Heading to the office in Japan? Don’t forget your bento boxed lunch…and your tissues.
It’s no secret that Japanese culture and society place a tremendous amount of importance on work. But no matter how genuinely committed you are to your job, everyone has an emotional breaking point, and sometimes the pressure to satisfy customers and please your bosses can be all be just too much.
With the start of the Japanese fiscal year kicking off this week, Internet portal My Navi conducted a survey of 405 adult men and women, asking them if they’ve ever hidden themselves in the office bathroom and cried during work hours. The response was startling, with nearly one in four, 24.9 percent, saying that they’ve done so at least once.
▼ And now, the reason wasn’t “really hard stools.”
Among the things that had gotten respondents’ waterworks going were, predictably, unreasonable bosses. “My supervisor often tells me to do something one way, later says to do it another, and then blames me for making a mistake when it doesn’t come out like he’d actually wanted,” shared one 39-year-old female participant.
However, the tears aren’t always triggered by external stimuli. “I cried because I was so upset at myself for screwing up something simple,” shared a 40-year-old man who works in the automobile industry. Similarly, a 40-year-old woman in the IT field found herself unable to keep from crying not because anyone has yelled at her or expressed displeasure with her work performance, but because she herself so deeply regretted having caused problems for her company and coworkers by making mistakes she couldn’t rectify entirely on her own.
While the proportion of Japanese workers who admitted to crying at work is startling, and by no means something companies should be proud of, it might not be such a damning figure as it might appear to be by foreign standards. While it’s unlikely that so many American workers, for instance, have cried at work, it’s also worth noting that many Japanese go their entire careers without getting into a blatant verbal argument or heated disagreement with a coworker or supervisor. Similarly, petty office vandalism or supply theft, which have long been ways (however deplorable) of blowing off steam overseas, are practically unheard of in Japan, all of which leaves crying as one of the few remaining forms of emotional release.
Additionally, crying doesn’t have quite as negative a stigma in Japan that it does in many other parts of the world. Entertainers and sports stars are almost expected to cry when announcing their retirement, and men being overcome by emotion or vexation enough to shed tears happens often enough that there’s a Japanese word for it, otoko namida (literally “man tears”).
▼ Even badass anime martial artists in the post-apocalyptic world of Fist of the North Star sometimes cry.
TV dramas regularly show characters crying when characters are having a heart-to-heart talk, and multiple survey respondents spoke of crying in the office bathroom not because of a rough day at work, but because they’d been moved by the kind words of encouragement spoken by a coworker, or even a customer, during said rough day.
Of course, the sword of customer comments can cut both ways, and more than one survey participant cited harsh or unfair customer complaints as the reason they’d cried in a toilet stall at work. But while there’s a definite catharsis that comes from a good cry, once you’ve dried your tears, remember that another way to deal with unreasonable customer complaints is to simply laugh at them.