it dealt with. Three or four transfers in 10 years were par for the course. Then, your managerial skills honed and tempered, you came back to headquarters ready for the highest level of responsibility. It was hard on the family, but they knew what corporate life was and accepted it; it was hard on you, but you soothed your loneliness with thoughts of the splendid career you were building for yourself.

Maybe young people today are less ambitious, less self-sacrificing, more questioning of arrangements held to be “inevitable.” Are transfers really necessary? If so, why are there so relatively few of them overseas? That does seem to be the case, Shukan Post finds. Transferring as a matter of course, it says, is a unique feature of Japanese corporate culture.

Increasingly, personnel departments interviewing job-hunting university students find them resistant to transfers. If transfers are forced on them, they would rather work elsewhere. Worse, via tweeting and posting, they brand companies that insist on transfers as “burakku kigyo” – “black companies” whose “blackness” consists in ruthless exploitation of staff. They’re much in the news lately. No legitimate company wants to be tarred with that label.

Slowly, employers are rethinking their transfer policies; Shukan Post cites Kirin and Aeon as two firms in the vanguard. Even where transfers can’t be eliminated entirely, they can be reduced, and employees are given some latitude – exemptions related to child-rearing or the care of aged relatives, for example.

Not everyone thinks this new flexibility is healthy. Manga artist Kenshi Hirokane, 69, puts his generation’s view this way: “Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
Login to comment

The speaker, quoted by Shukan Post (Dec 16), is a 37-year-old man working in the financial sector. He continues: “It was very hard on my family. But I had no choice. They asked me about transfers when I first joined the company, and I said OK.”

37 is a "young" employee? Cripes, I wonder when they will actually see him as an adult?

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Manga artist Kenshi Hirokane, 69, puts his generation’s view this way: “Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

Really? Where do they transfer 'manga artists' to?

17 ( +20 / -3 )

“Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

So if this practice doesn't really exist in other countries, and not following along with this practice proves you're afraid of change, how can the other countries that don't have it be more vigorous?

Sounds like the same anti-millenial BS we hear around the world- though of course age shifted because Japan. The young don't blindly obey the old in any and all things, so the old define the young as an inferior generation. I take a look at the young Japanese people around me, and a good deal of them embrace the change of travel, they just don't want it arbitrarily imposed on them by a manager with zero concern for their employees' work-life balance. And the employees are completely in the right to resist that. The age of all-powerful daimyo and mindlessly obedient ashigaru is well dead, and bosses need to quit cosplaying it on the job.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

I don't think that this statement is exclusive to young people at all. I think it pretty much sums up Japanese society as a whole.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

They should create their own businesses or change companys. Then they can control where they live. If their desire is to work for a company (90% do) then theyll have to roll with the punches.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

I marvel at how technologically advanced Japan purports to be with super expensive videoconferencing equipment in my office, yet they cannot fathom utilizing that to let persons work from home,,, and all of Japan is in the same time zone so why would transfers be necessary in the first place. If you have to visit customers in another city take a few days,,,

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Manga artist Kenshi Hirokane, 69, puts his generation’s view this way: “Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

This attitude is exactly what is wrong with Japan Inc. The younger workers are looking at what their dads and moms gave up in life for the companies and are saying no thanks. The older ones don' get that the younger ones are not willing to be dogs for them and they're upset. Add in the assumption that a husband has a stay at home wife who will tend to the kids while he's gone living "tanshinfunin" and will be more than happy to run the house alone.

Add in the new element that many women do have jobs because their husbands don't make enough for the lifestyle they need/want. Many women are not willing to follow her husband or a few years in god knows where. My husband and I faced this issue. I told him I would NOT be quitting my job for a silly transfers for a few years. He agreed and let the company know. Will it hurt him in the long wrong? Probably but we have my income as well.

Grow up up Japan Inc and stop trying to treat workers like the slaves you expect them to be.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

This is about Japanese company culture and their method of developing well rounded employees that fully understand all business aspects. They do this by continually transferring employees all around the country / world, with little or no regard to the family of said individuals. Eventually some of these "well rounded" employees make their way to the top of the ladder... where their knowledge of all things company related is valued and the consensus style of decision making comes together in a harmonious manner. There is more to it of course.. but that is the basic reason. It works well in an expanding economy but Japan has not expanded for decades. Japan needs to stop the senseless relocating of employees and start specializing and compartmentalizing.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Yeah this is one aspect of being a salaryman that seems like such a waste, I see it as a very real form of bullying. Japan Inc should be able to EASILY manage things like transfers/opportunities by DISCUSSING things with employees to find out where their interests lie, not just FORCE them to move on short notice somewhere, DOH!!

I applaud those that able to refuse these mindless commands from above. They do nothing but pile more stress of people that usually already have their fair share or more of the stuff. I have hardly met anyone here that has enjoyed one of the these transfers.

I see it as more of a way to keep people down, under the thumb that actually allowing them to grow in a company.

This one is a biggie that Japan Inc needs to do AWAY with sooner rather than later!

Manga artist Kenshi Hirokane, 69, puts his generation’s view this way: “Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

Haha says the mangaman that probably only leaves his drawing board to hit the izakaya each day LOL!!! Actually he should realize he was ABLE to do away with the usual silliness of Japan Inc, but then again maybe he forced himself to move around Japan every few years just to tough it out LOL!!

8 ( +10 / -2 )

A Japanese friend of mine who is now a Bucho of a big insurance company explained it to me once as he saw things (btw, he was transferred several times). He said the transfers are basically in place (at least traditionally) to prevent workers from getting too entrenched in a particular region and therefore prevent to close a connection to the clients. This, theoretically, would lead to less cronyism, graft, bribes, etc.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is one thing I have never understood. Uprooting people from their families, kids from their schools and communities to shuffle some people round.. just to do it again at some point in the future.

The industry Im involved in, it happens regularly and almost without warning, (thankfully not in my company, though having its HQ US based brings its own issues) its actually very disruptive to long term projects as the person who previously headed up a division the next month in some tiny place in the middle of no where.

It seems to back up this slightly odd over arching idea that if you put someone in a seat they can do that job, rather than seeing each person as an individual and allowing their strengths to show and grow naturally.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Onniyama: A Japanese friend of mine who is now a Bucho of a big insurance company explained it to me once as he saw things (btw, he was transferred several times). He said the transfers are basically in place (at least traditionally) to prevent workers from getting too entrenched in a particular region and therefore prevent to close a connection to the clients. This, theoretically, would lead to less cronyism, graft, bribes, etc.

Maybe they should try that with the police. So they wouldn't, you know, do things like losing yakuza in wheelchairs on smoking breaks.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Not just Japan but many first world nations, have trouble attracting youth to rural areas to work. For corporations or business yet video conferencing or business trips are probably feasible.

One area I think that they need to transfer people or at least training is have have doctor's work in rural areas for a few years to make up for the shortage and who knows they may settle and decide to stay. I've met more than a few entitled d-bag doctors in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This, theoretically, would lead to less cronyism, graft, bribes, etc.

Well, the system has utterly failed.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

“Young employees, instead of enjoying change, fear it. They have it too good and don’t want to leave their cocoon. If that’s the attitude, Japanese companies have no chance against enterprises in more vigorous countries.”

And this is what has made Japanese a peaceful loving people unlike before, and it does not seem to have hurt JP enterprises succeeding in other countries.

Oh Yeah: Mr. Manga. Please list the places you forced yourself to write manga inas self deprivation from you family and loved ones. Idiot.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I think employees should be perfectly free to refuse transfers, but if they do, the employer should be able to mark them down for it. That is how it works everywhere else. If you accept an unpopular posting, that does indeed tell the company something about your value as compared with other employees who do not. But it should be a free discussion on both sides, with no coercion. This would also help even up the status of female employees who are routinely placed in a lower category on the somewhat spurious grounds that they wouldn't accept transfers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I wonder whose idea it was to get the opinion of a geriatric manga artist on this topic. Surely there can't be anyone who gives a stuff what he thinks. Having said that I do wonder what he thinks there is to "enjoy" about being forced to be apart from your family as your company shunts you pointlessly all over the country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And I forgot to add, that the ol ""transfer"" thing is a VERY COMMON way for companies to get people to quit, rather than have the stones to fire them, a real nasty business

1 ( +1 / -0 )

theeastisredDEC. 21, 2016 - 04:43PM JST I think employees should be perfectly free to refuse transfers, but if they do, the employer should be able to mark them down for it.

Why "mark down"? When you sign up for a job, unless they specify prior to hiring the likelihood of a transfer, having to relocate is an extra obligation imposed after the contract is signed.

A better way to look at it is that an employee who agrees to a transfer should be marked up for their flexibility.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Katsu,

OK, putting it your way round is equally good. Same meaning. Situations change, which may require flexibility on the part of the employees, and someone more willing to be flexible can be of greater value to the company, and someone less willing to be flexible can be of lesser value.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

someone less willing to be flexible can be of lesser value.

Why does the employee have to be flexible, and not the company? If the company hired them for a given location, the company needs to be flexible in figuring out how to get someone to work at another location. The onus shouldn't be on the employee.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

30-49 isn't "younger"...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Strangerland,

Yes, it should be a discussion between employer and employee on an equal basis. I am not at all saying the onus should be on the employee alone, which is the current situation. The employee has no choice whatsoever, whereas it should be more even between the two parties.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Are they stressed for workers or not? Do they want to encourage healthy families or not? Do they need to change business practices or not? Do they want women more in the work force or not? Do they feel the need for reform or not? Do they want to be more efficient or not? Do they want to increase population or not? So narcissistic! They won't even save themselves.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not only companies but public high schools have transfers. Transfers are not only for "growth" but also for punishment. The worst is being sent off to an desolate island.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In my Shikoku days I knew quite a few local company employees. All had been transferred from Chiba or wherever. I'm sure many of them would have preferred to be elsewhere in Japan, but at the same time the company did look after them quite well. 10,000 yen a month rent for a 3 bedroom house owned by the company for example. That was pretty much the deal, go along with the system and you'll get looked after.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Easy fix pay living away from home allowance and travel time and travel to and from home until the first hiring of a person of that skill set. But to expect and person to pull up roots from a community he and his family had spend the last 10 year with no compensation. Only if the company had legitimate cause would the worker move without compensation. like down sizing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When Japan Inc offered a job for life it was a trade off. Now, Japan Inc is forced to compete on a global stage of cost reduction it cannot afford the old ways and so when the employer lays people off, and I have known some big brands lay off 15 year plus people, then it is not surprising that the younger ones think “okay, if that’s how it is, it’s every man for himself” and so Japanese society as a whole will change to a more “me” focussed Western model.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I believe in the younger generation they have more self love than the fear of such companies. I pray for the best for them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This article "assumes" that transfers are somehow "bad" and "undesirable" without the in-depth analysis of situation, circumstances and environment within which such requests are being made. It also "assumes" that the employee has "no choice" as to say "no" and is being "forced" to go.

There is also a reverse situation, when one desires to be transferred and one is refused that transfer.

So this must be put into proper perspective.

It also has to do with not just transfer but compensation, job responsibility, ability, and a host of other conditions.

So before generalizations, it will take a little more statistical data with proper perspective.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites