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I won’t leave. Companies aren’t supposed to act this way. It’s inhumane.

38 Comments

Shusaku Tani, who has worked for Sony for 32 years. The company offered him early retirement but after he refused, he was assigned to the "chasing-out room," where he does nothing all day but read newspapers and browse the Internet. (New York Times)

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38 Comments
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Tani-san, are you royalty with a job until death? Sony is a business. Should get a decent payout.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I wouldn't mind reading newspapers and watching cat videos in return for a paycheck.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Here's the original article in the NY Times. Due to Japanese labor laws, he's stuck in some kind of legal limbo in employment.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/business/global/layoffs-illegal-japan-workers-are-sent-to-the-boredom-room.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In a nutshell why Abenomics faces so many challenges. Although must say I do think that he has a point.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is a massive failure on the part of Sony. Firstly, why don't they retrain these guys instead of trying to bore them to death? I mean seriously, they're 51, not 71. They're capable of being retrained, they have tons of experience, and frankly paying them a salary to watch cat videos is a waste. If the guy is reading old engineering textbooks then rather put some newer textbooks in the room. Whoever reads the textbooks gets offered training, whoever would prefer to watch cat videos than improve themselves can stay there.

Secondly, Sony clearly has no HR development policy in place. In a well run organisation with a modern HR department you wouldn't end up with dead-end employees like these. It is ridiculous that the situation has reached this sort of impasse. Where is their career path planning? Where is their training and development plan? ... and people think Abenomics will solve problems like this? No, the problems run FAR deeper and the complete lack of modern HRM in Japan is a big part of it.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

I wish Japan would change their laws. Fire those who need to be fired, hire those who have what they want. Mind you, if i was this guy, I wouldn't leave either. 32 years at Sony? He's got to be on at least 10 million a year by now.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

>Sony said it was not doing anything wrong in placing employees in what it calls Career Design Rooms. Employees are given counseling to find new jobs in the Sony group, or at another company, it said. Sony also said that it offered workers early retirement packages that are generous by American standards: in 2010, it promised severance payments equivalent to as much as 54 months of pay.

This is the reality.

But the real point of the rooms is to make employees feel forgotten and worthless — and eventually so bored and shamed that they just quit, critics say.

This is the bull faeces from the critics. Sony is in huge trouble, not being able to legally fire these people. One the other hand, such leeching workers do not feel the need to look for another job, as long as they get a paycheck for doing nothing. After two years, one should be able to do something else.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sony can't fire nonperforming workers just like any Japanese company. Unless an individual decided to quit himself, the company has no other recourse but to make them feel unwanted. A 51 year old receives about 10M Yen salary even without bonuses. His service is no longer needed yet he is not willing to face the fact and try to get another job. He will cling to his job for another 10 years even he has to go through hell rather move on.

People like him actually made companies choose the easier path, one year contract for almost all coming workers with no security no bonuses no benefits. Companies need have the power to fire workers too.

A balance is needed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's pretty shocking that somebody gets 54 months of pay at a time, asked to leave and still wants to be a corporate slave instead of starting a new business.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

He has made himself unemployable in his industry due to his decision to not take redundancy because the firm that he worked at for 32 years will black ball him to anyone asking for a reference.

He should have taken the money, and now he is just a drain on the productive staff who may themselves get cut in lieu of him. Totally selfish behaviour!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

...try to get another job.

In the rigid, agist market that is Japan?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

After two years, one should be able to do something else.

No, not at his age and he's well aware of that. This is why Japan is facing such issue. Hire straight out of uni, train them as you please, allow them to be useless and when the company goes down the tubes for having little production and innovation, you're stuck with aging, ageless staff that know no one wants them. Japan created the problem, Japan will have to deal with the problem. Shame we're all here having to pay for the price in unproductive workers and slave like employers.

To be honest, from what I hear and what I have seen, most 50 year old and up employees are nothing but a drain on the companies/schools here. There are, of course, exceptions but most of them are "sempai" bullies who do very little work and make life hell for the younger workers - all while claiming massive paychecks and bonuses. They feel they are allowed to do this because they were treated the same way and around and around we go. Seeing as how these guy run the country, can't see any new laws or rules coming in to change things.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Getting paid to read the newspaper all day? That sounds kind of dreamy. I wonder if he's limited to the newspaper? I mean could he study something, take an online course, knit, etc. or does it have to be the newspaper?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It must be good for the jobless rate, because I cannot imagine this guy and all like him (there are quite a number...!) getting another job!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sure, as Frungy points out, it's Sony's fault for not being smarter with their employees, but geez, this guy is 52, he's being offered a generous severance package, he's Japanese so presumably he has quite a bit stashed away in savings - why doesn't he just take the money and "retire" early?

Let's say he's getting 40 million in severance pay. He probably has at least another 10 million or so in savings. With a fairly low risk investment he could easily earn 5%pa interest on that, which would be enough to live on - not extravagantly perhaps, but enough. Why not quit and enjoy life?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I never understood that..making them feel unwanted and not giving them any work but paying for them to do nothing. On the other hand it is better than what some smaller companies do. My husband was once asked by a boss (who is now transferred and demoted due to similar incidents) to bully an old man to make him quit. I told him "don't you dare bully that man! what if he were your father!?" He refused to bully the poor man so the boss started to bully my husband which ended after a few months due to demotion. If it's not the chase out room it is bullying....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

this guy is 52, he's being offered a generous severance package, he's Japanese so presumably he has quite a bit stashed away in savings...He probably has at least another 10 million or so in savings

I'm no glad you're not into cultural stereotypes, papasmurf!

Here's another cultural stereotype equally likely in Japan - he's 52, he's got two or three kids coming up to or in university following a series of private schools and a hefty mortgage from the bubble years that won't be paid off for another ten or fifteen years, all of which adds up to his savings being close to zero if not negative, and the best job his wife can get to help out is minimum-wage cash register at the local supermarket.

The reality is probably somewhere in between.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I'm no glad you're not into cultural stereotypes, papasmurf!

I'm fully into cultural stereotypes. : ) But you are right, I don't know his situation well enough to encourage him to retire early. If it was me, in my circumstances I'd say thank you Sony for the past 30 years and enjoy the rest of my life. But that's just me.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

TokyoTanukiAug. 19, 2013 - 10:56AM JST He has made himself unemployable in his industry due to his decision to not take redundancy because the firm that he worked at for 32 years will black ball him to anyone asking for a reference.

I beg to disagree. He is unemployable because he is 51 (99% of companies in Japan wouldn't touch him), and his skills are outdated.

As an employer Sony KNOWS that it cannot just fire old employees, so it should have put some thought into how to maintain the skills of older employees.

Instead of doing the logical thing and planning ahead it instead tried to first bribe him into quitting (an expensive move compare to the cost of retraining), and then when that failed tried to stress and humiliate him into quitting (a move that could get even more expensive if he, for example, committed suicide and wrote in his suicide note that the humiliation and stress were too much to bear).

Sony has shown a complete lack of strategic HRM planning, a complete lack of respect for the dignity and integrity of these workers, and MOST importantly a complete lack of business sense. This is a simple cost-benefit equation that any MBA graduate could do. The current benefit is 0. The current cost is their annual salary, plus the cost of the room, plus any other sundries they consume. Literally ANY other course of action would be more productive than the one they're taking.

He should have taken the money, and now he is just a drain on the productive staff who may themselves get cut in lieu of him. Totally selfish behaviour!

I disagree. If Sony finally learns something from this individual, reforms their HRM policies and gets in place a proper career path plan, then it could be of tremendous benefit to the company. Sometimes the boat needs to be rocked a little in order to produce positive change. If he merely complied then nothing would change and Sony would continue to lose experienced employees while paying them inflated retirement packages. That is a selfish lose-lose situation.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Its not the SONY" a Japanese company which is wrong doing this way.. There is a whole list of Japanese Companies filled with big Names like SONY. I remember one of my friend working in NOMURA (Japan's biggest Security Firm) got similar treatment (was asked to seat at home, when she refused to quit), finally she resigned out of shame and anger.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An extra issue with Japanese economy is that there's not much horizontal employment opportunities. It's not like a middle-aged worker can just quit a job and get hired at an equivalent level job as easily. A long-time Sony employee is so molded only in Sony ways that the skills are seen as untransferable to non-Sony. And it's not as easy to start up an own business when big business are favored.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

here is full artricle. http://www.cnbc.com/id/100969302 The picture of the boredom room is good.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

AKBfan,

The picture in your link is of new graduate recruits. Perhaps boring to behold, but hardly the boredom room of the article.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If Sony finally learns something from this individual, reforms their HRM policies and gets in place a proper career path plan, then it could be of tremendous benefit to the company. Sometimes the boat needs to be rocked a little in order to produce positive change.

Except for the fact that what will actually happen, and what is already being discussed is to simply make it easier for companies to fire any FTE. Lose-lose for everyone.

I remember one of my friend working in NOMURA (Japan's biggest Security Firm) got similar treatment (was asked to seat at home, when she refused to quit), finally she resigned out of shame and anger.

Yes and NOMURA, Mizuho and Daiwa only offer 1 year contracts to IT staff now as a direct result of their inability to fire them when times are hard.

I have seen useless managers moved to permanent roles that have no purpose, and underperformers refusing to leave resulting in more competent staff being cut.

In what way is SONY responsible for this person's entire life? They likely paid him well enough, since he started working during the bubble. Are they trully responsible for the next 14 years of his (potential) working career? At what point is he responsible for himself? Companies cannot retain and transform their entire workforce as markets change, when entire units become obslete they sometimes simply have to cut. By law he would have priviliged consideration over any outsider for any SONY role that was advertised externally if he was qualified for it and applied. If his story listed the number of times he was denied internal roles, or was denied training, then he would have at least tried; but to complain that he was put in a boring role after refusing to take a 20-50 million yen payout doesnt elicit much sympathy from me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

No wonder Sony loses so much money

2 ( +2 / -0 )

he does nothing all day but read newspapers and browse the Internet.

Sounds like a cross between an ALT and a junior JHS teacher!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If he has been on the job for 32 years, he may have been one of the "kin no tomago" (golden egg) of what at the time was deemed to be the "shinjinrui" (new generation of mankind). The era started in 1975 when recent college graduates considered themselves golden eggs who could choose which corportation they accepted employment with. The corporations lamented what they feared was the "shinjinrui" that would have the selfishness and audacity to think of the well being of their families above that of their corporations and actually take much, if not all, of their allotted vacation time. However, now, 38 years later, the corporations still enslave their employees by keeping them insecure and dependent on their employment status for their self identity.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Who says he's non-performing? I've heard it from a senior manager in an insurance company that's it's becoming the norm to try and boot out non-manager employees at the age of 50 - not because they're useless; just because someone younger and cheaper can do the same job as them.

In a big company how many are truly indispensable in their jobs? Not everyone can be a manager, and not every non-manager is useless.

What's more, the job market in Japan is not as flexible as in the USA, UK, Europe, Australia, etc. If you lose your job at 50 then you're going to be on a bottom dollar salary in any new job you get. He's probably still paying a mortgage, paying for his kids' college, trying to save a pension....

You graduate and start work at around 25 and companies are now giving you around 25 years before they try and kick you out. Try getting married, buying a house, putting kids through school and saving your pension in 25 years on an average salary. Doesn't add up.

And these rooms of shame that companies set up are nothing more than bullying. If Sony saw fit to use his labour for 32 years then it can at least show the man some respect.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Tani has worked for 32 years and it's called "early" retirement? Assuming he joined the company at the age of 23, he'd be 55 now, heck, if the company offered me "early" retirement, I'd take it.  

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There is so much wrong with Sony and their business practices that I avoid Sony products whenever possible. Sadly, people tend to go with the big boys no matter what evil they do.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Another good reason why we shouldn't rely on (=trust?) our companies (or governments for that matter) to look after us until we retire and/or beyond. He needed to learn some transferable skills and, ideally, learn how to start some kind of business himself. It may not be too late for him if he is smart and uses his payout to establish a small business. You need to have guts to do it but if your company really doesn't want you around, there is a limit to how long you can or should fight it before you start having major mental issues. People need to feel useful in their jobs and companies need to have useful people. A few years ago, I recall a Sony acquaintance of mine saying that Sony was offering 5 years' severance pay for middle management which isn't bad at all. You shouldn't be afraid to leave your company (of course it is a bit scary) as long as you have the passion and drive to work elsewhere or find a way to work for yourself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the funny thing is it worked! However the title is proof again that irony isn't a word in Japanese, as technically businesses are not alive, nor human.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There is so much wrong with Sony and their business practices that I avoid Sony products whenever possible. Sadly, people tend to go with the big boys no matter what evil they do.

You think Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, even Samsung, LG etc are any better? Are you boycotting their products too?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What is the "chasing out" expression? I learned it was the "mado giwazoku" job.

cracaphat, that's what they called it in the older days when there only a handful, but it's gone a bit more agressive since then. Look at the link by genjuro. You'll get the full picture.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Who says he's non-performing? I've heard it from a senior manager in an insurance company that's it's becoming the norm to try and boot out non-manager employees at the age of 50...

Anyone who is working in a large Japanese company for 30 odd years and is in their 50s and is NOT at manager level IS rather incompetent. For his age and time entering the company pretty much all of those worth their salaries are managers or in management position. Heck, I know of companies now who still create titles of manager even if they don't manage someone because of their age and how long they have been at the company.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Anyone who is working in a large Japanese company for 30 odd years and is in their 50s and is NOT at manager level IS rather incompetent.

tmarie - utter rubbish. Do the maths, it doesn't add up. Let's say a company hires 50 freshmen. Do you honestly believe 25 years later they are all going to be managers? 50 managers plus the ones who were managers before them (the previous year's intake, and all the ones before that), now aged 51 to 60 and still going strong. Wow, that's - how many hundreds of managers?!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hats, it doesn't "have" to add up, it's Japan. Far more managers than they need because everyone was pretty much promoted to manager level with the old system - unless you were extremely incompetent. Which is why these companies have serious issues with lack of innovation and huge salaries to pay. Which is why they are trying to get rid of this guy - more of a chance of getting rid of him than a manager.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

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