Woes of the Salaryman

This is just a rambling, worrying post concerning my dear Japanese guy friend who has been both blessed and cursed with a managerial job here in the States, under the ever-watchful eye of his boss back in our parent company’s Japan office.

The guy has only been here 6 months (the duration of his work visa is 3 years) and I’ve already noticed the emergence of more than a few grey hairs on his otherwise jet-black head. Did I mention that he’s only 26? He’s 26, terribly stressed, overloaded and overwhelmed.

There's more to life, buddy...

Japanese culture is known for being about “us”, as opposed to the West, which is more likely to be all about “me”, and so it is surprising when I hear him speak of a time when he will become head honcho and do his best to eradicate the working custom expectations of his native country. He once told me that Japanese working custom prefers “manpower over efficiency”, which I believe means that they are more apt to work hard, not work smart. I could only hope that he was joking. Sometimes he speaks of quitting, or just running away, but he never does. Hey, it’s a tough ecomony. I think we all put up with bs at our jobs that we normally wouldn’t if we had a choice. He’s not going anywhere soon, but I suppose he needs to get his frustrations off of his chest.

Since he came to me this morning to blow off some steam, he’s been on my mind. After telling me how his weekend went (he slept and slept), he then confessed that 2 nights out of last week he actually stayed overnight in the office because he had so much to do and couldn’t even think about going home. There wasn’t much that I could say, except, “oh you really should rest” and the like. What do you say? I hadn’t a clue. So I just listened.

I hope that one day he will be able to get a grip on himself, his life and his job. I also think he needs to seriously consider what he can actually do, compared to what others expect of him. What is the point of this post? Absolutely nothing. There is no solution I have come up with to help my friend, as I can only be a listening ear. I just thought I’d share with you all.

16 thoughts on “Woes of the Salaryman

  1. Yeah just be positive and keep listening.. Unfortunately, he doesnt live here in the States perm., and he has to go back home and face his Family, so unlike here, quitting is not an option because that will seem like failure.. Whereas here, most people will quit with the quickness if they feel too much stress, and we as Americans will not think negatively of them.. I remember a man that worked as a Custodian at my old job, and someone told me he used to be a very high executive making 6 figures, but it was too stressful and he was about to have a breakdown, so he quit and everybody was like yeah that was the right thing to do.. Very different Culture wise…//(side note :nowadays we cant quit a job because who knows when we will get another one!!! LOL)

  2. Keep being a good friend. Some people can handle stress and then some people just go over the edge. Just try to make sure that he doesn’t go over and that goes for any body. The body can only take so much before it will cut off, if you know what I mean. When I would get overly over mentally tired, I would take a day or a couple of mental days off. And not do a F&*k thing. Trust me, it’s better than telling the boss what part of your body to kiss. LOL

  3. I think one of the ways you can help him is to mirror what he is saying to you and then ask him a question. What have you learned from this?, Do you feel that you have accomplished what you set out to do? How could you have done it differently or more efficiently? That is the only way he is going to break the internal program that he is struggling against. If he want to make a change, he cannot keep walking the same path and expect a different result. I hope this gives you some encouragement.

  4. I share the sentiments of theses posters, you can only hear him out, advise him and hope that one day your words will sink is his head because the route he’s taking ,he will end up killing himself.

    At 26, unless he’s one of those guy who greys prematurely, he shouldn’t be greying like that. Like you said, he’s thinking in terms of “us” instead of “me” and in this case , he should be thinking about the “me” part. In countries like Japan working hard is the norm…even if it sometimes,putting you life at risk. There was a Cantonese girl in my former professors class who suffered from numerous migranes because she was worried over making the perfect grades. To make anything below an A was like making an F. Her mom wanted her to make nothing but A’s…no B’s…A’s. Likw that man she looked to be in her early 20’s ,crying wondering will she come out with the perfect grade.

    These days you’re playing Russian Roulette quitting your job. In you’re friend’s cultural upbringing also plays a roll in this.If he can stand the heat, ok,but Japanese or not Japanese, he’s ruining his health. I had a cousin who literally worked himself to death. He worked seven days a week almost non stop, was hospitalized for stress related illnesses went back to work and died.In one way, I understand that there are times where you may have to suck some things in to keep your job. Maybe he fears that expressing himself( that’s another thing, men in general are not expressive beings) will get him fired.If your friend would have stayed on his job for 10 years, I could see why he would be so giddy about having it. Don’t get me wrong, no job can be taken for granted,but if I was him, I would take that chance and tell the boss how I feel. My biggest fear that I have about him is that just as much as his job will effect him physically, it will also effect him mentally,which is far worse consequences.

  5. This young man is stressed beyond measure. We wouldn’t want to hear about him committing Hari-kari. Tell him to take a few minutes out of the day for himself. Close the door. Not accept any phone calls, or other office duties. Try meditating, do little Tai Chi, buy a gold fish and sit and watch it for awhile, or sip a cup or herbal tea, anything to relieve stress. He sounds so unhappy, having both pressure from the company to do well and pressure from home to succeed. It good you are a listening ear for him to lean on.

  6. talking about it might have let him vent enough steam where he can bear it a bit more…

    a goldfish like ladyorchid suggested, and maybe even a plant are good ideas…when my job used to be more stressful, my 1-gal fish tank on my desk worked wonders for my sanity…now i keep a couple of plants…a little diversion could help him…

  7. Stress is no joke. My boss is a boss that is of the “I’m gonna break you” mentality and she I and I would get into a “test of wills” so to speak at times. I would swallow Maalox like it was water, because my stomach would ache so bad I thought I had developed a stomach ulcer. I would also get bad headaches and one day standing in the hall talking to one of my co-workers, I became so light headed/dizzy like, I had to sit down. The last straw was when one night I went to lay down and felt my heart nearly beat out of my chest. Each time I laid down, I felt that sensation…needless to say it scared the shit out of me. My husband and mother took me to the emergency room and they checked my vitals, etc. and assessed no life threatening immediate danger, but sent me home that weekend with a heart monitor and scheduled me for a thorough stress test.

    I went to my doctor who first checked my gastrointestinal “inners” (I had to swallow the little camera…not fun) and determined I had no ulcer. The stomach pain I was experiencing was muscle spasms brought on by stress. I did my heart and stress test, everything checked out fine. Baby, once I realized that I had no life threatening diseases/illnesses etc. I realized my problems were stress related. That was like a light bulb going off in my head.

    I said to myself…..Lady, you WILL NOT put me in an early grave, nor will you make me quit either….Oh No! That’s all I needed to know. Stressful situations can be changed. Change I did. For me it was simple. I stopped letting that woman “bait” me. I took on a “you like it, I love it” attitude. When I felt her try to bait me by pick, pick, picking……she soon got tired of picking. Of course, I had to resist my natural urge to push back. But, when she realized I wouldn’t “play along” with her stupidness….she had no choice, but to relate to me on my terms. I soon realized she was an insecure, immature bully who often became jealous of some of her own employees (male and female alike) and tried to break those of us who had a healthly dose of self esteem. Stress manifested itself in my body, when I wouldn’t let her break me and like Jani said I had to bridle my tongue, which went against my natural inclination. In my personal life, as you all can see I don’t hold back my opinion and at work I had to. However, once I changed my approach toward her, life at work for me changed. I can’t remember the last time a took Maalox, I only get headaches when allgery season kicks in and SHE now tips to my desk and says…..”is there anything you need me to do for you.”

    • @BiAlamode: I have a friend who has gone through the exact same thing as you! It seems like you are talking about the same person she is whenever she mentions her boss. What a nightmare to work for someone like that. Thankfully you took the higher road and are much better for it–health and sanity included.

      • OMG ladies,
        BiAlamode, you and me, and BoaB’s friend… same/same.

        I am in agreement with the overall advice here.
        Being able to talk about it and express your feelings out loud
        is a huge benefit and outlet of negative emotions.

        I work two jobs,
        my first job is the incredibly stressful one;
        my second job is the complete opposite.
        Though conflicted with feelings of unprofessionalism,
        you know, talking bad about one boss in the company of another,
        my second job is my safe haven, my saving grace.
        Thanks to one co-worker in particular,
        I survived a particularly hellish year,
        and am the better for it.
        Being able to talk about it elsewhere,
        gave me the strength to keep my tongue bit,
        where it needed to stay bit,
        and I am the better for it.

        When dealing with difficult individuals
        at work, you must remember that 99.999% of the time,
        it is not about you!
        Everyone has issues and problems of their own.
        Some people unfortunately insist
        on making other people just as miserable as they are.
        Try your best to not take it personally;
        simply continue to do what is expected of you,
        if you’re lucky enough to know what that is exactly,
        and respond as though they are the crazy one in need of help.
        … sure, even though I did exactly as you told me to,
        and used your exact words; yeah, I’ll change it,
        you poor thing you…
        it works for me,
        and seems to throw them for a loop;
        as in I don’t know what your problem is,
        just tell me what you want/need me to do,
        so we can be done with this.

        It also helps to remember,
        that if they are that way with you,
        everyone else at your workplace
        probably knows how they are too.
        In that regard,
        you are not alone.

        I remember what it was like at college,
        and I have so much respect for visiting scholars and students.
        Having a Ph.D. in your home country,
        and being, or at least sometimes feeling,
        reduced to nothing so far away from home —
        the language barriers, the feelings of frustration,
        and often times
        ignorance on the part of others.
        Life can often be so unfair,
        but you do the best you can.

  8. Sorry, trying to relate how important it is to not let yourself be stressed I forgot to give my two cents about your friend. IMO your friend will have to decide what matters more, the opinions of family back home or what I want for myself in my own life on a personal level. He will stay stressed until he makes a definitive decision. Even if he intends to return to Japan, you can still live your life for yourself. I understand traditions and family, etc. but sometimes you may have to make the difficult choice of distancing yourself from family if they are putting you in a mental and emotional place that is not good for you. Only YOU can live your life….Mom can’t do it, Dad can’t do it, Grandparents can’t do it……only YOU. Take care young man and get some rest and relaxation. I highly recommend getting a warm stone Spa massage….they’re great. Nothing like let somebody rub your body down with oils. (SMILES)

  9. I think it’s cool that he would feel comfortable enough to come to you and share his problems and frustrations with you. That’s ironic because one of the short stories in the latest book I wrote was about a Japanese guy with a stressful job who was suicidal. ……not to say that your friend is suicidal but I can totally see how this can happen to some people in real life.

    It’s nice to know or be reminded of the fact that there are some men out there willing to talk about their feelings and what’s on their minds.

  10. Aww I feel so bad for him. I worked for 5 miserable years doing a job I hated and the best advice I can give is to find a hobby, and learn to leave work at work. Anything to help alleviate the stress during those horrid hours. You’re being a big help by listening though, sometimes thats all we need is for someone to listen to us.

    • That my friend,
      is excellent advice.
      Someone very close to me
      reintroduced a hobby he loved into his life.
      His handle on his work situation improved greatly,
      the work situation itself improved greatly,
      and he and his hobby have pretty much thrived ever since.
      It is one of the best decisions
      he has ever made
      in his life.

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