Lifetime Employment = Death

Did you know in Japan it’s socially unacceptable for a company to lay you off!?  I didn’t, until I read an article in NY Times. Check this out:

“Shusaku Tani is employed at the Sony plant here, but he doesn’t really work.

For more than two years, he has come to a small room, taken a seat and then passed the time reading newspapers, browsing the Web and poring over engineering textbooks from his college days. He files a report on his activities at the end of each day.

Sony, Mr. Tani’s employer of 32 years, consigned him to this room because they can’t get rid of him. Sony had eliminated his position at the Sony Sendai Technology Center, which in better times produced magnetic tapes for videos and cassettes. But Mr. Tani, 51, refused to take an early retirement offer from Sony in late 2010 — his prerogative under Japanese labor law.

So there he sits in what is called the “chasing-out room.” He spends his days there, with about 40 other holdouts.

“I won’t leave,” Mr. Tani said. “Companies aren’t supposed to act this way. It’s inhumane.”

The standoff between workers and management at the Sendai factory underscores an intensifying battle over hiring and firing practices in Japan, where lifetime employment has long been the norm and where large-scale layoffs remain a social taboo, at least at Japan’s largest corporations.”

Can you imagine?

I might be out on a limb here, but how does one come to the following conclusion:

1. Company hires you.

2. Company trains you.

3. Society, for whatever reason, stops buying companies product or service.  No money coming in.

4. Company should still employee you, forever!

Can someone explain that to me?  We have folks right here in the good ole US of A that believe the same thing.  I’ve seen the General Motors ‘Resource Centers’ where hundreds of UAW workers would go each day, sit, wait, get paid, to essentially do nothing.  It happened right in my own city.  The contract said GM would have ‘X’ number of workers, so even though they had no work, they had to show up to ‘work’.  It’s a joke.  It’s the definition of what’s wrong with unions.

Lifetime employment is the responsibility of a company or a government. Lifetime employment is the responsibility of you as an individual.  To continually educate yourself and add valuable skills to your resume.  To stay fresh on technology. To stay hungry.  If you want a company to employ you forever, you better give them a reason to want to employ you forever!

I understand the pull for some folks to want to have that one job they can just work forever. Show up each day, get paid, go home. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. The same job each day, every day, for your entire life.  On second-thought, I don’t that sounds exactly like death!

3 thoughts on “Lifetime Employment = Death

  1. Fascinating global perspective there. Yes, as an American, this goes against everything I hold sacred about work – it should add value for all, energize you, etc. Depending on the person and industry, your valuable shelf life somewhere could be 1 year (struggling start up) to 5 years (mid-sized company with a promotion or 2). BUT, remember, work cultures can be highly divergent from us good ol’ Americans…our mouths gape open at this Japanese practice. Why can’t they just be more like us? But they aren’t and the reasons are so complex, let’s not even go there. We’ve seen the amazing business results of the Japanese work culture (Honda) and the downside (rampant employee suicide). We can only observe, learn and try to work around it. Yep (smug chuckle), that’s what a GPHR (and a lot of hands on international experience) gets you…global.

  2. Let me play devil’s advocate:

    He is 51 and has been there 32 years so he started when he was 19. On the second page of the article, they talk about 12 hour shifts and 1 hour commutes one way.

    If the normal work schedule is 60+ hours per week with 10+ hours of commuting per week; when do they have time to learn new skills?

    If someone has been working that type of schedule for decades, they probably have valid claim for lifetime employment. Their entire adult life has been monopolized by their employer.

  3. I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to go to an office and be bored all day long. How sad that these individuals aren’t doing something about upgrading/changing their skill sets so that they can be productive.

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