Reasons to Work (Too?) Hard

If you’re interested in reading about stereotypes of Japanese people as hard-working buisnessmen (and who isn’t), there are two threads to check out on Quora: “What are the reasons Japanese People work long hours, and is it necessary?” and “How is it that the Japenese are such a hardworking people?”

The threads offer some interesting insights into the Japanese culture but also are a good prompt for thinking about your own work ethic. Check this part of Chris Gilbert’s response to the second question:

I was recently chatting to a Japanese friend of mine about her job and she was complaining about how lazy her foreign (western) co-workers are. One thing she said that really stuck with me was this:

“It’s all about ‘them’ with my colleagues. It’s all about their money, their holidays, their weekends etc”

When I probed her further on the subject, asking her how they should be (according to Japanese culture) she replied:

“They never think about the company, their colleagues or their responsibilities”.

I mean … guilty, kind of? I have never been A Company Man, that is for sure. There’s also this, from Roy Fuentes:

One word: Confucianism.

Awesome. But, this 2008 article from the Washington Post hints that the stereotype comes from somewhere:

Death from too much work is so commonplace in Japan that there is a word for it — karoshi.

There is a national karoshi hotline, a karoshi self-help book and a law that funnels money to the widow and children of a salaryman (it’s almost always a man) who works himself into an early karoshi for the good of his company.

Photo: flickr/tinou bao

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