Jul 20, 2018

The Japanese work environment: where no one wants to make a decision

Something that I've found hard when it comes to my work environment here is the reluctance of those I work with to make clear cut, quick decisions. I'm not sure if it's a Japanese thing or if it's a "my workplace" thing, but every expat I've asked thus far about it echoes the same sentiments - that people here in Japan seem much more hesitant to make decisions than what many of us are probably used to back home.

The Japanese work environment: where no one wants to make a decision photo

With the work culture I'm used to in Australia, department managers usually have a pretty big authority over making decisions - that's the whole point of having them as managers. Sure, some stuff has to go to people higher up the chain in larger organizations, but here I feel like the most miniscule of questions ends up having to go through 6 different channels, where multiple meetings are convened to get anything done or agreed to. Even my interview process to get this temporary position I'm in now involved 4 different face-to-face meetings (and honestly, it could have all been done in one).

I'm not sure what it is that fosters that environment exactly..could it be safety in numbers when it comes to decision making? A concern that if something does go wrong, they can all take solace in the fact that 15 different people knew about the issue so no one really takes responsibility for it? Is it just a cultural resistance to change? I'm still not 100% sure. I feel like workplaces here are hierarchical to the extreme, in the most inefficient of ways. Strip away some of those inefficient layers, empower department heads to be allowed to make decisions, and hey presto - so many things would get done significantly faster.

If you're here in Japan for work, how do you find your workplace when it comes to managerial decision making? Are issues sorted out quickly, or do you also have the culture where things have to go through multiple channels to get any kind of action taken?



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!