By Dominic Carter
One of the first things that struck me when I came to Japan as a young manager was how difficult it was to get people to leave the office at anything like what seemed to me to be a normal time. As many foreign managers will attest, this tendency to hang around the office often didn’t seem to have much to do with productivity. Rather, it was as if people were deliberately working slowly – unwilling to leave work unfinished till the next day, afraid to let the side down by leaving the office before 8, or just suffering from a free-floating anxiety about not being at one’s desk or away from their colleagues. Seeing this behavior as having no basis in rationality I took it on as a personal mission to force people to leave the office at what I considered a relatively late 6 o’clock. After having had a few semi-heated discussions with my team who told me I had no right to tell them not to work (and realizing I was being completely ignored), I gave up, perplexed. At least if any of my overseas colleagues thought I was allowing archaic and abusive work practices to fester, like any number of Japanese prime-ministers, I could put my hand on my heart and say I’d tried my best at reform!
By Debbie Howard
Perhaps the most important and far-ranging phenomenon to consider when marketing any product or service in Japan is the sheer power represented by the huge and growing demographic of its aging society.