Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bug Out

*Small update: 12:59 pm (see bottom of post)

There are certain jobs which are known for having employees who just vanish one day and never return. Back home, these jobs are usually in places like fast food shops or in retail. In most cases, it happens with jobs that are low paid and have poor work conditions where getting a reference or listing the place of employment on your resume is of little importance.

In Japan, this happens with teaching jobs for different reasons. As I mentioned in a previous post, Nova language school used to see a lot of teachers leaving without notice. As a means of curbing such behavior, many companies have instituted a policy whereby they pay you as late as possible so that leaving will lose you as much pay as possible. This is a lot easier to manage in Japan because almost everyone is paid once a month as opposed to every two weeks as is the case in the United States.

In the case of Nova (and my former company), they calculated the pay period from the 15th of the month to the 14th of the following month but they didn't pay you until the last day of the month. If an employee bugs out, he or she might sacrifice two weeks of pay since every employee worked two weeks into the next pay period before getting the previous month's salary.

The idea of employees leaving without notice is foremost in my mind at the moment because my former company recently had another temporary worker bug out two weeks before the end of his three and a half month contract. My company's loss is my gain since I now get some freelance work as they struggle to cope with the aftermath of losing an employee unexpectedly.

Unlike other places, it's unlikely that this fellow walked out because of unappealing working conditions or unfair treatment. My former company and my former boss in particular treat their employees pretty well and the work is less oppressive than teaching can be. It's most likely that, as he saw the end of his contract coming, he started to apply for a more permanent job elsewhere and got one which required him to start at the beginning of March. Since he was a temporary at my company, he just walked away.

A lot of foreigners feel that every foreigner who abandons his post makes us all look bad but the truth is that not only foreign employees behave badly or bug out. Shortly after my company was bought by an evil mega-corporation (two years before I quit), our Shinjuku office got an influx of employees who were merging with us from the new owner's office elsewhere. One of the employees was the equivalent of an office manager and since he was perceived as being tight with the new boss, everyone deferred to him.

This new semi-leader was a confused mess. He spent company money recklessly, hired unqualified employees with weak skills, and went into the president's vacant office and slept when he felt like it. I later learned that the women in his section were taking calls from loan sharks about his debts and they claimed he smelled bad. He certainly looked disheveled at times and often dressed inappropriately for an office (e.g., Beatle boots, a tail he pinned on the back of his pants). The only work he did came out very poorly and rife with errors. Eventually, he stopped showing up for work and never came back.

The only difference between foreign employees who bug out and Japanese is that, when a foreign employee does it, it's because all foreigners aren't as loyal, diligent, respectful and hard-working as Japanese people. The only problem is that not all Japanese people are loyal, diligent, respectful or hard-working.

*Ironically, just about an hour after posting this, I finished a lesson with a student who said she just experienced a bug out with a man hired full-time as a staff worker. He worked for a week and then complained that he felt "bullied" by the female employees in the section. The company offered to transfer him to another section and he initially said he'd stay on but, when the vice president (who is also a woman) told him he'd have to essentially be more of a man about his job, he walked out without notice. My student told me that these sort of bug outs are not the norm but are far from uncommon.


Luis said...

I recall one incident when I was a manager at NCB. We had this guy apply for a job, go through all the steps, apply for a visa and whatnot. Finally, after a few months on the job, his Certificate of Eligibility came through, and he went overseas to get his work visa.

The moment he got the visa approved, he called in from where he went to get it (not Korea, but I forget where), and said he quit.

Later, we learned from a staff member who knew someone at another school that he really wanted to work at that other school and not ours, but they would not offer a visa. He put us through all that work and expense just so he could trick us into being his sponsors.

Under the old visa system, we could have had his ass kicked out of the country faster than he could spit. But that system also allowed rather terrible bullying by the visa sponsor (as I found out back in the 80's when the YMCA stole hundreds of dollars from me then threatened to have me deported when I complained).

So I'm not sorry for the system, but you have to have contempt for deceptive bastards like that.

Shari said...

Fortunately for my company, they don't sponsor temps. In fact, one of the reasons they have trouble finding anyone to fill the position is that they have to come with a visa already in place.

The people who come, get a visa, and then leave are unfortunate but I can't bring myself to feel sorry for them. Most of them use teachers as hard as they can and this is just the teachers using them back. I think, if the companies treated the teachers with respect, the teachers wouldn't take the visa and run.