Monday, May 21, 2012

Abusive workplace in jdoramas pt 2

Was reading this article titled 'Japanese Game Developer Apparently Harassed So Much, She Attempted Suicide' on Kotaku about this female employee who claims she was harassed and bullied while working at Capcom. What I want to talk about is not whether she was bullied or whether she was a useless employee that they tried to get rid of but the comments by Artic_Visionary which I will copy in paste here in italics.

Two things:
1) Most Japanese companies the size of Capcom hire new graduates straight out of college and train them to fit into the corporate culture there -- regardless of their major. If an employee is under-qualified, it is almost universally the company's fault because they haven't done enough to transition that person from education to employment.

2) Often times this kind of harassment stems from superiors who want to keep the status quo and can only eliminate troublesome (i.e. people with new ideas) employees by harassing them until they quit.

Capcom's HR people get applications from hundreds of soon-to-be-graduates of many major universities every January or so. If the applications come from students at lower universities, they are the first in the trash.

The applicants then go through hours of rigorous interviews to see how that person will fit into the Capcom *culture*. Experience is almost never necessary for new employees. They will get that experience at the company, and it's taken as a given that the company will train its employees -- i.e. mold them into good Capcom employees. This is the whole root of the lifetime-employment structure in Japan.

The big problem with this system is once you get into one of these big companies, you do whatever it takes to keep your job there. Often times that means working ridiculous amounts of overtime (see: karoushi - 'death by work'), or just keeping your mouth shut as you are abused by your supervisors.

You're not really applying for a company position, you're applying to enter a culture. And leaving that culture has severe implications on your ability to enter into other company cultures because you've already been trained to spec for somewhere else (i.e. you're not a pliable anymore).

I understand that you want people to stop being entitled, and that's more common even in Japan than it was before, but often times the choice comes down to sacrificing your future career opportunities and putting up with bullying. Only the sharpest people have any prospect of career mobility, and the Japanese university system rarely produces those kinds of individuals.

The thing about this article that sets off red flags for me is the term 'senior employee'. This is called Jyoushi in Japanese, and it's a hugely important term. This isn't her boss. This is someone with more seniority than her that is pulling rank to make her life hell. Bosses don't train their employees in the Japanese system. They rely on Jyoushi to supervise their underlings, even though Jyoushi don't have any authority, whatsoever. Jyoushi are supposed to be respected because they have seniority, but what that can also mean is that two people are theoretically doing the same job (programming) and the underling could have more working knowledge.

My thoughts

- A lot of interesting statements here, some of which I've read before. The first thing that came to me mind was the company induction in Freeter. Getting the employees to do weird exercises together.

- My pet hate is colleagues in doramas being dicks just for what I perceive to be useless challenge storywise for protagonists. Are such meaningless abuses by senior employees so common in Japan?

- If this is true this explains why the main character who always does his/her job well continues to get the irrational hate from colleagues.

- If quitting one's job is a death sentence then I can see why they put up with it. Would management not back up a less senior employee who is capable rather than an abusive jyoushi? Or is there a culture of no one must rock the boat and you have to put up with it until you get underlings to abuse yourself?

- Changing jobs is so common in Australia. Most of the people I work with now were not there when I started. Its more about what skill sets you have acquired in your job and how it can be applied to your new one.

- I still think characters like the boss from Strawberry Night in the above picture who just shouts for no reason every episode and does nothing useful. It does nothing for the story.


Kiriyama said...

Do you really think he was yelling at Takeuchi Yuko's character for no reason?

Admittedly, I watched Strawberry Night several months ago, and I watched it without the benefit of fan subs - my Japanese is still a work in progress - but I thought he was yelling at her because he was a bigot.

Police forces can be really toxic environments for women. I live in a supposedly "enlightened" country (Canada) and even here female police officers routinely come forward with awful stories of verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse at the hands of their male superiors and colleagues.

I can only imagine what it would be like for a female police officer in Japan who dared to dream that she could be more than just a parking ticket lady.

I've watched other Japanese police procedurals that feature female characters in the lead role that just gloss over the difficulties that such a character would likely face in reality - Zettai Reido comes to mind. I suppose that's fine - they choose to focus on telling a different kind of story but I really appreciated that Strawberry Night chose to tell this story. It reminded me a lot of Prime Suspect - both the classic British version starring Helen Mirren and the under-appreciated American version starring Maria Bello.

The yelling superior probably is a bad tv trope, but in the case of Strawberry Night I think it's appropriate. Takeuchi Yuko's character is negotiating her place in an organization that is not used to having women within it's ranks - especially at the level she is at. I think it's realistic that some of the characters would be resentful and hostile.

Akiramike said...

I only watched like 3 episodes and the yelling bigot boss who does nothing at all just feels so tiresome for me though you have a point in that Takeuchi Yuko should face such prejudices.

If they made it clear that he just yells at her because he believes women have no place in the force then fine.