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You Have Done Well, But You Are Fired

When I worked for an American company in Japan, there was a Japanese employee in its US headquarters. Let's call him Suzuki. Although Suzuki-san did not have any special responsibility for Japan-related business, he was eager to be involved in business with us in Japan.

Under normal circumstances, I would have contacted him when I needed to do work with the US headquarters. Having a Japanese professional in the US could have been an advantage for us in Japan. However, unfortunately, I had the feeling that it was better to stay away from him because things always got more complex when he was involved. Instead of contacting him, I always chose to contact people directly when I needed to do work with the U.S.

Even American companies do not tell real reason to fire employees

One day, Suzuki-san called me at home and informed me he was fired. There had been times when he would call me during U.S. business hours, which was evening in Tokyo. Although he was no longer my colleague, he tried to keep in touch.

According to Suzuki-san, he was told by his boss, “You have done very well, but your job has become redundant. We cannot continue your employment anymore”. Although he was not doing a good job and no doubt he was fired based on his poor performance, the company kindly explained to him it was not his fault, but just a business decision of the company. I was also amazed that he believed it. If he really had done well, how come the company fired him?

Even Japanese companies release poor performers

Years later, after I started my human-resources company, I heard from my industry contracts about an American man in Japan who was released by a Japanese company he worked for as a contractor. Let’s call him John. John did not do well in his job and his coworkers were quite annoyed by his unprofessional attitude. Therefore, even though it was a Japanese company, the company he worked for made a quick decision to release him after a few months.

I ran into John after that, and he told me that his boss had explained, “There's nothing wrong with you, but we have to terminate your contract. It's because we do not have enough budget to keep you.” It was obviously not true, because I knew that he was replaced by another professional just after he was fired. Surprisingly (again), John believed the words of his ex-boss, and he did not even imagine he was fired due to his poor performance. If John did well, but there was no budget, how come the company fired John and hired another person to replace him?

Same in the US as Japan: false reasons are given for firing people, and people believe them

It was very interesting to me that both American and Japanese companies do not give the real reason when they fire their employees. Sometimes it is said Americans do not use "tatemae" (a fake facade) and they are always straightforward and direct. However, American people do not only express 'honne' (what they really think), but they use tatemae also. Not just Americans, but people in other parts of the world too, will hold back on saying what they really think. In this respect they are just like Japanese.

Also interesting to me, it seems Japanese get used to hearing tatemae on a regular basis. The result is that Japanese are cautious about believing what they are told. In other words, Japanese knew people do not always say honestly what they think, and tatemae is necessary for smooth human relations. The two examples above are evidence of this. Using tatemae is necessary for a less stressful life, and people nevertheless tend to believe what they are told when it is what they want to think. This is true anywhere in the world.

If you get fired, Get Ready To Move On

In addition, even though sometimes people get fired from a company for valid reasons, if the labor market is liquid, they can find another job with another company. The reasons for losing jobs are not just poor performance, so people always be ready to move on to the next job.

As the labor market in Japan is still somewhat rigid and inefficient, Lifework Advance Co. hopes to step in to promote smoothness and efficiency in the job market and make the most of the foreign work force in Japan.

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