Western values causing Japanese anxiety

Cultural Insights — By on August 11, 2006 at 11:45 am

Interesting story in the London Times about how Western business practices seem to be a cause of rising anxiety and depression in Japan.  The more individualistic practices common to Western business go against the grain of a Japanese society that is traditionally more group-oriented.  Other anecdotal stories in recent years seem to indicate that younger workers have an easier time adjusting to new ways of doing business than do older employees, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are real cultural challenges here.

Merit-based pay and promotion are of particular concern because they are at odds with the traditional system, built on seniority, that has reigned supreme in corporate Japan. … The trend is put down to Japanese companies’ attempts to globalise by adopting working practices more closely in line with US and British models. Larger numbers of temporary staff, a greater willingness to sack people and greater pay disparities are the downside.

A spokesman for the Mental Health Institute said that the emphasis on individual performance was driving Japanese workers – particularly those in their thirties – to mental turmoil. “People tend to be individualised under the new working patterns,” he said. “When people worked in teams they were happier.”

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