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Survey suggests about half of Japanese companies has an 'old guy who does nothing'

38 Comments
By SoraNews24

As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and when joining a new company people generally don’t want to be that weak link. On the other hand, after working at a place for an extended amount of time, some people find that sweet spot of doing just enough not to get fired, much to the chagrin of their harder working colleagues.

To learn more about how widespread this phenomenon was, consulting firm Shikigaku conducted a survey of 300 employees who each worked at companies with over 300 staff members and asked if they had an “old guy who doesn’t work.”

In this case they use the Japanese word ojisan which is generally a relative term that implies a certain age gap from the person speaking. Shikigaku polled workers between the ages of 20 and 39 which is a pretty wide breadth that might place the “old guys” in question anywhere from their 40s and up.

When asked “Is there an old guy who doesn’t work at your company?” 49.2 percent responded that there was.

Of these positive responses, the next logical question was: If they weren’t working, what were they doing?

Three prominent answers emerged and “taking many breaks for smoking and snacking” was the most common, acknowledged by 49.7 percent of responses. “Staring off into space” came in second with 47.7 percent, followed closely by 47.3 percent who reported “idle chatting” by their do-nothing co-workers. “Browsing the Internet” was a distant fourth with 35.3 percent.

Shikigaku then tried to gain some insight as to why these old guys have chosen a life of laziness by asking respondents what they thought. The most popular theory, from 45 percent or respondents, was that these guys simply had no desire to work. The second most popular guess, from 41 percent, was that their company increases salary based on seniority rather than performance, and this was followed by 26.3 percent who just figured no one trusted these guys enough to give them work.

The other reasons were mostly complaints of companies not having either a strong enough carrot or stick to motivate these guys to try harder. They recommended more employee reviews and clearer policies on what constitutes grounds for dismissal.

The respondents certainly would like to see something done about these people too, as 90 percent said that they had an adverse effect on the workplace. A decline in morale was reported by 59.7 percent, while 49 percent pointed out the increased workload on others and 35.3 percent claiming it’s a burden on the company in terms of labor costs.

Source: PR Times via All About News

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Survey says more than 70 percent of Japanese people think gender inequality exists in Japan

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments
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Doing nothing is a very difficult job. Lol In addition it’s also a burden on those employees, if they have nothing to do , don’t like the job or aren’t capable to do the specific difficult work. And btw, isn’t there a gender consideration? Why only and always attacking men, also here on this topic?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

They like to read newspapers.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Unfortunately, with the musical chairs and the way people are regularly moved around in a company, with little attention to suitability or talent, ( the 'its your turn' mentality ) you end up with these deskwarmer kachos and buchos who are just sitting out their final years before retirement. By that stage the only modus operandi is 'as long as a major MISTAKE or MISS doesn't happen on my watch, I'm good as gold. So..... very little happens, in any direction! This is entrenched, systemic and risk aversion is the base, much to the detriment and frustration to any underlings that may happen to have ambition. That's just a phase anyways ;p, they grow out of it! Morning rockers!

11 ( +13 / -2 )

In my company it's a young girl. She does nothing and does it loudly, ensuring that the rest of us who have work to do are constantly encumbered.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

I am not a Japanese national so I don't understand why the companies can't fire these employees. Are they civil servants (i.e., protected by bargaining unit contracts/laws)? I guess just shoving them in a corner won't work - these ojisan probably want to be left alone. Just fire them if possible or give them a warning that either they have to be productive or they'll be unemployed.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Why not ask them to work from 'home', by which I mean their regular seat at their favourite izakaya. It would get them out from under everyone's feet and they can spend the day chatting with other old guys who do nothing.

Don't be too harsh on them. One day you may realise that you have joined their ranks. We all get old.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

@quercetum

They like to read newspapers.

In my first company in Japan there was literally an old geezer who's nickname was "新聞の男 (the guy with the newspaper). Guess what he was doing all day locked up in his office.

Ultimately, he got dragged out of his office and had to pretend to work, but because of a lot of internal company politics (his reporting-line "graciously" gave him over to my area who was in dire need of staffing in the middle of a hiring freeze), and with me ending up as his staff it was ME who was doing HIS job while already being overworked!

I started doing some serious digging in the company and found out that over the last twenty-six effing years he got tossed around by every dept onto other depts until he ended up in our area.

I did have a serious discussion with our manager, who first didn't believe me but facing all the evidence that I put on the table had to accept facts.

He had a discussion with the guy and later a second meeting with me. "XX-san, would like to continue working." to which I said "*Of course, he wants to!** As it is ME who is doing his job. Look at our time-stamps: he leaves at 17:30 sharp while you and I who actually run this place are leaving at midnight! It is either me, who works, or him. Your choice."*

Two weeks later he was out, with a package for the 26-years of doing nothing. Good riddance.

And yes, in pretty much every of my companies in Japan was there one or more of these guys whose job seem to provide more work to the people around or under them.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Both a waste of pay, the idle “old guy” and the idol “office flower”. Suspect Ass, she may have been specifically ‘recruited’ for other talents: pour the tea, laugh at stale jokes, always be on-call for “overtime”, the after-hours parties and to ride along for some periodic out-of-town, weekend “training conferences”.

AssToday  08:41 am JST

In my company it's a young girl. She does nothing and does it loudly, ensuring that the rest of us who have work to do are constantly encumbered.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

The other 50% have consist of only old guys that do nothing.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

bonsai jiji talk?LOL

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

A more interesting question would have been, "Is there a guy/woman that owns your company and has never done a days work in their lives?'

Why so? Because they are the truly indolent in our society, feasting like parasites upon the wealth created by the rest of us. So, give the old working people a break. Start looking up at the people oppressing you, instead of down at your fellow oppressed.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Shikigaku polled workers between the ages of 20 and 39 ...

Don't worry guys your time will come.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

This is the downside of lifetime employment. Most people in this situation will be unsackable.

It is perfectly normal for folks to burn out, so some of the individuals in question are not (entirely) to blame. Ageism means they will never get another seishain job. They have to cling to the one they have, even if unsuitable for it.

Of course, having unsackable unproductive staff on high wages means companies cut costs elsewhere, such as by not making young employees seishain and working them as hard as they can.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Bullcrap! It's the young Gen. Z'rs and the Twenty somethings that are the lazy workers especially here in America, so, basically the workers back in the 20TH Century got it done. Just look at all the recalls today in manufacturing, LMFAO!

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Sven AsaiToday  07:50 am JST

Doing nothing is a very difficult job. Lol In addition it’s also a burden on those employees, if they have nothing to do , don’t like the job or aren’t capable to do the specific difficult work. And btw, isn’t there a gender consideration? Why only and always attacking men, also here on this topic?

It's not always just men who 'work' that way on the job. In my first job after military service, there was this young girl who did absolutely nothing but hang around your work station and yik-yak while you were doing your job. After lunch, she'd go to someone else's workstation and do the same. After 7 months she got canned.

And some jobs have employers' 'pets' who kiss the boss's butt and does nothing all day. sometimes it's a nepotistic situation. i've been in jobs like that and those types are a royal pain in the arse.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

School principals do nothing the whole day too!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

A lot of issues are intertwined but these ojisan exist basically because Japanese employment system is broken and it's extremely hard to fire employee no matter how incompetent or lazy they are. Old fashioned company used to take lifetime employment (seishain) and seniority based wage, so the more you stay in one company, the more your wage increases no matter how little you contribute to the company.

In my company case, some ojisans who are not in manager class do nothing/bare minimum job just to get by, because company politics allows only people who are convenient for bosses to become manager class. They take points-off system that if you challenge and fail, the responsibility is yours. but if you succeed, the bosses will take credit for it. Besides, in Japan it’s hard for workers to change jobs/company after they turn 35-40 unless you are a manager class because young workers are much preferred than workers who are over 35-40 so sometimes there is no other way for them than to stay in the company. (obviously this doesn’t apply to some industry or occupation though)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

1738kwaa@ what are you talking about? They have to do those earth moving speeches, at least what four times a year? That’s when the big bucks are earned. ;) I get chills, moved to tears in fact .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ah yes... we have one of these dinosaurs too.. his favourite passtime is to creep out our female employees...

it does make me feel a tad bit better knowing that everyone has one of these dinos in their office too...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

My Wife's company has 2 "ojisans" that do nothing all day with high salaries. The other workers got together and complained to seniority and suddenly they are making more effort, for how long though? The huge cost on companies to keep these dinosaurs around must be phenomenal.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Same old men made Japan the Great last 60 years

2 ( +4 / -2 )

They say that it is thinking that makes money not the muscle...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

There probably are some old guys who don't do much as there probably are young guys who don't do much. Before pointing the finger at others, take a look in the mirror. What do you bring to the company? What's your area of expertise or are you still in training after 5 years? Once you entered the company, what have you accomplished.

I'm sure there are some old guys who do jack but I've also seen older people be very proactive and who have a wealth of knowledge.

Fact is, the Japanese education system and Japanese corporate structure/philosophy both need to change and at the same time.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

That “old guy” has already worked the last 3 to 4 decades. Give him a break.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Survey suggests about half of Japanese companies has an 'old guy who does nothing'

And if we took the survey to Kasumigaseki.....

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

That “old guy” has already worked the last 3 to 4 decades. Give him a break.

On someone else's dime? typical entitled boomer thinking. Take a break and go retire.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

These old guys were the young guys that built Japan and their fathers before them

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

@Lamilly Not always.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Given Japans work culture and grossly excessive unpaid overtime, not too surprising some are burned out/found a way to cope after 30\40 years. May be the high wages should be seen more as deferred overtime payments?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@LamillyToday

These old guys were the young guys that built Japan and their fathers before them

Tut tut. I'm afraid you're pretty much of the chart on every point...

I'm 51 and was born in 1970. As far as the "young guys that built Japan" are concerned, any of the "old guys" in his fifties was born mid-60s at the earliest. By the time that generation graduated from university we were hitting 1991 and the bubble economy was bursting. Anybody younger (e.g. 40s) graduated post-bubble. As such, it is dubious they contributed to anything and were most likely pretty busy trying to survive in the mess that was the post-bubble era...

As far as "their fathers before them" are concerned, they may have "contributed to building Japan" but should be at least in their 70s, hence not likely to linger around the office these days and not be the subject of this article to start with...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The article is not sympathetic toward the elderly, and the question of the survey shows bias . . . .

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They keep them around to give younger employees something to aspire to.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I used to do business training/coaching for large multi-national companies. we were taking a break and I noticed something odd going on in their theater. There were about a half dozen young women standing both in the aisles and up on the stage. They were wearing microphones and giving orders to a relatively large (15-20?) middle aged men. One at time, each man was ushered from his seat, up the stairs to the center of the stage where he was instructed to bow to the young woman. The men looked despondent as each gave a very deep bow, before returning to their seat, waiting to be called again in a few minutes.

I had never seen anything like this and thought it to be extraordinary, so I asked my HR liaison what was going on. He explained that these employees were deemed to be no longer necessary, but it would bring shame to the company to fire them. Bowing practice was the passive aggressive (my embellishment) to signal to them that they were no longer wanted. He told me this was their full-time job and many had been doing this all day for months, but the company expects them to give up hope and quit at some point. All I could do was shake my head and think only in Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I wouldn't be so critical of this as westerners like to be. It is the responsibility of the company to monitor headcount and ensure everyone hits their KPI's. I wouldn't criticise the employee as surely the employer needs to manage their performance.

Japan has very strict protection of employee law whereas in the west they like to trim the workforce for more profits. Also Japanese employees are very loyal to their companies and again this should be seen as positive.

We (the west) love to point and criticise but I believe there are positives in Japan in employment law and employee loyalty.

Wait until your (western) employer wants to manage you out and you will see that Japanese employers are not as bad as people make out.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Perhaps if agism weren't such an issue, older workers would be able to change jobs and find employment at companies who value their experience, give them meaningful work and show them some respect.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Nothing new..

In all countries there are jobs where there is always someone with a hierarchy who does nothing..

Although some take this news as a pretext to vent their frustrations against Japan..

They're soooo kawaii, LOL !!..

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Three prominent answers emerged and “taking many breaks for smoking and snacking” was the most common, acknowledged by 49.7 percent of responses. “Staring off into space” came in second with 47.7 percent, followed closely by 47.3 percent who reported “idle chatting” by their do-nothing co-workers. “Browsing the Internet” was a distant fourth with 35.3 percent.

Every OL that I know.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

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