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Woman disciplined after putting up partition between herself and older male coworker

70 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

One unique aspect of Japanese work culture is the lack of cubicles or private offices. Instead, coworkers sit side by side at desks or long tables.

It’s believed that this more open layout helps foster communication, empathy and teamwork. However, when a man in Kagoshima Prefecture showed up for work he discovered that the co-worker who sits next to him had decided to do some remodeling by putting up a barrier between his desk and hers.

That morning, the 50-something man’s female employee and table neighbor, who is in her 20s, had arrived at the office before him and set up a partition made of black cardboard between their sections of the table. The barrier was about 40 centimeters tall and 50 centimeters long, large enough so that the two of them couldn’t see each other if seated.

That probably would have made for an awkward shift, but instead of clocking in the man, feeling bullied, went home. The incident occurred on Oct 16 and the man hasn’t been back to work since. He’s since been diagnosed with adjustment disorder and is currently on sick leave.

The woman kept the partition up for the first few days even after the man stopped coming to work, but has since taken it down. However, she is now being disciplined for her actions, which the city hall administration has deemed “inappropriate.” When asked why she put up the partition, the woman said “Working with him has been a recurring source of stress. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I put up the barrier without being really conscious of doing so.”

Adding another complication to the situation is the fact that the man, who transferred into the division in April of 2019, is physically handicapped, though the woman denies that that was a factor in her putting up the barrier.

There has been no indication that either of the two coworkers was the other’s superior in the office hierarchy, and so the situation is unlikely to be handled as a case of outright power harassment. However, the city hall is saying that if and when the man is ready to return to work, they are considering reassigning one or both of them to another department so that they’ll no longer have to work in such close proximity.

Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun via Itai News, Minami Nihon Shimbun

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© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

70 Comments
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Good God, how has this man not disintegrated from having such fragile skin...

First I thought the same but then the article went on to say that he was physically handicapped. That completely changes the equation. If he has a significant physical handicap he likely spent most of his life being bullied and marginalized to some extent. This is not your average Taro being soft. Disability discrimination is rife in Japan sadly.

32 ( +33 / -1 )

If it was done out of malice, both parties might need mediation through the HR department.

If it was just for privacy reasons, maybe there is no real problem.

Could never stand big, open plan offices.

23 ( +25 / -2 )

If only people could move around the office and change seats....

sounds easy everywhere but here.

20 ( +22 / -2 )

If it was done out. of malice, both parties might need mediation through the HR department

Please dont call it a "HR" department here, and they dont see "humans" as "resources"!

18 ( +21 / -3 )

When asked why she put up the partition, the woman said “Working with him has been a recurring source of stress. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I put up the barrier without being really conscious of doing so.”

I have to ask, what was he doing to cause her to be stressed? That's the key to this whole news story.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

"That probably would have made for an awkward shift, but instead of clocking in the man, feeling bullied, went home. The incident occurred on Oct 16 and the man hasn’t been back to work since. He’s since been diagnosed with adjustment disorder and is currently on sick leave."

"the 50-something man"

Good God, how has this man not disintegrated from having such fragile skin...

14 ( +29 / -15 )

Over reaction by all.

14 ( +20 / -6 )

She should have said that she was worried about obtaining COVID-19 from co-workers. Then she would have had good ground to walk on. ; ^ 0

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I'm surprised that they didn't already have partitions up because of Covid...

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Sounds like typical "male wins" dispute.

8 ( +18 / -10 )

The woman in the story tried to solve the issue quietly, without HR. Clearly she felt "bullied" by the man on some level. The story doesn't say this, of course.

The man, being the longer worker there, should have worked to solve the issue or at least understood why.

I've worked in the type of environment from the story in Japan. Found it difficult to get any work done. It felt like being in a fish bowl and being watched all day. It didn't help when Japanese coworkers would stop by every 30 minutes to see what I was doing. The first day, 3 of them pulled chairs around my seat to watch everything until I told them to get lost.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Now having spent well over a decade working in Kagoshima, I can say it is a beautiful place with very nice people.

But often far behind the times, whenever my male acquaintances or those I worked with would here that my wife worked full time, they would always comment:

" Oh there is no way I would let my wife work, a woman's place is at home taking care of her husband and family"

This was near universal.

Now this archaic attitude exists all over not just Kagoshima, not just Japan, but the further you get from larger industrial cities and urban areas the more such attitudes exist still today and even more so with the men around my age (over 50) and older.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

One thing that is absolutely certain from the article.

There is not enough information provided to even begin to speculate as to why the lady put up the partition.

The article does say this happened October 16th so the partition is probably not a bad idea as the world and Japan was experiencing a pandemic at that time.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Both need mental help.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

@1glenn

The article doesn't say but we don't know what she said was the reason.

Obviously the writer and perhaps the man are trying to play on the fact he has a physical disability.

But at least on that one she was clear that had nothing to do with it.

She is in her 20s early, mid, late, we don't know so being young it is possible she just figured that was the quickest solution.

Also in most of these situations if anyone gets moved it would end up being the young one and especially the woman.

Note that she is the one being disciplined and he is being treated with kid gloves.

Oh and having a daughter in her 20s and seeing how Japanese offices work it is incredibly intimating.

The women more often than not has to explain certain harrassment or inappropriate behavior to a room full of old men knowing far to well these same old men are long time working buddies of the other guy and already know very well how he is or acts.

That is the reality not just in Japan but in many places.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Read the article again, sounds more to me that she couldnt handle working with a handicapped person!

Disabled.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

How much of a flake is the man?

What difference does it make? Read the article again, sounds more to me that she couldnt handle working with a handicapped person!

5 ( +20 / -15 )

The story is strangely silent about the person in charge of the office. The opinion we are given is from someone at the city hall. Does this mean they are civil servants?

This partition sounds like asking for trouble, which is what it has caused.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Why were there no barriers to begin with, during this pandemic? If there had been the usual clear plastic barriers, she could have just decorated her side with cute kitty photos, etc. (Maybe with a note written on the reverse, (his side), telling him to keep his eyes on his work and not on her skirt.

Newsflash: a physical handicap does not preclude the fact that he may have been a perv.

The story does not say why she felt stressed, so assuming it was something to do with his handicap is nothing more than a guess.
5 ( +7 / -2 )

Ok as I already pointed out I have a physical disability, my tremors had shaking can drive me crazy and can be at times very distracting to others nearby, so I know how things can be.

That said I have seen far, far, far more inappropriate behavior by older Japanese men toward young women in the offices than any towards the disabled including myself by anyone old young male female.

She stated his disability was not the reason, the city office did not elaborate on what she told them her reasons were.

But the clear misogyny by those that disregard her statement it was not his disability is very apparent.

Did anyone think that the reason the city did not say what her reason was is possibly because they don't want to say it was the more often than not inappropriate behavior of the man?

Let's be honest, those running things are in all probability older men that know this man well, and they are probably not willing to acknowledge if he has a behavior problem especially since suck behavior rarely just starts at over 50 and has been going on a long time with the male administration ignoring it for years.

We have all seen it, whether you are an ALT, and IT specialist or just an office worker in a Japanese company, school or even city office.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Toasted Heretic

Whatever, I have a visible physical disability as well as a non visible one.

Never got why people get upset makes no real difference as long as people get the point.

To many thin skined people these days.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I have to ask, what was he doing to cause her to be stressed? That's the key to this whole news story.

Whatever it was, it is a poorly managed workplace if unauthorized and unilateral action is the response to it.

Rereading the story more carefully, it sounds like they are civil servants. In the public sector, you would imagine there must be clear rules on how employees are to behave, on top of what should be known already from common sense. I say rules because the public sector should lead on inclusivity and have zero tolerance of prejudice.

The various people mentioned in the story probably all see themselves as victims (higai-mousou, fairly common in Japan) but the big loser is the taxpayer, who has paid someone to sit at home for three months with no-one taking responsibility.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

With an open office layout, sometimes the person next to you can't help looking at your work or computer screen and that is stressful esp. when you're very young and the person next to you is really old.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If I had a dollar for every speculative comment on JT, I'd be a rich man!

If I had a dollar for every inappropriate behavior by old Japanese office men, done on just one year, I would be nearing billionaire status.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I wonder if she had a non-handicapped worker on her other side or was she at the end of the line at the table?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The situation sounds a little more complex than initially presented in the article.

My first thought was why aren't there partitions anyway to protect workers from Covid? I presumed that this was going to be the lady's justification for putting up a partition herself.

Regardless of the actual reason, maybe it's a good opportunity to think about modernizing the office layout? Just a thought.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Disabled.

The word is disabled. Handicapped has negative connotations.

Anyway, whatever the details are - it needs to be addressed by the company.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

@oginome

@sakurasuki comments are not unusual in many places but far more common in Japan.

As I pointed out my physical disability means I shake, by that I mean tremors in my limbs that can at times be hardly noticeable all the way to full on uncontrollable shaking of multiple limbs and even my head. As long as I am doing some voluntary movement like holding a mouse, walking, etc... It is not bad, but just sitting at a desk things can look strange to say the least.

I have had many co-workers either go to management or tell me straight toy face that seeing me shake disturbs them.

I usually reply then why are you looking.

But despite all that I know for a fact it is far more common that the young women in the offices I have worked in have it worse.

Both cases are unacceptable but the fact that some feel it is Ok to say what @sakurasuki did and that some jump to the conclusion the young woman must be not telling the truth when she said his disability was not a factor tell us a lot about how acceptable both types of discrimination and harrassment are still prevalent, accepted and defended by both the Japanese and non Japanese.

It is far better today than when I was young but still has a long way to go before it improves more.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One note to point out.

One unique aspect of Japanese work culture is the lack of cubicles or private offices. Instead, coworkers sit side by side at desks or long tables.

Perhaps the author needs to see how many companies outside of Japan now function.

This may have been true 20, 30 plus years ago but many companies to reduce cost in Europe, North Have gone to hoteling.

This means only a few top executives have offices, rooms are available for booking if one needs for client meetings, etc.. but most just sit anywhere in open rooms with large tables using laptops combo cellphone/PHS.

This is how two of my siblings have worked for years in North America and was in place in my father's company before he retired and he has been retired for nearly 30 years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

She’s in her twenties and he is in his fifties. The reasons for her wanting a partition are pretty easy to guess.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@Yubaru

Read the article carefully.

who transferred into the division in April of 2019, is physically handicapped, though the woman denies that that was a factor in her putting up the barrier.

So no!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The reason could be so many different things, speculation is interesting but pointless.

I will speculate that the woman, being young, would have had her concerns ignored if she brought them up with her superiors. She would have been told to put up with it.

She may or may not have tried to bring it up with the desk neighbour who, as people do when confronted about a personal failing, would have dismissed her complaint.

She obviously didn't think she could or should have to put up with it any more, so she made a decision to handle it herself. Well done to her. Of course he was upset - nobody likes to be told that they are [insert speculation here].

The fact that management didn't deal with it means it probably wasn't an offence like sexual harassment - which no company can afford to ignore, especially a public office, so it must be something else... Nope, no point guessing.

The management are to blame for not dealing with it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If I had a dollar for every speculative comment on JT, I'd be a rich man!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

and the coronavirus is not a factor at all..............

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Confusius

I have a physical disability.

If I had $100 to bet and my choices were she did it because of he had a disability or because of inappropriate behavior my money would be on inappropriate behavior.

And if someone in the odds business was presented with information we have and knowledge of Japanese offices I am willing to also bet they would be given the odds at least 10 to 1 for inappropriate behavior.

Again lets be realistic here young female in her 20s puts partion up between her and old 50 something man. If the article hadn't said disability no one would be asking why.

I have seen many use a physical disability to avoid being responsible for their actions, having been raised with many friends like me or worse they used their situation to get away with stuff no one else would and the second anything happened they would raise the "it is because a am disabled".

If you have ever worked in a Japanese business, school, etc..and claim you have never seen inappropriate behavior by the old men then I say you are the only one I have ever heard claim that.

My son only started working last year in work place diversity and he has been floored by the actions and behaviour of older Japanese men and cannot understand how they have gotten away with it for all these years seeing everyone in the office are very aware of it but no one says anything not even top management.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This woman has daily work that need to be done, as mentioned that her coworker has a handicap. Some handicap can be really become annoying to people who in close proximity. This article just mentioned a little what she need to face, day by day.

Disgusting. Why is this comment allowed to remain posted mods? You delete comments that are far less offensive.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I suffered constant harassment on a daily basis in a similar setting; however the staff did not even have desks! Everyone sat at tables, 6 to each table, and wedged together shoulder-to-shoulder. The staff member immediately to my left for whatever reason took a disliking to me (perhaps he noticed that I am a foreigner and I towered over his diminutive 160 cm height). Gradually his papers and books would slide over every day when I returned, and cover my narrow 50 cm workspace. This problem became worse and worse, especially when he dragged out his computer and put his mousepad in the centre of my space -- alternate computers for anyone to use were located everywhere...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A disabled man being overly sensitive is the same as an able bodied man being overly sensitive; pathetic.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

There's a lot of information lacking in this story, so it's really hard to judge it. Maybe this was the last straw for a disabled man who had experienced extensive harassment/bullying, which is why it affected him so much? Maybe it's the other way around and he had been acting inappropriately towards the woman? In any case, it sounds like there should be a better HR-system to handle these kinds of issues.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How much of a flake is the man?

1 ( +16 / -15 )

The man is physically disabled. Sounds like she is the one with a problem, plain discrimination.

1 ( +12 / -11 )

If this was 2020 then they should have been doing telework in the first place if that was for some reason not possible then barriers should have been in place anyway.

The man seems far to sensitive and needs to grow up.

I have a disability that causes constant tremors had co-workers says that it made them uncomfortable, I basically told them where the could put it.

But she says that was not the problem well I don't doubt it in a Japanese male oriented office environment I have far to often seen many inappropriate actions by men toward the younger women.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

What is a 50 something man?

And now I know that i can take sick leave with adjustment disorder. It is just a partition. My company placed those for COVID-19 but i know what to do now

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What is a 50 something man?

A man in his 50s!

Thought that one would be obvious.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Did they charge her with "obstruction of business"?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The article did hint that it might be a case of power harassment

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Read the article carefully.

who transferred into the division in April of 2019, is physically handicapped, though the woman denies that that was a factor in her putting up the barrier.

So no!

And just because she says so doesn't make it necessarily true either. People quite often deny that something was the motivation for their actions if it puts them in a bad light. Yes, it is absolutely possible that there was in fact another reason for her actions just as it is possible that she is lying, but without further information it is impossible to tell what is the truth here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Open-plan offices are proven to add to stress, higher error rates, accidents, bullying, and other problems. Every time I see one of these offices I look for the supervisor on the elevated platform micromanaging his minions. The woman in the article was wrong not to bring up the problem with her supervisor before installing the wall. In this type of environment unilateral action is a bad idea. I wonder how this story turned out after the supervisor and the HR department 'solved' it. Are both parties happy and productive? LOL

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The woman in the article was wrong not to bring up the problem with her supervisor before installing the wall.

We don't know that she didn't.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I love that this is considered a newsworthy story

It is very much newsworthy but lacking in details.

Had this been just some company office it wouldn't be news but it isn't it is a government office and such things as possible inappropriate behavior, or discrimination, failure by senior staff to catch the problem or fix the problem makes it news.

What should also be news is how during covid a city off doesn't seem to be practicing proper safety protocol. My local Ramen shop had had partions up since the spring and reduced the number of seats at the counter.

So newsworthy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Co-workers can be distracting.... Also, bad lighting.... I used to sit in a corner of the office and faced toward the inside of the room, so I could see pretty much everyone in the room. I bought some large sheets of black posterboard and attached them to the back of my monitors using the vesa mount holes to add a good six inches of "bezel" beyond my screen edges so that I could look at the edges of my monitors without simultaneously seeing everything my coworkers were doing in the background. Much better for focus. It was also great for blocking out extra background light, which seemed to bug my eyes. Many people who saw my setup from a distance, just thought I had extra large monitors.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If the 50-year old man is of such a weak mind that he has to stay home sick from work for having his feelings hurt for months on end because Dumiko hung up some cardboard around her desk, then the company is better off without him until he gets professional help.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan's archaic office system is the real problem here but I think this guy just found a convenient way to play the victim and get out of work and they both seem to have benefited.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

The younger person does not say that the older person did anything wrong, but that she did not like having to see him. Rather rude of her, I think. She could have asked to be moved, or at least she could have explained her position to someone.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The work place seems to be city hall and the man is handicapped in some way. No surprise, as I often see handicapped people working at city offices. Was the proximity of this handicapped man the cause of her stress? She denies it but no other reason is given. This might be a case of her being discriminatory and disrespectful of him solely due to his handicap. Or it might be that the man has done or said inappropriate things to her.

Without details it is impossible to know, so I think we ought not to criticize either of them. Let the city officials handle it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"a boy in his 50's..."

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This woman has daily work that need to be done, as mentioned that her coworker has a handicap. Some handicap can be really become annoying to people who in close proximity. This article just mentioned a little what she need to face, day by day.

Disgusting. Why is this comment allowed to remain posted mods? You delete comments that are far less offensive.

It's easy to be disgusted, but try being in her shoes and see if you react differently.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fire. They were both not hired, got a signed contract , were paid monthly salaries and bonus payments just the one to stay at home for crying or the other for playing with table partitions and discussing unrelated handicaps. They have to leave their private unanimosities together with the pyjama at home when they leave for work in the morning. What a kindergarten is that there?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Just goes to show how bright she is, she should have put up a plastic screen, and put up some pictures on it or something, then she could have said its a screen for protection against C19 virus. I dont think then the co could have done anything. as for going home, well thats a bit stupid really, he could of asked to be moved or just say to the woman what your problem with me?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love that this is considered a newsworthy story

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's easy to be disgusted, but try being in her shoes and see if you react differently.

If she was being sexually harassed, then I hope this is brought to light and her co-worker loses his job. My comment was directed at sakurasuki's assertion that disabled people caused annoyance to those around them. You're not digusted by his/her statement?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are many self obsessed young women in Japan that will remain so well into their silver years.

It can’t really be helped.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Oh Man, this is fantastic... can I do the same and get off free with a huge payout!??

One of my friends told me how during this Pandemic she decided to avoid trains and run into work, she's a Marathon addict. Anyway, a day or two after entering the office in her running gear, and changing into normal attire within their bathrooms - she told me, that a Company memorandum was circulated informing employees that dress code forbid entry to the premises that would bring the company into disrepute with their visitors...

She then commented that Cycle Couriers were often worse dressed than her, and often smelt worse!

One has to wonder....

Japan is so messed up at times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Surprising that the open workspace is more popular in Japan when a lot of social customs in Japanese culture is based on not disturbing others like not talking on cell phones in trains or buses, women-only train cars, women-only floors in hotels, restaurants with dividers like Ichiran, smoking zones, etc. to avoid any disturbances or conflicts. I don't think there is anything wrong with partisans and cubicles in the workplace to help keep the peace when spending immense amounts of time at work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If this man is handicapped to the point of being dismembered or disfigured or something serious like that than the comments from posters above are horrifically cruel.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

Tokyo-Eng: "One thing that is absolutely certain from the article... There is not enough information provided to even begin to speculate as to why the lady put up the partition."

Ummm... for something you declare as being absolutely certain, you missed the part where she absolutely says it was just because the man stressed her out. I thought for SURE we were reading an article where the man simply took offense to her putting up a barrier to protect herself from covid -- which they should have anyway -- but you would DEFINITELY say that was the reason if it were the case, and not simply that the man stressed her out.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

She needs to be disciplined for her discriminatory conduct, demoted and have her salary reduced. Not acceptable behaviour, even when the victim is male, let alone a person with a disability.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

When asked why she put up the partition, the woman said “Working with him has been a recurring source of stress. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I put up the barrier without being really conscious of doing so.”

This woman has daily work that need to be done, as mentioned that her coworker has a handicap. Some handicap can be really become annoying to people who in close proximity. This article just mentioned a little what she need to face, day by day.

-4 ( +14 / -18 )

Typical ..the woman gets away with it again . She should be reprimanded severely .

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

How old did the text say they were?

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

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