Getting fired from Japanese company

Japanese companies still believe in the traditional life time employment system. As the economic bubble burst in 90s, a number of temp agencies started to increase in Japan. A lot of young people who left their “permanent” careers in the past signed up for a temp agency for quick job placement. Many companies started to use temp agencies because it requires less commitment and since they don’t have to pay the benefits, keeping temp employees is much cheaper.

So the employment system in Japan has slightly changed, yet it is still much more difficult to actually get fired from a Japanese company. Incompetence alone wouldn’t make the employer ask his employee to leave..but in America, it is a lot more harsh in that  sense. I’ve seen new staff being let go within a day, the next day, after six months..even in a government position so it is really all about productivity, politics. In general American employers don’t tolerate incompetence.

So if Japanese companies want their employees to quit, what do they normally do?

Unlike American companies, Japanese companies wouldn’t fire you outright. I have to say that this could potentially happen in American work but it is less likely. Japanese companies would take out job responsibilities and even the space of the staff they want to leave with a hope that he will voluntarily leave. That is..something.

According to a Japanese weekly magazine Shukan post, a typical interview goes something like this. Management will stress that it is not your fault but the economy is what it is, the company is fighting for its life and must slim down. They will assure you that your skills suit you for employment elsewhere, and promise every assistance in setting up contacts. A refusal on your part invites another round, and another..

It’s hard to function in an environment where you know you are not wanted. What’s the best course? As usual, the expert advice is conflicting.

Some counselors urge resistance, others favor accepting the inevitable. Recruiting consultant Ryo Ogata used to follow the former course but has since had second thoughts. “I used to advice people to tough it out,” he says. “But most people can’t keep up their confidence as the pressure persists. If you lose too much confidence, you are not going to look good when you finally do decide to go job hunting.”

The advantage, he has come to believe, lies with leaving sooner rather than later, wresting as high a settlement as you can, and flinging yourself into a second career before discouragement destroys your resolve.


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