Sacked for doing a good job.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike Huay, Jan 28, 2002.

  1. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    I guess I can say I had a rare opportunity as an American to work inside a traditional Japanese company.
    I took my work very seriously. I was hired to do training and presentations, and I improved the dismal state of affairs in this area since a year ago. I branched out. I designed the layout of some important brochures and the company's international website and all its navigation and wrote or edited all the copy. I changed the way presentations and meetings went by introducing the radical concept of listening. I traveled around Japan and to Asia and trained sales people and buyers.
    Working in a Japanese company is like living in North Korea. There is absolutely no transparency to anything. The word is used because is is a nice PR term, but it does not exist. Not even to your own performance or whatever. Nothing in writing is ever given to you, just verbal hints that can later be denied.
    So what did I do? I highlighted the areas of past achievement, proposed what I would do for the next year, and asked for a payraise that would make up for the sliding yen. Note that my pay was not spectacular anyway. That was it. The pay and rank is based on age only and I am 30. No matter how inept a manager is who is say, over 50, he will have a huge salary. (For example 1 million yen a month and 2 bonuses a year of more than 3M yen each.) There is no system to hold managers (middle or high level) responsible for their performance. To ask for a salary that I could not earn until 35 at 30 is unheard of. (And I found out it will get you no contract at all.) It is a wholly unjust system that is only starting to fall apart (the Western media says its dead, but it is still the dominant practice in Japan) It will only fall apart when Japan's economy is totally in ruins, and its heading that way. It is not capitalism. It is a system that protects the incompetent, and punishes the able. It is now famous that many great talents have been leaving Japan for years.
    Protecting status of high level people is one of the most fundamental values here. If an employee makes improvements that were not made in 20 years by a manager, and does not allow the do-nothing-manager to take COMPLETE credit for the actions, the employee is out of line. Without tooting my horn, I am sure that I would have been rewarded for my performance had I been in an American company. But here, its all about when the highest boss comes to work on a Monday with a certain haircut, how many male employees can get that same haircut by Friday. (Without anything being said of course.) I am not kidding.
    I have been here for several years, first in another capacity and there are many many things I love about Japan. Many people, the FOOD, the land, many cultural aspects. But the current political power, which lies with a network of people spanning across banks, companies, government, yakuza, police, royal ties, and even institutions such as that cult. That political power is choking Japan to death while most people passively or unknowingly let it happen. Moreover, there are some scarry ideas which most foreigners don't immagine exist anymore. On any given Sunday, trucks with massive loudspeakers ride around major cities shouting "pro" Japanese-race statements, should get military power back, anti-foreigners statements, etc. I am certain that most Japanese people do not agree with these kinds of things, but the apathy is a concern.
    Intellegent educated people have no idea of the bank crises here because the newspapers are silent about it. Maybe I am just old fashoned, or read too much Drucker, but help may lie with foreign buyouts of companies such as with Nissan, when they get a dose of the art of MANAGEMENT, which has been missing for 10+ years since the generation of great leaders who rebuilt this country and its companies to greatness in the 1970s and 1980s are now retired well into their 70s.
    Darn I now have 3 things to take care of:
    I have to move.
    I have to find a job.
    I will actually have to BUY my HT stuff.
    At least "I did it my way." (Hince my real-sounding name.)
    Mike www.geocities.com/mike77000 [​IMG]
    Japan's economy:
    http://www.economist.com/agenda/disp...tory_ID=963729
     
  2. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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    Gomen nasai. [​IMG]
    Hang in there.
     
  3. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Mike, I'm sorry to hear of your frustrations. Though, it was interesting to read your perspective, having taken a Japanese Politics class back in college. Everything you described fit well in the overall picture I got from that class.
    The Japanese corporate structure is strange. In some ways, they beat us (America) at our own game, by introducing just-in-time manufacturing, low-error processes, and various optimizations well before we did. And yet, they have a highly defensive system, based on the concept of lifetime-employment (for the big firms), government protection. They can be remarkably risk-averse and yet incredibly inventive.
    An interesting people [​IMG]
    I hope you are able to find a new job easily. I would think that an American with experience working in Japan would have any easy time getting a job either here or there.
     
  4. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks guys.
     
  5. Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn Supporting Actor

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    Japan (and many other Asian cultures) is much more group-centric than the U.S. Individual ambition is generally subjugated to group/societal interests. In a class about Japanese culture, I remember being told this proverb: "The nail that sticks out gets pounded in."

    There are two sides to the coin. Yes, the corporate structure there can protect older workers who are lazy or incompetent. But the U.S. has plenty of its own evils - widespread overwork, blatant age-discrimination against over-40 workers, inequities in salary due to favoritism (not performance), etc.

    ---

    I've seen a fair number of articles about the overhanging problems that the Japanese banking crisis is causing for the Japanese economy.

    Japan had a severe economic bubble during the late '80s that completely dwarfed the recent U.S. technology bubble in its scope and severity. When that bubble burst, many banks were saddled with bad loans. The red ink could fill an ocean.

    Due to the corporate-banking-government network Mike mentioned, those banks have not been allowed to fail. Instead, the bad debts get juggled, renegotiated, refinanced, rescheduled, postponed, etc. So the old institutions keep running - just barely. Economists argue that this prevents the proper allocation of capital from taking place - which may explain part of why Japan has been in recession for years.

    I don't know how the Japan economic bubble will eventually be corrected. Some people are openly calling for inflation. Printing money would allow all those bad debts to get paid in full, but prices of everything would skyrocket. That, however, would punish all of Japan, whether or not they (as individuals) had a part in the bad business deals that drove the bubble. The yen would become very weak, and that would stimulate Japanese export industries. The U.S. trade deficite would likely balloon, with U.S. goods becoming expensive to the Japanese, while Japanese goods would become dirt cheap to Americans - at least temporarily.

    The other alternative, allowing the banks to fail, would expose corruption in just about every part of the Japanese economic machine. Think about the recent Enron scandal in the US, multiplied a thousand-fold. I do not exaggerate when I say this could destabilize the entire Japanese political system.

    ---

    I don't think Japan really "beat us at our own game." They did take and refine Western manufacturing processes to be more efficient, which temporarily gave their industries world leadership. However, Japan has yet to come up with radical new ideas that completely change the paradigm.

    Some already say the manufacturing economy is no longer on the cutting edge, and that the information economy (as is coming to fruition in the USA) is the new paradigm. Of course, that depends on there being a stable and mature manufacturing base, but manufacturing has evolved to a point that the world's most creative minds are no longer working on it. It is much like what happened when manufacturing came onto the scene in the 19th century, pulling talent away from the old agricultural economy.
     
  6. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    "The other alternative, allowing the banks to fail, would expose corruption in just about every part of the Japanese economic machine. Think about the recent Enron scandal in the US, multiplied a thousand-fold. I do not exaggerate when I say this could destabilize the entire Japanese political system. "

    __________________________________________________ ____

    you are right Colin. This makes the Enron business look like small time amateur corruption.

    Forbes and the economist say the bad loans in Japan are more than 1 trillion USD.
     
  7. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    Colin is right about the Japanese and their manufacturing. They did not invent "just-in-time" or any other concepts and practices of "lean manufacturing." In fact it was a westerner (not sure if he was American, Canadian, or European) tried to get US manufacturers to listen to his ideas but noone wanted anything to do with it...so he took it to Japan and they listened and adopted it. Now US manufacturing companies are just starting to get into it and are using terms and practices that the Japanese have been using for a while. The last company I was with was starting to get into it when I left and the company I'm with now has been using it for a few years (but could still do better). Although, I'd say it's still a rather new paradigm for many manufacturing companies here in the US.
     
  8. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Gomen nasai Mike,

    Depending on how good your Japanese is (I'm assuming you are basically fluent?) You could do freelance translating. A friend of mine in Tokyo used to make decent money doing that.

    Gambate!
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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  10. Tomoko Noguchi

    Tomoko Noguchi Second Unit

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    So true. So true. Another area of discrimination is in education. Non-japanese university teachers must face never ending contracts. There is no tenure, and the ministry of education has made a system that blatantly discriminates against them.
     
  11. Dustin B

    Dustin B Producer

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    Every once in a while you get a glimpse of what this stupid internet thing is capable of. Seeing members from all parts of the world voicing their opinions. Learning about areas of the world I will likely never see.

    I had no idea it was like that in Japan. Something I never would have learned if I was born 20-40 years earlier.
     
  12. MikeH1

    MikeH1 Screenwriter

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    Yes I agree. This is a great read and I feel bad that I am benefitting at Mikes expense.
    I hope everything works out for the best [​IMG]
     
  13. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    Don't feel bad... I got to watch a lot of DVD's as part of my job.

    And more on Japan's problems,

    The fixed, concretized nature of supply chain and distributions relationships is another barrier to getting Japan out of the dumps. Just like those non-performing managers, and non-performing loans, sub-standard suppliers (of goods or services) are not punished. The Japanese corporations show far more tolerance because the protection of the relationship is more important than say lousy quality reaching the customer. There is an argument for long term relationships with suppliers that cannot be ignored, but it only works when the supplier (of goods or services) and the company are really working to make improvements.

    People in Japan know all of this stuff of course, but the final fact is that whatever decisions are being made cannot be rationally explained or understood because "other" factors, which leaders believe the public need not know, are motivating decisions. Stockholders here defacto cannot sue a company. The boards and the top management are the same people. The board members who are not top management are formerly in many cases. They are accountable to no-one. Big bankruptcies often have accompanying agreements that all the management keep their current jobs and salaries, as with current high profile construction bankruptcies.

    But it is all falling apart under its own weight of incompetence. It makes me sick to see Daiei being rescued with funny money from the bank, which taxpayers will have to pay for. While other GOOD retailers have to compete in this environment. Just like in the US where the whole concept of Kmart deserves to pass away to better priced, better service, cleaner, better merchandise, and better managed companies, so does Daiei here. But the bank forgived its debt instead and traded that for a chunk of stock. This kind of action will just prolong the problems.

    If the yen keeps sliding, there may be more Nissans and that may be a good thing. Once it finally happens, it may not be as resisted by the public as earlier thought. Mr. Ghosn is becoming something of a celebrity.
     
  14. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    Several years ago, I got a hint of how the Japanese corporations operate. I worked as a middle manager in a Japanese company located here in the US. All top management were Japanese as well as consultants who were placed at various points throughout the manufacturing facilities, primarily at cost points.

    What I noticed was that as you said, the Japanese put no directions from one to the other in writing. They left that to the Americans. Some of the top American managers had learned very well how to navigate the Japanese heirarchy..... i.e.... how to get a favorable nod from the Japanese by climbing over the backs of those who performed.

    Because of that alone, managers who were capable and successful in their own areas were summarily never given any recognition. That alone was responsible for the many managers who were chewed up and spit out......

    Being one of the older and more experienced managers helped me understand how to do my job without standing out too much. High numbers and low costs was the game and quality came in last..... BUT, being knowledgable about my area made me a target for other Americans who were jealous. I found soon that the inept at their job but good at the politics were the chosen ones, not a performer with knowledge.

    Perhaps, your forced move, Mike, is a blessing in disguise..... I left on my own accord and now own my own business where those who perform are rewarded.....
     
  15. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks DonnyD.

    I will very likely take your advice. I can't count the number of times I have been advised to do my own business. Now I am planning.

    I don't deny being severly disappointed by this, but to move on, I refuse to see it any other way than

    a. an education better than an MBA in international business.

    b. a golden opportunity to do something else.
     
  16. MikeM

    MikeM Screenwriter

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    Gambatte, Mike!
    As someone who has also lived and worked in Japan, I can say that I understand what you're going through.
    Japan is a truly a unique place on the globe. I both absolutely love Japan, but detest some serious things about the general "closed-door policy" which effects businss, politics, you name it.
    Without getting into the politics of Japan, I'd just say to take this as a golden opportunity to start fresh on whatever new adventure you desire. I too had to head back home to America with an uncertain future, but looking back, I could never imagine riding things out in Japan from a carrer standpoint.
    The world is your oyster, grasshoppa. The slate is clean and now you can grab all of the latest Region 1 DVDs online without extra shipping...how cool is THAT? [​IMG]
     
  17. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    To top it off, they stole my mail by having my personal mail forwarded to the company hq (never mind my forwarding instructions I left at the post office, who can question their allmighty power?)

    AND

    charged me rent for a company apartment for a month AFTER I was fired and while I was not even in Japan!

    @#$#$@@%&*&@$$## !!!

    that's Japanese for

    #$%%^^&#@$ ^%&&$%^ !!!!
     
  18. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    Read some of the comments here. All I can say is there is not one thing here that does not apply to any major corporation regardless of nationality.
     
  19. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    Sorry to hear about your job, Mike. I must say that although you got screwed Japanese style, getting screwed for showing up the failings of entrenched managers is not limited to Japanese companies! [​IMG]
    I find Japan to be a totaly facinating country/culture and I love reading the experiences that HTF members have had there. I wish I could spend some time there myself. The closest I have come is flying on JAL and changing planes at Narita!
     

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