5 “different” aspects of Japanese labor culture (Thank God we are in Pakistan)

5 “different” aspects of Japanese labor culture (Thank God we are in Pakistan)


There are words in the Japanese language that reflect the peculiarity of certain Japanese labor practices.

If there is a place where the differences between Western and Japanese culture are dramatic, that is the office.

And it is that in the eyes of a Westerner, Japanese work culture is the most striking and sometimes extreme.

We share five peculiar aspects of the Japanese culture of work.

1. Karoshi

In English, ‘karoshi’ means ‘death from overwork’.

And although it seems hard to believe, describes a phenomenon that suffers from Japanese society and has been recognized since 1987, because ‘kill yourself to work’, literally, is something that has happened to thousands of people.

Sad young man
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption In a culture in which it is normal to be all life in the same job, for some employees it can be very difficult to give up.


Contrary to what many would imagine, the cause of karoshi is not in itself stress or lack of sleep -although they are certainly long-term health problems-, but physical problems derived from excess hours in the workplace.

When analyzing the habits and health of more than 600,000 people, an investigation by a group of Finnish professors published in the scientific journal The Lancet points out that those who do many overtime are at greater risk of suffering cardiovascular disease.

Deaths from overwork have become a public health problem to such an extent that if a judge determines that it is a karoshi case , his family receives compensation of some US $ 20,000 from the government and compensation from the company, which has reached up to US $ 1.6 million .

2. Extra hours

Many of us have had to stay at work for hours to complete a project or maybe to make a good impression on the boss.

More weird is that of having worked so much extra time as to endanger his health.

Young exhausted.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Excessive working hours already have consequences for Japan’s public health.


According to data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan, 9.3% of employees in corporate jobs and 13.6% of people who work independently worked more than 60 hours a week.

Also, 58.4% of employees in corporate jobs and 61% of independent workers reported problems and stress related to their work.

Although measures have been taken to reduce the possibility of deaths due to overwork, it is difficult to break a work culture in which it is frowned upon for an employee to go home before his boss.

As a possible solution, at the beginning of 2017 the government implemented Premium Fridays, with which companies are encouraged to let their employees leave early – at 3 pm – on the last Friday of every month.

3. Inemuri

In Western societies it is not very well seen that of falling asleep in a public place or in the office, but in Japan it is most common to see people sleeping in subways, public seats or work areas without causing any surprise .

It is the inemuri, a kind of sleeplessness that does not imply sleep or napping.

The word, which is composed of two characters: ” I “, which means “to be present” or to be alert in a situation, and ” nemuri “, which means “dream”, implies that the person has to be able to return to a social situation when required.

Man sleeping in train
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Although it is common to see people resting in public, the “inemuri” is not the same as a dream or a nap.


And why is the inemuri not frowned upon?

“Since fatigue and illness are often seen as the result of labor efforts, inemuri- or even simulate inemuri by closing the eyes-is seen as a sign that a person has been working hard, but still has the strength and the moral virtue necessary to keep himself and his feelings under control, “says Brigitte Steger in an article in BBC Future.

4. Fear of giving up

While some people tired of their work or their working conditions dream of the moment when they can say “I resign”, to others the idea of ​​approaching their boss to give the last warning can be extremely overwhelming.

To the point of preferring someone else to do it in his place and even pay him.

Frustrated woman
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption There are employees who can feel like bad people for wanting to quit.


This is how more and more companies offer a personalized service to employees who want to quit but need help in the process of quitting their job.

“Most are afraid of their bosses,” said Yuichiro Okazaki in the Ghosting at Workepisode of the BBC radio program Business Daily .

“They know that their bosses are going to say: ‘No, you can not give up.’ I think it’s because of the culture of Japan, to resign is a bad thing, when they want to resign they feel like a bad person.”

In a work context in which the normal thing is to work for the same company all the life to go ascending, many employees can feel bad people for wanting to resign.

That’s where companies enter that for about US $ 400 call the client’s boss and deliver a resignation for power.

5. Zero congratulations

To refer to positive feedback or feedback , as it is known in English, in the traditional Japanese language there was no word.

Nothing, no word to refer to the opinion that a speaker gives us about something we do.

Why? Because it is simply something that was not done.

Workers in Japan.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption In the Japanese tradition the “nomikai” consists of bosses and colleagues discussing issues of work between cups.


On the contrary, according to Sharon Schweitzer, executive director of Protocol and Etiquette Worldwide and an expert on the integration of managers in foreign countries, “if your boss in Japan does not say anything to you, it means that you are doing well.”

“And if he asks you for a review of the project, then it means you’re not doing so well,” he said in a report by Eric Barton of BBC Capital.

This is something that foreign executives in Japan can struggle with, when they seek to congratulate an employee for something they did well they can go wrong and make the employee look bad.

The best way to discuss someone’s performance is a Japanese tradition known as nomikai , in which colleagues and bosses go out to drink together to discuss work matters.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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