Monday, August 3, 2009

Applause for the New Employee

I've posted before on how hard Japanese people work, and how you find yourself in an environment where you are encouraged and supported to do so. It all starts on the first day, when you are fully indoctrinated into the company...

As you can imagine, I was quite nervous on my first day at this company last year. It started with a private chat with one of the more senior members of the company. He and I sat opposite each other in the middle of one of the large meeting rooms. It was the first time that my company had hired a westerner and he was very curious about me. He asked me all of the questions that I had already answered at the interviews – “Why did you come to Japan?”, “Why did you apply to this company?” etc. I must have given some good answers because he has been very friendly to me ever since. Whenever he passes my area of the office, he comes by and asks me how it’s going, how I am, and says “Gambatte!” with a big grin and slaps me on the shoulders.

After this informal chat, I was given a tour of the office and introduced to each department. Two new employees joined today and the same thing happened to them. A member of HR guides you round and introduces each department and its boss. Everyone in that department will stop what they are doing, stand up straight and face the new employee. The new employee then says, “My name is …. I have been recruited to the …. department. Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu.” He then bows and everyone bows in response.

I hadn’t anticipated the tour, but when it happened it was similar to normal introductions in Japan; a bow instead of a handshake and a few standard words and phrases. What I hadn’t anticipated, was the applause that followed! I found it flattering and embarrassing. In my arrogance, I suspected that it might be due to my nationality. I immediately said thank you and put up my hands to petition them to stop! I have since discovered, after the arrival of many new employees, that it had nothing to do with my nationality. Everyone gets applause and this happened today too. I should have just smiled and accepted the welcome.

After the tour of the departments, I was taken into the palatial section of the office that houses the executives. There are five executives in the company and their offices occupy the same floor space as 100 normal workers. They enjoy a lot of privileges and exercise complete and absolute control over the company. Almost nothing is done without their approval or design. The conversations that I had with each of them went well since I knew what they wanted to hear. Every employee I met that day wanted to hear the same thing: an introduction and a promise to work very hard for the company. They wanted to hear that I would join the team and be part of the collective.


  1. applause is not because they are happy or moved by your speech, in this case is cheering for your new job so that you feel welcomed and can work your ass off to new job.

  2. I tried to put it a little bit more delicately...