We’ve probably all dreamed about “terminating” a boss from hell, so they won’t be around to torment us anymore. But Japan now has the numbers to prove it. A new survey reports that one-in-four people employed in Japan want to kill their supervisors and the underlying sentiment has a lot to do with Japanese work culture and its lack of work-life balance.
As Japan Today notes, Japanese workers are generally expected to be at their job even when there are in serious, even life-threatening circumstances that prevent them from doing so.
For example, on June 18, a devastating earthquake hit Japan, severely disrupting the transit system making it impossible for people to get to work and school. But despite this, there were several anecdotes posted online by aggravated workers who claimed that their supervisors had implicitly or explicitly expected them to be at work.
“Once it was clear my boyfriend couldn’t get to work, he came home to email his supervisor about it and they promptly replied with ‘Please walk to the office to receive your wages for the day,’ one person wrote on Twitter.
“It took him an hour of walking to reach his workplace, where at noon all the staff were told to evacuate the building and return home, which took another hour’s walk. There’s something seriously wrong with Japan!”
Others spoke about supervisors emailing employees asking if they were okay in one sentence and then in the next one asking them if they would come into the office.
The survey was conducted by a Japanese news aggregate called Shirabee. The sample consisted of 1,006 men and women who were between 20 and 69 years of age.
As Japan Today notes, Japanese people do have the right to take leave for emergencies like earthquakes. It’s called special leave or tokubetsu nenkyuu. But employers don’t make it clear when their workers can take it. It’s also bogged down by a lot of bureaucracy making it harder for employed individuals to apply for it.
The Japanese approach to work has long been known to be much stricter than its American counterpart. But the differences aren’t just about the number of hours worked, or being expected to come into the office soon after an earthquake. As Business Insider noted in an article earlier this year, Japanese workplaces tend to be more formal. It’s rare to call people by their first name and you’d be labeled as rude if you did so. Even though Japanese fashion has a reputation for being experimental (think Harajuku) girls, you’ll hardly see people wearing brightly colored business attire.
“Salarymen,” as businessmen in Japan are called, often wear grey, navy, or black suits, while the women wear similar colors, but add kitten heels and pantyhose to the ensemble.
It all comes down to cultural differences, Business Insider notes. In the United States, individualism is put on a pedestal, while in Japan, the collective is valued higher than the individual. There’s a positive side to that, though, as the article also points out that Japanese workers are often “socially expected” to hang out with their co-workers after they’ve left the office.
It’s probably not enough to eliminate that desire to kill the boss, though.