Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Repercussions of Irresponsible Flyjin Management

Immediately after the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, many foreigners panicked and fled Japan. At that time, I was sharply critical of many members of the foreign community for doing so.

As a seasoned veteran of the mass media, I knew from decades of experience that one must always take with a huge grain of salt what is broadcast on the mass media as "news." On this very blog I reported about many past exaggerations. On March 18, in the midst of the disaster, and while events were unfolding, I warned people not to believe the mass media sensationalism. In the post entitled: Japan Nuclear Disaster Update and Strong Criticism of Western Media Sensationalism I wrote: 

The western media is having a field day with the nuclear accident in Japan. If you believe them, you'd think all of Japan were underwater and that we are all about to die. This sort of crass sensationalism is a damned disgrace and you should be very skeptical of what these idiots are telling you. The guys working in the news are wishing for big stories. If they can't get them, they make them.

Remember my Golden Rule about TV: "90% of everything you see on TV is bullshit; the other 10% are commercials."

Actually, it astounds me that people do accept what what the media says as gospel truth. Don't forget that this is the very same media that told us 3 years ago that Swine Flu was going to kill more than 50 million people worldwide. This was the same media that told us that the USA had to invade Iraq because of Saddam's nooklar weapons. This was the same media that told us that SARS also was a killer virus that was going to wipe out entire populations. This was the same media that told us that Bird Flu was going to do the same.

As of today, worldwide deaths from Swine Flu: 82. No nuclear weapons for Saddam (if he had any, do you really think we would have invaded Iraq?). Worldwide deaths from SARS: 100. Worldwide deaths from Bird Flu: 80. Don't even get me started on Man Made Global Warming!

Fact of the matter is that this is the same media who constantly exaggerates stories in order to sell advertising space to an extremely gullible public. When will people ever learn? If history is any example then the answer is: Never. They'll never learn.

Even so, that some people - especially those with pregnant wives or small children - decided to send their families away just to be on the safe side, these people deserve no criticism. The ones who deserve strong criticism are the foreign management who left their positions of management all the while claiming to take business trips while leaving their Japanese staff to hold the fort.

If they thought it was so dangerous that they had to leave then, as management, they had a duty to take care of their Japanese staff first. The captian is not the first to abandon ship. 

Besides deserving scorn and ridicule those people don't deserve their jobs.

....all the foreign upper-management have gone on unspecified "business trips" (with their families) and have left no return date to their staff. I could tell from the way she said it and her attitude  that she and her husband were disgusted at these people. What dedicated and responsible management, eh? What a great way to build respect for management.

I will, here, take this chance to strongly criticize the foreign management of Coca-Cola Japan for showing such a compete lack of responsibility to their employees and to the Japanese people. So much for Corporate Social Responsibility, eh Coca-Cola? Also, so much for dedication to your work and company. Leaving on a "business trip"? Disgusting. Don't you clowns have the guts to even say that you are running away? Saying that it is a "business trip" allows you to get paid from your company at the same time you skirt your responsibilities all the while you expect that your staff and workers continue on like everyday? If I were your boss, we'd definitely have more than a few words about this. I'd probably fire you.

I can understand you sending your family away... But you running away too? And then expecting to get paid and your employees to carry on in your absence at the same time!? 


So much for the days of the captain being the last to leave a sinking ship. And, in this case, the ship is not even close to sinking. Coca-Cola wussies. I'll never drink that stuff again.

At that time, I also warned that fleeing foreign management and their corporations one extremely important message. That was a message of trust and respect between the Japanese staff and their foreign management. Never forget that, in any relationship, be it work or personal, it takes years of effort and dedication to build trust. It takes just but one action to destroy that trust.

That's what this post is about. It is a report from a conversation I had last night with a Japanese staff person and what she told me that her 25 or so Japanese colleagues think of their foreign boss because he ran away, lied and claimed he was on a business trip so that he could collect money (call this what you want, but I think most people with common sense would call it theft) and yet left the Japanese to stay on at work as if nothing happened.

Now, let me say a word about this company that this lady works at; I have been to that company many times over these past 8 years. This is a very demoralized company. The atmosphere in the company is very negative and the staff, when not in the office, ridicule the management openly... (it is strange that some of them would so easily and quickly ridicule management to me as I am a stranger to many of them). This company has all the makings of a company heading for bankruptcy. It reminds me of a run down government office. It is dirty, dark and the employees are not motivated at all to do a good job. The employees at that company are all just sliding by doing the minimum of effort they need to do to get by. 

And why not? Why should they do more than their "leader" does?

This lady told me with gritted teeth that their boss ran away during the crisis and returned as if nothing happened. She was still very angry five months later! The Japanese staff were dumbfounded when he ran away. They felt that they were expected to stay and work everyday (they did). Their boss took his family away to Okinawa and stayed in a 5 star hotel sending his meeting itinerary to the office everyday. She mockingly told me that he, 

"Sent us his itinerary as if he had business meeting in a Okinawa hotel three times a day for three weeks! Everyone in the office knew he had no such meetings. He just sent in those forms and schedule so that he could get paid. Unbelievable!"

That's just scandalous and, no matter how you slice it, claiming a business meeting in an Okinawa hotel everyday for three weeks is just plain stealing from the company. Talk about just asking for his staff to disrespect him. 

When he returned, there was no apology, no nothing. Here's a guy who exhorts the troops to go out a do a good job? What a disgrace.

Let me give another important aspect of this case to you, dear reader to consider. 

One of the biggest complaints that foreigners and foreign management have of the Japanese is that they do not take initiative and that they do not take responsibility. It is commonly complained about by the foreigners that the Japanese must be told what to do or they will do nothing. I am not here to argue this point at all. I am just passing along what is a common complaint about the Japanese.

I have, though, heard this very same foreign boss say this exact thing to me before.

This woman also related this part: Just before this foreigner left his company, he hurriedly called the staff and told them that he was going on a business trip to Okinawa and that, during the Fukushima disaster, that they can decide what to do by themselves. Then he left in a rush.

This woman who relayed this story to me told me that the Japanese staff held a meeting after that and they didn't know what to do. She said they didn't understand what he meant. She did say though that people were scathing about this foreigner and sharply critical of his lack of leadership. 

By his saying that they could "decide what to do" mean that they could leave and go home? Did it mean that they would still keep their jobs if they did so? If they did go home, would they still get paid? This incompetent foreigner failed to do the minimum that was required of him.

On the one hand, he complains that the Japanese can't decide what to do by themselves, then on the other hand, he tells them to decide what to do by themselves?! What a dimwit.

Any competent leader would have said, "I am leaving with my family until the situation is clear. Please go home to take care of your families and wait for my contact on what to do after that and when it is safe to return to work. If you need me, here is my contact. I am available for you anytime."

Like I said, this is what a competent leader would have said. But, then again this guy is far from competent.

Now, after reading the above, is it any wonder why the Japanese staff do not work hard at this company? Is it any wonder why they are completely demoralized? Is it any wonder why they don't respect their boss? What is a wonder is why the owners of this company do not fire this guy and the second wonder of the world is why the Japanese staff don't hate this guy with a passion and openly revolt! 

(An interesting side note, though... this guy must know that his staff hate him and have zero respect for him... How can he stand his job? Or, gulp, is he really that clueless and incompetent?)

It's been now nearly 5 months after the Fukushima disaster began. The radiation situation in Tokyo is no worse or no better than it was 5 months ago. The foreigners have for the most part returned.

The only thing that has changed is the disregard and lack of respect that the Japanese staff now have for their foreign management that ran away.

It seems to be would now be wise for corporations in Japan to investigate and review how their "leaders" acted in this crisis and take appropriate actions to remedy situations that are not conducive to company culture and profits.


Garin said...

Totaly Agree Mike, the true mettle of a manager becomes clear in a crisis. Some handled the march 11 situation well others very poorly.

The old saying; do as I say not as I do rings very true.

Captains of industry or rats on a sinking ship?

Anonymous said...

I stayed throughout the whole thing and offered to help my neighbors and those at work (I am not a business manager, just a lowly teacher). I am as disgusted by the stories of the foreigners who only thought of themselves at a time of crisis but make no mistake, there were many many more Japanese national who did exactly the same thing and let others down.

This should not be an opportunity to show differences between people but rather show differences in character as part of a one world people living under the same sky.

Anonymous said...

This man was a twit before the disaster and a twit after it.

It has nothing to do with flyjin or how you interpret the current and on-going risks that we all face. It is not so easy being a foreigner in any country when an emergency happens, let alone one where most gaijin can't read the labels on their food to know where it is produced. Generally, they are only here for a two or three years and as Japanese is not a global language, most people master the polite phrases but have no major incentive to master the whole language. This is the gaijin you seem to talk about. What happened to the cheap factory workers or cleaners you import for labour? Did they desert there responsibilities too?

I also remember the advise given to Japanese nationals in our company after the London bombings -get home as soon as you can!

Oh yes, the world, especially the Anglo Saxon one, was being attacked. Go home to safe Japan - and they did.

Most nationals recognise that they have little choice to endure their own problems. What most nationals don't accept is enduring someone else's! You voted for nuclear, you put them by a fault line, you had consistently ignored international advise about the cosy relationship of the independent regulator.

Not the people that are here to work, enjoy a beautiful culture and fantastic life experience, for a short time. Trying to widen their horizons and probably those of their children.

Those that have chosen to live here, have married here, have built their lives here are different, if they left they deserve all the criticism you have to hand out.

wishknew said...

Let's stop with the flyjin reference, shall we? It gets tiring and only encourages stereotyping. This manager is not a good one, that should be the end of this article, flyjin or not.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

As a guy who works outside all the time and visits a very many different bunch of companies all I can say is:

1) That I have yet to meet or hear of any Japanese management person who left Tokyo. Only foreigners.

2) The excuse that "the Japanese did it too" doesn't hold water. Yes, indeed this is a complete judgement of character. Hence, the excuse that "Everyone did it so I did too." Is a very poor excuse. Is there any one of us whose mother didn't admonish us that, "If everyone robbed a bank, would you do it too?"

Besides my company that I run, I also do marketing and give advice as such to many companies in Tokyo and have yet to hear of Japanese management that ran away and don't believe that they did... And if they did, they have lost their job's now. It is a shameful thing that these people did.

Anonymous said...

They did't run from here because they can't, they live here, their lives are here and their families are here. They have run from posting overseas in exactly the same way, returning to the safe haven of Japan - why? Because they could. Don't hold up the great Japanese stoic when the truth is they had no alternative and still don't, they have to continue their lives here. That's the difference.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Excellent point anonymous! So don't complain when you are treated like second class citizens in Japan because of your skin color... Don't complain when you can't vote, yet are taxed... Don't complain when you are racially profiled by the police....

After all, you have somewhere to run to, right?

How hypocritical! Are you so dense that you can't even see the elementary failings of your argument?

Pathetic at best.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

PS: Like another poster said, "this is a question of character".... Obviously, some people's character is more lacking than even their analytical abilities.

Anonymous said...

I believe you mix up your arguments all the time. Now we are talking about race and social welfare issues. Not an emergency situation that has high potential health risks which are as yet still unknown by anyone, including you. I, and many gaijin, have not emigrated to Japan. I don't want the vote in Japan as I am not a citizen of Japan.

The big difference between the Japanese salaryman and those posted here from other countries is that the salaryman has no choice. When he joins a corporation, he signs up for life. One where the corporation takes first priority in return for all financial and social care of the individual for life. Even he wanted to leave he can't. At 40 something, which is what he will be as a manager in Japan, if he lost his job, where is he going to go? The labour market in Japan is not flexible (though changing a little). So, what he does is send his family to Osaka like many, many did. He himself goes to work as a good soldier.

For the gaijin in management positions (which seem to be the ones you keep highlighting; not the underpaid, ill treated second class immigrants that you are reluctantly allowing to stay in Japan for a few years and who do deserve the full rights of the country as a citizen) the whole thought process is different. They are generally from flexible labour markets. If they are good, and they generally are or they wouldn't have been asked to transfer here, they are confident enough to know they can get another job with another company.

The company (Japanese or western - makes no difference) guarantees them no job for life and they know it. In this way, they are free to decide for themselves. Some stayed, some left. Some returned, some have not returned. And under this "contract style", the cultural background of the west is that the family comes first. Why, because that is what counts in life, the people that you love and love you, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.

The company does not care for an individual in the same way, they are not concerned about their true health in the same way. Strange that these gaijin are so weak that they can take this decision, to sacrifice their careers and livelihoods for the protection of their families. Maybe you could learn something from these flyjin if you just opened your eyes and stopped the stereotyping.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Perhaps I mix up my arguments.

I found this comment by you to be most interesting:

"And under this "contract style", the cultural background of the west is that the family comes first." This is an interesting notion considering that, without a job, how is it that the "family comes first"? No job, in most cases means no house or food.

With the US unemployment reaching 9.2% (officially) and over 20% (unofficially) and US food stamp participation over 45 million people, I find your argument quite uninformed and curious at best.

Anonymous said...

And I believe that is the point. Even in such difficult economic conditions, they put the welfare of the family first in health terms, not material or status ones. They are willing to take that risk.

But even the economic risk is there it is not the same as in Japan. In a liberal labour market, if you are good enough you will find another job, it is just a matter of time. High unemployment does not mean everyone is unemployed, it just means that it might take a little longer to find the right job or you may have to take a pay cut whist you rebuild your career. At worst you might have a life style change where you have to accept you can't afford to live like you used to. But, if you're good, you will be ok, and that's the difference in the confidence between the two that enables gaijin to take a different decisions. Some stayed, some left knowing the risks.

That is the decision they took when they left and it's not an easy one but they put the family and health ahead of personal economics.

Japanese men are not in the same situation. It is much more difficult for them to take this type of approach due to the social and labour market structure.

And please, stop treating everyone as ill informed. You are not the only one that reads. Learn how to debate without belittling the person with an opposing or alternative view.

Anonymous said...

There was nothing offensive or abusive about my comment in relation to the difference of the labour markets that enable people to make different choices so why did you remove it?

It was just reasoned debate. Don't worry, I know you read it, so try to think a bit wider than a tabloid new article.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Hey! What! ? I didn't remove any comments. I only remove comments that attack other readers (you can attack me, I don't care)... And I remove crass profanity. I didn't remove any comments. Please do, by all means, repost!


mike in tokyo rogers said...

Seriously, I didn't remove comments so accept my apologies and please take the time to repost... Sorry for the trouble.

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