News: 1 in 5 Japanese bosses would quit over foreigners


1 in 5 Japanese bosses would quit over foreigners

Non-Japanese who take a job with a Japanese company may face culture shock, but so do their managers.
1 in 5 Japanese bosses would quit over foreigners

Japanese managers find their foreign employees extremely challenging, according to the findings of a survey by the Japan-based Persol Research Institute. Over one-third of the 800-odd respondents across various industries and company sizes reported that they are intensely stressed by having to deal with foreign subordinates, with 17.2 percent saying that the situation was making them so distressed they wanted to quit their jobs as soon as possible. That number shot up to 22.5 percent for managers of part-time foreign workers.

The survey findings, released last week, come as the number of foreign workers in Japan has reached an all-time high and the government, attempting to ease serious labor shortages, is trying to lure still more immigrants to the country. However, businesses may not be prepared for the influx. The Japan Times reported earlier this year that language and cultural differences are going to pose problems for the new arrivals; it seems that the problems are just as thorny on the managers’ end.

Based on the findings, many companies are poorly prepared to integrate foreign employees. 30 percent of managers reported that they lacked knowledge about their foreign subordinates and did not know how to proceed. They found certain of their employees’ traits to be particularly stressful, including high self-assertiveness, a lack of awareness of the do’s and don’ts of Japanese culture, lack of loyalty to the company, a long time needed to train them in their jobs, aggressive demands for salary raises, and even a refusal to follow instructions or accept feedback.

Some of the managers’ dismay can be attributed to them being ill-prepared: 46.1 percent reported that they had received no training or guidance whatsoever on how to manage foreign employees. Yuji Kobayashi, the lead researcher at Persol, said that instead of leaving the management of foreign talent to the individual workplace or supervisor, companies need to provide their inexperienced managers with the necessary tools, manuals, training, and other support to reduce expectation and acceptance gaps. This approach is presently patchy, with some companies providing the full spectrum of education and support to managers, and others simply leaving all the responsibility on the manager’s shoulders.

On the other hand, the employee traits that managers found most stressful also suggest that the hiring process may be partly at fault. For example, 40 percent of the survey respondents pinpointed the time needed to train foreign employees, which indicates that either those employees are ill-prepared, or their ability to do the job was not sufficiently assessed.

With the labor market in Japan as tight as it is, companies do not have much time to shape up their hiring and management processes. The unemployment rate is 2.4 percent, way below the regional average of 4.1 percent; there are 1.6 to 1.7 jobs for every job-seeker in the country. Business failures attributed to labor shortages have been steadily rising over the last few years, and some estimates put the number of foreign workers needed by 2050 at 10 million. 

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Topics: Culture

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