Gaijin Smash

Sour Apples – Part IV

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on November 6, 2008

As I mentioned before, around the end of November heading into December I ended up doing a lot of overtime at work. The reason being that I had asked the company to stop using most of the outsource translators we had at the time. I’d like to think it wasn’t me being picky – their translations were of the mangled English that we foreigners like to laugh at everyday. Clumsy, inadequate, and oftentimes, incomprehensible. If I was willing to settle for the bottom line – “hey, at least it’s not in Japanese anymore!”, then perhaps things would have been easier. But I took a lot of pride in my work and the company, and didn’t want to put that kind of English on the website. As a result, with no other translators to turn to I took on the majority of the translation work. It was a workload that, ideally, a team of several should have taken on, but we didn’t have ideal conditions. I figured I’d just work hard now, and later we’d get better translators.
However, because I was so overworked there were a number of missteps. A few deadlines were not met. And as time was an ever-present concern, I couldn’t go back and do meticulous error checking, so format, accuracy, and even spelling errors occurred. I suppose you could also factor in that this was my first experience working at a company doing translation, so some errors may have been caused by inexperience as well.
While I was in the midst of the storm, the president and my supervisor were nothing but supportive, appreciative, and perhaps even a little apologetic. In January the workload settled down, and I renewed my contract, going from part-time to contract with a pay raise and more official responsibilities. In February, Curly and Ms. Shocker joined the company, so I felt like I’d weathered the storm and things were only going to get better from here.
Little did I know, I couldn’t have been further from the truth.


Not very long after the storm died down, perhaps even in February, I began to feel that those feelings of appreciation and support had become that of blame and even ridicule. Mostly, I felt this from my supervisor, and Small Wonder, who had somehow become sort of the head of personnel. It came from a snide remark here and an inappropriate joke there about the errors I’d made during the intense workload. At this point, although I was aware myself of the errors I’d made, no one had talked to me about them in any capacity whatsoever. I really didn’t like getting ridiculed over my failures, especially having just worked so hard for the company.
This treatment became especially evident when it came to Ms. Shocker’s training. Her training had been entrusted to Doris – at the time, I thought nothing of it. Although Doris was a member of the Chinese team, she’d been working customer service for years, and as that was the capacity in which Ms. Shocker joined the company, I felt that to be an appropriate choice. However, sometimes Ms. Shocker did ask me questions if Doris wasn’t available or if it was something English-related. I’d answer, but almost immediately after doing so, my supervisor would literally run to Ms. Shocker’s desk (not an exaggeration…she’d actually break into a little sprint) to tell her to just ignore whatever I said and only listen to Doris. This wasn’t anything that happened in private, this was right in the middle of the office. For the record, I always spoke with Ms. Shocker in English, and my supervisor knows no English whatsoever. Ms. Shocker couldn’t help but to wonder what exactly was wrong – after all, I wasn’t telling her anything outrageously wrong or even slightly off-the-mark, and even my other co-workers would occasionally ask me in private what the deal with that was. Aside from having my advice be immediately and publicly vetoed, I didn’t like the attitude of “he doesn’t know what he’s doing/he makes a lot of mistakes”, especially when no one had talked to me directly about those mistakes.
I’ve been told that I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I’m sure that my annoyance and anger at my supervisor and Small Wonder must have shown. Nothing extreme of course, but it was probably readily apparent that I didn’t think too highly of them. At least the message seemed to reach the both of them loud and clear, as a few weeks later a small meeting was held between me, my supervisor, Small Wonder, and the president, to talk about my “work attitude.” My supervisor came into it almost as if her feelings had been hurt personally. I tried to explain that I wasn’t happy about having been ridiculed over the mistakes I’d made a few months prior – talk to me directly about it, but don’t make jokes about it and don’t go running to publicly negate whatever I said to my co-workers. Unfortunately, the meeting ultimately wasn’t very productive, and only ended with me promising to no longer shoot visible beams of pure hatred towards my supervisor and Small Wonder.
I also found out during this meeting that they thought I’d brought much of the difficulty of the past few months upon myself. Small Wonder said, “For Chinese, if the translation isn’t adequate we just send it back to the translator and tell them to do it over, and then we get back a better result. I don’t know why English couldn’t do the same…” I tried to explain that it wasn’t simply a matter of a translator being lazy and doing a shoddy job – these translators just didn’t know enough English, period. Even if I sent a translation back, it wouldn’t come back any better. My supervisor asked why I couldn’t give them some tips or pointers, and I tried to explain that I couldn’t effectively teach these people comprehensible English grammar through e-mail – especially in the context of a job with an approaching deadline. My arguments fell on deaf ears though, as the bottom line became “This is how we do it for Chinese, why can’t English do it the same way?”, leaving my supervisor and Small Wonder to think that I’d just been extraordinarily picky about the translators and had cut them for no good reason.
Needless to say, the meeting left me feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. If I’d worked so hard only for the end result to be ridicule and blame…why’d I work so hard? A few weeks prior, the president had noticed my somewhat foul mood, and had told me that if I ever needed to talk with him about anything – anything at all – to just let him know. I decided to take him up on that, and after the meeting I sent him an email privately asking if we could meet one on one. He granted my request the following day. Talking with him, I acknowledged that perhaps my attitude towards the supervisor and Small Wonder had been cold, and that that wasn’t good for the working environment. However, I just didn’t like being made fun of for my mistakes, especially considering that no one had talked to me about it. Regarding the mistakes, I knew I’d made them, and it bothered me more than anyone else. That was then, but this is now, and now with a proper team I’d hoped to move forward and not miss deadlines and not make mistakes. And I didn’t want to be blamed for mistakes of the past. I spoke my mind, but the president’s only answer was “But, you made mistakes.” Literally. It was at this point that I realized there was no point in talking to the president. He would listen – or at least appear to – but probably before one started to speak he’d already made up his mind and that wasn’t going to change for any reason.
It was here that a rift formed between me and my supervisor. We’d gotten along just fine before (perhaps a little too well…), but now the blood had been spilled and everything had gone south. Things would get much worse before they got any better. Even though I was the “English Division Director”, I had to run everything through her first. Again, considering that her English abilities actually spill into the negative column (yes, that’s possible!), oftentimes it felt like a comical situation. However, I realize that most workplaces are like that, so oh well. But if she felt I was going off and making decisions on my own or not consulting with her enough, she seemed to take it extremely personally and would come down on me hard, often involving the president as well. Even though he seemed to ignore all the times she’d CC him on an abrasive email rebuffing me, or even during talks his face seemed to convey to her “enough already!”, I really didn’t appreciate the gesture.
***
Sometime around February, I was given a project to do. I don’t want to get into too much detail about it, but it involves the online auction giant, eBay. The president told me it would be my top priority. As such, I re-distributed some of my duties to Curly and Ms. Shocker to allow me to focus on this project. I did carefully weigh the workload so that no one was too overburdened. Curly had a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, so I didn’t want to give him a lot of pure typing work – give his wrists and chance to rest during the job. Curly was also under the impression that he wasn’t allowed to do overtime, or at least that the feel he’d gotten from my supervisor. I suppose this is a good place to note that part-time workers were discouraged from doing overtime. However, contract employees were almost expected to do overtime. Part-time workers get overtime pro-rated pay – contract workers don’t get overtime, at all. Ms. Shocker had two young boys to care for at home, and her working hours were supposed to end at 5PM. A lot of things fell on Ms. Shocker’s desk, and sometimes she ended up having to stay until 6PM. I tried to do what I could do help, but I had my own workload as well. When I was training Curly, I had started to give him an overview of customer service – Ms. Shocker’s job. It wasn’t his job, but as we were the English team, I figured it would be best if everyone was well-rounded so we could all help each other out. However my supervisor, upon seeing this, sharply rebuffed me, saying that it wasn’t his job and training him for it was a huge waste of time. Nonetheless, Curly also did what he could, and between the three of us, we got the work done on time with no one being too terribly overburdened.
I would also like to add here, for the record, that we didn’t miss deadlines, and the ratio of errors in the English department improved dramatically.
Back on my end, I looked up all the information I could about the project and gave it to the president, the supervisor, and all involved parties. In order to start actual work on the project, I would need to create a seller’s account. And to do that, I needed the company’s credit card information. Naturally, I was not privy to that information. Only two people in the company were – the president, and the head accountant who worked out of an office in Kobe. Pretty much every time during the weekly meeting, the president would ask me how the project was coming along. I answered that I’d done all the research I could at this step – I needed to create a sellers account in order to get started, and to do so I needed the company’s financial information, aka the credit card. I said this in person during the meetings, and by email a few times. I double-checked with Ms. Shocker later, my Japanese wasn’t vague or unclear – I can’t proceed without the seller’s account, I need the company’s information to do so. Yet, nothing was forthcoming.
What I did get however was a harsh rebuttal from the president a month or two later. He called me over to his desk, and in a tone you might scold your children in for not doing the chores, he angrily told me to do my job and do work on the project. I repeated what I’d said before – I need a sellers account, I cannot make one without the company’s financial information. Perhaps I should have said “give me the damn credit card”? Amazingly enough, I still didn’t get it – he simply repeated “do your work”. A few minutes later after he left his desk, the computer programmer, having just witnessed what’d happened, put in a call to Kobe and got the credit card information from the head accountant. “You can’t rely on him to do the things you ask of him. All that will happen is…well, what just happened now,” he said as he passed me the slip of paper with the credit card info on it.
Finally able to create the seller’s account, I was able to proceed. Actually getting started, I started to see that this project was a lot bigger than I’d thought. eBay had a lot of policies and rules and regulations to try and wade though, and then translate into Japanese so that the president and supervisor would understand. Even more than that, I was going to need to use HTML, Photoshop, Visual Basic for data processing, and a number of things I’d had no experience with before. There were a lot of various aspects, and it felt almost a little dizzying. Furthermore, this was my project and mine alone – I had no one to help me, no one to tutor me for any of its aspects. I spent the next few weeks studying – looking up tutorials for HTML, VB, Photoshop, etc.*
*Many of you may be thinking “But, you already know HTML/Photoshop since you have a web page!” I do have a web page yes, but its amateur – nothing I would want to present professionally. Plus, my knowledge is very basic – I wanted to be able to put together a professional and polished page.
As you all know, the internet is a very vast and varied place. There’s knowledge about just about everything out there. And it comes in many types of forms as well. One particular format that was proving to be very useful was the message board. Often, when I searched on a question, I found that someone else had asked the exact same question on a message board somewhere out there in cyberspace. Reading through the thread, I could also find other great tips and tutorials on the programs and techniques I was attempting to learn. Message boards were also good ways to interact with people on other relevant topics – I could get more information about other companies we were thinking of affiliating with. I also did some marketing, hoping to spread our name and brand out there to the general public, and studied up on many marketing techniques. I also asked specific programming questions, and with good help, me and Curly were able to develop a Microsoft Excel funtion which made one aspect of the translation job 10 times easier.
I really didn’t think much of what my computer screen while I did all my research. Perhaps I should have.
Sometime in either April or May, the president called me out for a private talk. There, he accused me of not working, saying that looking at my computer screen, all one ever saw was animations and smiley faces and what not – obviously not work. To be completely fair and honest here, there were two times in which the president caught me not working – once, with everything else done and on time, I took a quick moment to take a breather from translation and just look at a news site for information about the presidential primaries. He came up behind me almost like a ninja and asked if that was work. I had to admit that no, it wasn’t. Another time, I was sending an email to my father – he was in the process of booking the hotel for when he and mom would come to Japan for my wedding – and needed more information. Ordinarily this is something that could have waited, but it was very time sensitive and I thought I could spare five minutes for this. Again, the president comes up behind me ninja-like and asks “Is this work?” Again, I am forced to admit that it wasn’t.
I suppose I could have also counter-argued that aside from lunch, we didn’t actually get any work breaks.
I tried to tell him that much of what he was seeing on my computer screen was research for work. I offered to bring up my computer’s browser history, show him some of the links I’d visited and point out the relevance to work. He brought up the times he’d caught me browsing the news site and mailing my father. I apologized for those incidents but tried to stress that he just happened to catch me at bad times – but he’d already made up his mind, and he even had proof to support his claim. He also claimed that I was shoveling all my work off onto Curly and Ms. Shocker because I didn’t want to do it. He said that I was working only 20% of the time, and playing around the other 80%. That definitely wasn’t right. I tried to assert that this wasn’t the case again, but as expected/feared, he just wasn’t listening. At this rate, it was tuning into a childish “Yes you did!/No I didn’t!” verbal tennis match. I’m not sure where I heard it, but I thought of the phrase “Sometimes, you just gotta take the L.” Meaning, sometimes you’re in a losing situation and all you can do is accept that and move on. He wasn’t right about me not working 80% of the time and shoveling off work onto my co-workers. But I wasn’t going to get that through to him, and he had actually caught me not doing work twice. Sometimes you just gotta take the L. I accepted his accusations and promised to work harder from now on. He threatened that if my “poor” work habits continued, it could lead to a pay cut or even being fired, but closed on a “high” note saying that he still believed in me. …Great.
Though I still wasn’t ready, I was forced to cut back on most of my research. I stuck only to pages that looked bland, drab, and somewhat official. If a page was too animated, I closed it quickly, or copied the text into a word processor and read it there. I also took back some of my duties from Curly and Ms. Shocker, and even took on a few of theirs in return. They were very glad for the help, but also working with me, they had an appreciation for my workload and the true amount of work I was really doing, and they were a bit worried about me. “We know you’ve got a lot to do, even if they don’t,” they often said to me. Taking back some of their duties lead to me having to cut back time on the project – which, of course, lead to the president again accusing me of dragging my feet on the project a few months down the line.
These days I wasn’t really working overtime. I didn’t leave at 6 on the dot but I wasn’t burning the midnight oil anymore. I didn’t have much motivation to – aside from no longer getting overtime pay, the last time I put in overtime the end result was only getting ridiculed and blamed. Living in Kyoto, if I left the company doors at 6PM I didn’t get back to my apartment until 7:30. I had my wife waiting for me at home and I wanted to see her. I didn’t want to spend all day in that building, especially after having such a sour relationship with the supervisor and with the president also being difficult to deal with. Also, it seemed like nothing much would change even if I did put in the overtime – our web designer worked until 11PM pretty much everyday, but they still came down on him hard and frequently for no good reason at all. Additionally, with the volume and scope of the project, the extra hours per day honestly would not have changed the timeline all that much. Yes, it was that much work.
More than anything else, I was just unhappy. When I started working the job, I envisioned myself working there for the next 5 or 10 years, perhaps even longer. Now, I’d made up my mind to not renew my contract. I hated being at work, and even when I was home I dreaded going back. I began to casually check job listings, looking for some kind of way out. I wanted to quit, but at this point it just wasn’t an option. Aside from the job market not being all that great, I had a wedding coming up in a few months that I already couldn’t afford. Even if I somehow managed to come up with my half, things were still going to be very tight financially for awhile afterwards. Though I complained frequently to my wife and to my mother, both encouraged me to just put up with it and stay in the job. Also, I figured it was in my best interests as well – if I could finish 2 years on the job as the “English Division Director”, that would look great on my resume, and January – when my contract ended – would be a pretty good time for job hunting. All I had to do was hang in there for a little over half a year.
At this point, I didn’t yet know that the breaking point was just around the corner.

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45 Responses

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  1. Zantetsu said, on November 6, 2008 at 2:58 am

    I’m not so familiar with worker rights in Japan but don’t their actions seem excessive and exaggerated? I can’t wait to see the rest of this to have a guideline not to follow if I’m leading a company.

  2. Mos said, on November 6, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Man, my girlfriend read that and I could see the tears in her eyes, even I found this to be a sad story.

  3. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:29 am

    A job is a job, it’s always the personal relationships that you have to deal with that makes a job hard.

  4. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:29 am

    A job is a job, it’s always the personal relationships that you have to deal with that makes a job hard.

  5. shena said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:55 am

    that is what i love to call as office politics with piggish-asian-selfcentred-egocentrism at it’s highest concentration.
    i’m asian, so i should know. i, myself, was and still is guilty of being one every once in a while.
    this is when one get too self-absorbed with his/ her so-called fame and/ or importance that he/ she can’t see the things that are right in front of his/ her eyes.
    in short, an asshole.

  6. Ono Yoko said, on November 6, 2008 at 5:14 am

    But, you made mistakes…

  7. Franton said, on November 6, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Az, i’ve just come out of a bad experience myself with an employer. It’s a little similar to what you’ve just gone through. I have a standard trick I pull whenever I have a psycho or a fucking idiot as a boss … I walk.
    I walk, take the financial hit and let the company sink under their own incompetence. Finances can be recovered … your health is more important.

  8. GOLDENCHILD said, on November 6, 2008 at 6:43 am

    hey man, I started reading Gaijinsmash a month ago and just got to the newer entries. I’m in Kyoto right now but from what I heard I can’t imagine myself in a japanese workplace…anyways just wanted to write that I thouroughly enjoy your entries on your site, keep ’em coming.

  9. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Im very glad you left, it sounds horrid and doing it for 5-10 years would’ve been unbearable. After doing all that work and get no recognition for it and instead get insulted… its their loss.

  10. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Im very glad you left, it sounds horrid and doing it for 5-10 years would’ve been unbearable. After doing all that work and get no recognition for it and instead get insulted… its their loss.

  11. Mayhem said, on November 6, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Blimey… there’s more? Sorry to hear it all went shitty for you Az…

  12. zole said, on November 6, 2008 at 9:07 am

    While this all sucks for you, it makes for extremely compelling reading for me.
    To those who haven’t worked in Japan, this kind of story might not be standard, but it sure as hell isn’t rare.

  13. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Damn cliffhangers! This feels like a 1930’s serial now!

  14. Tensho said, on November 6, 2008 at 10:10 am

    That has to be tough. For your President to appear beside you like the Yondaime’s “Hiraishin no jutsu” transported him at the exact moment you were doing something not work-related… it looks bad. If you’re saying it only happened a very small number of times, this basically meant that he was keeping tabs on you and was looking for any faults he could find while you were doing your work. This clearly meant he was trying to find an excuse to kick you out. The next time you find work around there… well it’s luck of the draw. I’ve experienced very similar situations here in Australia, where I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty in relation to my work (this was a shipping and transport company) and been told I wasn’t working hard enough – even though I was working at least three hours overtime per night. It *all* depends on the company. If you happen to get into the government sector – which would be tough because of your obvious Gaijiin side – it will become a *lot* easier. Government jobs over here at least seem to be a lot more… accommodating. Private companies like the one you were working for, they are *always* a lot stricter and more restrictive on any and all personnel. I’ve not worked out a way to deal with them yet. The only help I can give you is just try for work in larger and more stabilised companies where pressure on individuals is far less common and thus meaning you are less likely to be singled out.
    Apologies if I don’t make much sense. I’ve just come home from the pub and am more than a little bit tipsy. 😉
    May good fortune befall you and your new wife. I’m sure you’ll sort out your problems soon enough.
    Tensho.

  15. chay said, on November 6, 2008 at 10:16 am

    It reads like a “How-you-dont-lead-a company”-Guide.

  16. Slughead said, on November 6, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Dude, I have soooo been there.
    My last boss accused me of being lazy, because I streamlined my job and was able to get it done quickly (and more accurately, as it turned out) than my coworkers. He too accused me of spending most of my day “playing on the internet” even though I could demonstratably prove that all but a few things were work related.
    And of course, he didn’t have the same issues with the girl in the office whose pants he wanted in.
    I feel for you, Az, you did the right thing getting out.

  17. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 11:27 am

    “This feels like a 1930’s serial now!”
    Like Star Wars?

  18. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 11:27 am

    “This feels like a 1930’s serial now!”
    Like Star Wars?

  19. Polaryzed said, on November 6, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Damn Az. I hate to tell you how compelling it is to read this story. Hopefully by doing this you can accomplish a few things: get it off your chest, alert other people that there are jobs/situations like this. From my own personal experience, this is not that uncommon of a story. I’ve had very similar situations in my career albeit a different career path. Either way its good information for everyone and hopefully it helps you move on.

  20. Fox said, on November 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    What the heck? Why didn’t you just GAIJINSMAAAASH the president?
    Az has your woman weakened your Gaijin abilities? Kryptonite!

  21. Petar said, on November 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    “…contract employees were almost expected to do overtime. Part-time workers get overtime pro-rated pay – contract workers don’t get overtime, at all.”
    What the hell? So the *baseline* in Japan is an abusive workplace environment already…?! Ridiculous… horrible… actually a lot less efficient than doing things the intuitive way, too. Wow.
    But it’s always the bosses that make or break a job. I’m sorry to hear how this turned out. Good luck finding a new one; it sounds like you need it.

  22. DA said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Wow, Az, this is some good old-fashioned bullshit. I can’t say that I have any experience with the Asian work attitude, but I’ve definitely had experience with being mislabeled because of people’s malformed impressions.
    A couple of years ago, I had a supervisor who constantly badmouthed everyone under her “control” to the uppers at our company. And they evidently bought into it hook, line, and sinker–because we all became considered a troublemaker department. People left, people argued, people complained about HER to the same uppers. But nothing made any difference whatsoever. We were all lazy and unmanageable and incompetent, and it was to be so until the end of time.
    Well, I’m one of the very few who stuck in there (either to my credit or to my shame, not sure which), and she eventually overstepped her bounds. She got sent to another department (where she doesn’t manage any people), and now I have her job.
    The moral of my story is not, “Hang in there,” because that’s trite and unhelpful bullshit. When it’s time to go, you go. And it’s not that people get what they deserve … because 9 times out of 10 they just don’t. Shit floats to the top, and a lot of times it stays there. The only things I have to offer are:
    1) I feel your pain.
    2) You’re a young dude, and you’ve got a lot of working ahead of you.
    3) If you wanna come home, we’re happy to have you back. Oh, and we got our first black president, too. Which is nice.

  23. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Man your bosses are tough. I can see why you left.
    It is also good to see that you can write serious stuff, instead of your usual witty style(though I love that too).
    Good luck with getting a job and your money back. You’d be in my my prairs, if I’d pray
    ps:
    would also like to add here, for the record, that we didn’t miss deadlines, and the ratio of errors in the English department improved dramatically.
    I hope you don’t mean you made more mistakes? 😛

  24. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Man your bosses are tough. I can see why you left.
    It is also good to see that you can write serious stuff, instead of your usual witty style(though I love that too).
    Good luck with getting a job and your money back. You’d be in my my prairs, if I’d pray
    ps:
    would also like to add here, for the record, that we didn’t miss deadlines, and the ratio of errors in the English department improved dramatically.
    I hope you don’t mean you made more mistakes? 😛

  25. lady suzie said, on November 6, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Man your bosses are tough. I can see why you left.
    It is also good to see that you can write serious stuff, instead of your usual witty style(though I love that too).
    Good luck with getting a job and your money back. You’d be in my my prairs, if I’d pray
    ps:
    would also like to add here, for the record, that we didn’t miss deadlines, and the ratio of errors in the English department improved dramatically.
    I hope you don’t mean you made more mistakes? 😛

  26. HiEv said, on November 6, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been through the “you’re a bad employee for not being able to keep up with the workload of three people” situation before too. It sucks.
    Anyways, at least Obama won. Yay! I heard there were celebrations in Japan too. I’d be interested in hearing the Japanese take on the election once you’re done with this tale of woe.

  27. Philip said, on November 6, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Hey, I’m thinking that with president there might have been misunderstandings. I’m been reading this page here: http://www.export-japan.com/jcu/sample/index.php?page=clearing-the-air and is seems like your apology was the right thing to do, but that both of you saw it differently.

  28. PCash said, on November 6, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    DAMN!! and i thought my situation was bad.

  29. Morrigan said, on November 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I can totally relate. A co-worker of mine (we used to work at the same place, he quit for another job, then I did the same and still work with him) had built an entire billing system by himself, on time, yet was accused of not working hard enough because the boss had caught him once or twice checking a news website for five minutes. It became this boss’s obsession with him, his mind had been made up that he was lazy and nothing could sway him. He once he remarked that my co-worker would lean back on his chair and do nothing, when in fact he was just leaning back and *thinking* about how to solve a problem. Apparently, if you aren’t furiously typing in a development environment window, you aren’t doing any work.
    Oh yeah, when confronted with the fact that he had delivered the project pretty fast, he was told, “but if you didn’t waste so much time checking the Internet you’d be even faster!” In other words, these morons don’t know that taking some breaks HELP productivity, and without those occasional few minutes to relax for a bit he’d burn himself out.
    So my co-worker became increasingly less motivated (and so was I and some others, but then he was accused of being a “bad example”, too) and DID become less productive… but he hadn’t started that way. After receiving threats of getting fired if he wouldn’t work 8 hours straight and giving his 110% or some such bullshit, he understandably quit. After that, our boss apparently needed another poor fool to blame for whatever, so I almost became his next target. It wasn’t quite as bad with me (because I was good at hiding my Internet surfing habits *grins*), and he was all surprised when I resigned a few months later, but he was cool about it… maybe because he has no idea I went to join the guy he fired. Hah!
    Still, his situation was pretty mild compared to yours. Despite your financial difficulties I don’t blame you for quitting. Being miserable all the time is no way to live your life.

  30. vasca said, on November 6, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for posting your sour work story for all of us, it’s been both informative and compelling to read. Reading this particular entry makes me want to send you one of those posters with a kitten hanging on a tree branch with a “hang in there!” slogan.
    Good to know you no longer hve to put up with that idiot of a boss (and with the previous entry he sounds senile to me.. a company pet dog??? WTF??).
    The person I feel a lot for is for that poor web programmer who was obviously a hell of a good employee and yet the boss still trashed him for nut-whack reasons.
    Hope you get your check back just to gaijinsmash him and find a better job elsewhere (if you haven’t already). 😉

  31. Mike said, on November 6, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Hey Az. I’ve read your stuff for a few years now whilst studying Japanese myself at Uni. You write compelling articles and insightful posts. This one is no exception, although understandably it must be difficult to write about.
    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such a story with everyone. I hope for your (and my own) sake that there are better companies out there in Japan. If nothing else, keep up your writing. You certainly are amassing enough great material to bind a book!
    Best of luck with everything and don’t forget to remember the good things in your life right now too!

  32. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    i just don’t see why you didn’t just gaijin smash the mutha F***er at this point. granted he knows you speak japanese, but hey their are other things about us foreigners he doesn’t know about. You could have started playing the big scary dude from from prison.
    threaten them with the project not getting done, considering you are the Head of Englsh Division or imply that you will set the company back months. Japanese are very timid, just because they know you speak the language they are still very much afraid of who you are. outside of work they don’t know you.
    i mean in your situation your at a point of no return you got nothing left but the gaijin smash oh and dodge dick if you ever need that.

  33. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    i just don’t see why you didn’t just gaijin smash the mutha F***er at this point. granted he knows you speak japanese, but hey their are other things about us foreigners he doesn’t know about. You could have started playing the big scary dude from from prison.
    threaten them with the project not getting done, considering you are the Head of Englsh Division or imply that you will set the company back months. Japanese are very timid, just because they know you speak the language they are still very much afraid of who you are. outside of work they don’t know you.
    i mean in your situation your at a point of no return you got nothing left but the gaijin smash oh and dodge dick if you ever need that.

  34. kli said, on November 7, 2008 at 12:27 am

    I hope before you quit you were able to exact a bit of revenge. If it were me, I would’ve beaten the president up in a fit of rage or at the very least sabotage the project to get even.

  35. Wayland said, on November 7, 2008 at 1:22 am

    I hope this ends violently.

  36. jazzorion said, on November 7, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Geesh, it looks like the pres. is on a little powertrip, or he’s trying to show off by attempting to bully the big black guy around. I would not have been able to put up with that for as long as you had. I’d like to see that guy try that stuff in the U.S., most people here definitely would not put up with that for very long. Gah I want punch that guy in the face! We’re with you Az!
    -Jazz

  37. Justin said, on November 7, 2008 at 3:37 am

    I just don’t get it… I’m a boss myself. How can your ex President be such an idiot?! So far, if anything, this story has reminded me how important it is to be a reasonable and fair boss.

  38. Joe said, on November 7, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Why do I feel as if there was someone at the workplace who was saying bad things about Az to the president? There seem to have been people who didn’t like him for whatever reason…

  39. Mike said, on November 7, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Seems as though the comments are out of sync? I didn’t post that above which comes out under my name. Think you could edit it for me please?
    This was my post:
    Hey Az. I’ve read your stuff for a few years now whilst studying Japanese myself at Uni. You write compelling articles and insightful posts. This one is no exception, although understandably it must be difficult to write about.
    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such a story with everyone. I hope for your (and my own) sake that there are better companies out there in Japan. If nothing else, keep up your writing. You certainly are amassing enough great material to bind a book!
    Best of luck with everything and don’t forget to remember the good things in your life right now too!

  40. Jenna said, on November 7, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Someone up there said they were interested in the Japanese view of the election… I am too! I watch a little Japanese TV to pick up on things (I’m a first year student D: ) and the day after the election they were all like “obamasan, obamasan, obamasan”. They seemed pretty excited but I couldn’t understand everything.

  41. Jonadab the Unsightly One said, on November 8, 2008 at 6:39 am

    > So the *baseline* in Japan is an abusive
    > workplace environment already…?!
    It’s that way in a lot of US companies too, especially small ones: once they get you on salary, they pile on the workload and you never get to go home. Any time you have the choice whether to go on a salary contract or be paid by the hour, always choose the latter.

  42. Anonymous said, on November 8, 2008 at 7:38 am

    your post does not appear under your name but rather your name appears under your post…there was no glitch

  43. Anonymous said, on November 8, 2008 at 7:38 am

    your post does not appear under your name but rather your name appears under your post…there was no glitch

  44. Block said, on November 8, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    DUDE QUIT I been reading your blog for quite a while. dude this job is taking you away from being you…. MAN, you “were” funny, real, human and even if kids came to play “grab ass and poke dick” you “took it in stride” made it funny pointed it out and got on with it. From what i am use to in your writing it seems like this job is turning you into that salary man that is so fucking dull, man. I’m a native to SF. i think i read somewhere that you have such roots, too. Dont let Blandness breed in you. you deserve better your creativity and ability to break cultural barriers pits you at the top in my book as a worldly ambassador. and after writing the word ambassador – HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT A JOB AT THE US EMBASSY?

  45. Carl said, on November 9, 2008 at 4:46 am

    Ive been in the same shitty situations here in Japan quite often. I usually only last a year or a year and a half (18 mos) in a Japanese company then it ends in getting fired for smacking somebody. Oh well. Good thing about Japan is that nobody ask why you left your previous company. Its almost understood that if your a Gaijin, you not expected to last anywhere long. Fucked up logic? Depends on where your from I guess. Everything here is stacked against you anyway, so I take the hit and get my 6 mos of unemployment insurance. Im getting to old for this shit, so Im about done with it.


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