The following text has been summarised and adapted from the following published case:
Kelly was trying to control her anger as she thought about her supervisor. She couldn't understand why he was being so unreasonable. May be to him it was only a couple of days paid leave and not worth fighting over, but to her it meant the difference between being able to go on vacation for the long weekend or having to stay at home. She looked at her contract and the phone number of CLAIR on her desk. She wasn't the only person in the office affected by this. She sat and thought about how she should proceed.
Kelly is 22 years old and has been working for the past six months at the Soto Board of Education office in Japan. This is her first job after graduating from university with a degree in Management and on the whole, she really enjoyed it. Kelly was born in Adelaide and had spent most of her life there. She came from a highly successful professional family. Both parents were lawyers and so she grew up with a strong sense of justice. Like her parents, Kelly was very confident, an extrovert and a definite Type A personality!
She had studied Japanese in high school and took some courses in Japanese as electives in the University. She therefore spoke and wrote the language quite well and had even been on a school exchange to Japan. She had enjoyed the time she spent there and always planned to return one day. During her final year at the university, Kelly heard some of her friends talking about the Japan exchange and teaching programme. She thought it would be a great way to make some money, revisit Japan and take a bit of time out before embarking upon her Management career.
The Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program
The origins of the JET programme can be traced back to 1982 when the Japanese Ministry of education initiated a project which led to hiring young westerners to work at the local boards of education as consultants to Japanese teachers of English in the public schools. The goal of the programme not only concerned English instruction but also focussed more broadly on internationalisation in education and sought to increase mutual understanding and improve friendly relations between the peoples of Japan and other western countries.
CLAIR, originally the Conference of Local Authorities for International Relations, was established in 1986. The organisation was responsible for implementing the JET program in conjunction with the Japanese ministries. CLAIR had the responsibility to;
• advise and liaise during the recruitment and selection of western candidates for the JET program • place participants • provide orientation to the western JET participants • guide local authorities and host institutions • take care of participant welfare and counselling • make arrangements for travel for the participants coming to Japan • publish materials • provide publicity for the program
Counselling system of the JET Program
1. Usually, any problems JET participants face during their stay in Japan would addressed by the host institution. If participants had complaints or a problem at work or in his or her private life, the JET could alert his or her supervisor, who would take up the matter and attempt to solve it. 2. If problems raised by JET participants could not be solved by the host institutions the issues could be addressed with CLAIR who would try to resolve grievances between the JET participant and the host institution. CLAIR employed a number of non-Japanese programme coordinators who would intervene on behalf of the JET participant in these cases. 3. At the highest level, there was also a special committee for counselling and training consisting of staff from CLAIR, relevant embassies, host institutions and the Japanese education department. The committee oversaw orientation, conferences, public welfare, and counselling. If necessary, it answered the questions and concerns of the JET participants where they were of a serious nature.
The Association for the Japan Exchange and Teaching is an independent self-supporting organisation created by the JET programme participants. Membership in AJET was also voluntary. AJET provided members with information about working and living in Japan and provided a support network for members at the local, regional and national levels. Many Japanese and JET participants themselves considered AJET to be the union of the JET programme participants.
Kelly was sent to Soto, a medium-sized city on the island of Shikoku. She found the area quite different from Osaka, where she had stayed the previous time she was in Japan. Soto was, in Kelly's opinion, a small provincial town stuck in the middle of nowhere. She had enjoyed the activity and nightlife of Osaka but in Soto, there was not much to do with few entertainment options and only one cinema. Kelly very quickly developed a habit of going away on the weekends to tour different parts of the island and used her holidays to take advantage of visiting other parts of Japan that she might never again get a chance to see. However, Soto was at least a good place to improve her Japanese since not many people spoke English very well and only a few foreigners lived there.
Kelly worked at the Board of Education office three days a week and visited schools for two days to help with their English programmes. There were three other JET participants who worked in the same office. Mark 27, another Australian, Andrea 26 an American and Suzanne 25 from Great Britain. Like Kelly, Suzanne had been in Japan for only the past six months while Mark and Andrea had been working there for a year and a half. She was on good terms with the other JET participants in the office, although she was closest to Suzanne since they had both arrived in Japan at the same time and had met at their orientation in Tokyo.
Although Kelly had spent time in Japan before, this was the first time she had worked in a Japanese office. She had learned about Japanese work habits in a cross-cultural management class at university and was still surprised at how committed the Japanese were to their jobs. The working day began each morning at 8.30am with a staff meeting and officially ended each night at 5 p.m. Yet no one left the office before seven or eight o'clock. The Japanese came in on Saturdays, which Kelly thought was absurd since it left the employees with only one day a week to relax or spend time with their families. Kelly and the other JETs in the office had standard contracts given to them by CLAIR which stipulated hours, number of vacation days and number of days that could be taken in sick leave. The contract stated that the JET participants only worked from Monday to Friday until 5 p.m. and did not mention working on Saturdays. Neither Kelly, nor the other foreigners ever put in extra hours at the office nor were they ever asked to do so.
Mr Higashi was the JET participants’ supervisor in the office. At first, Kelly thought that he was very kind and helpful because he had picked her and Suzanne up from the airport and had arranged housing before they arrived in Japan. He even took the two women shopping to help them buy necessary items for bedding and dishes, so that they did not have to be without anything, even for one night.
Mr Higashi was born and had lived all his life in Soto. He was 54 years old and had been teaching high school English in and around Soto for more than 30 years. Two years ago, Mr Higashi was promoted to work as an adviser to all English teachers at the Soto Board of Education. This was a career making move that would put him on track to become a school principal. This new position at the Board of Education, made Mr Higashi, the direct supervisor over the foreign JET participants in the office, as well as making him responsible for their actions.
Mr Higashi found it very difficult to work with the foreign workers. Since they were hired on a one-year contract basis, renewable only to a maximum of three, he had already seen several come and go. He also considered it inconvenient that Japanese was not a requirement for the JET participants because since he was the only person in the office, who could speak English, he found that he wasted a lot of time working as an interpreter and helping the foreigners do simple everyday tasks like reading electric bills and opening a bank account. Despite this he did his best to treat the foreigners well and provide assistance as he would any other subordinate, by nurturing their careers and acting as a father figure. He felt he knew what was best for them. He was aware that his next promotion would depend to some extent, upon his own performance as a JET supervisor and how well he interacted and managed his subordinates, so he worked hard to be a good mentor. The problem was he often found them to be extremely impolite with little respect for his position. He felt increasingly annoyed with Suzanne and Kelly particularly.
Mr Higashi liked Kelly at first because she spoke Japanese well, had already spent time in Japan and seemed genuinely interested in the culture. Although she was the youngest of the four JET participants, he hoped that she would guide the others and assumed that she would not be the source of any problems for him. As time went by however he found her to be somewhat demanding, assertive and rather too inclined to animated conversations during working hours.
How the JET participants felt about Mr Higashi
At first, Mr Higashi seemed fine. All of the JETS sat in two rows with their desks next to each other, as they used to in school, with Mr Higashi’s desk facing them. The foreigners all agreed that Mr Higashi acted more like a father than a boss. He continually asked them how they were enjoying Japanese life and kept encouraging them to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and activities that Kelly and the other females felt was sexist. For example, he had left brochures on Kelly's desk for courses in flower arranging and the tea ceremony and even one on Japanese cooking. At first, Kelly found this rather amusing, but she soon tired of it and started to get fed up with the constant pressure to sign up for Japanese culture classes. What she resented most was that Mr Higashi kept insisting she tried activities that were traditionally considered a woman's domain. She didn’t have anything against flowers, but if she had been a man she knew that Mr Higashi would not have hassled her this much to fit in to Japanese society in quite this way. Kelly had been very active in sports back in Australia and bought herself a mountain bike when she arrived in Japan so that she could go for rides in the country. At Suzanne's encouragement, Kelly also joined the local kendo club. She hoped that Mr Higashi would be satisfied that she was finally getting involved in something traditionally Japanese and leave her alone.
She noticed that there were no Japanese women who had been promoted to the same senior level as Mr Higashi within the Board of Education. The only women who worked there were young and single secretaries. Kelly was openly and vocally critical about what she perceived to be institutionalised sexism. It made her very angry but she noticed Mr Higashi did not approve of her remarks and would peer at her over his spectacles as though she was some sort of school girl.
Apart from the fact that Kelly viewed Mr Higashi as sexist and patronising, she didn't think much of him as a supervisor. If Kelly or any of the other foreigners had a problem or a question about living in Japan, he would either ignore them or give them information that she later found out was incorrect. Andrea told Kelly that she stopped going to Mr Higashi when she had problems and instead consulted one of the women working in the office. Suzanne also found Mr Higashi totally exasperating. He was forever arranging projects and conferences for the JETS to participate in, and then changing his mind and cancelling at the last minute without bothering to tell them. He would also volunteer them all to work on special assignments over the holiday period and then get angry when they told him that they had made plans and were unable to go. Suzanne recalled that one week before the Christmas vacation, Mr Higashi announced that he had arranged for her to visit a junior high school. Suzanne informed him that while she would love to go, it was impossible since she had already booked time off and had arranged a holiday to Korea. Mr Higashi got angry and told her that he and the Board of Education would lose face if she didn't attend. Suzanne told Mr Higashi that losing face would not have been an issue if he had told her about the visit in advance, so she could have prepared for it.
As a result, Suzanne lost all respect for Mr Higashi as a manager and continually challenged his authority. Whenever a problem arose, she was quick to remind him that things were very different and much ‘better’ in her country. Mark also had difficulties with Mr Higashi. Mark was not much of a team player but resented Mr Higashi constantly telling him what to do and he preferred to work on his own. He didn't like Mr Higashi's paternalistic attitude but he didn’t want to get involved with conversations with Kelly and Suzanne all the time about Mr Higashi. He didn’t need the hassle. He just wanted to be treated like a normal, capable employee and be given more free rein to do his work. As a show of his independence, Mark refused to join in any of the drinking meetings after work that involved males exclusively. But that was as far as it went. There were already too many people getting over emotional in the office and he didn’t want to be one of them.
The Japanese Opinion of the JET participants
The other Japanese employees in the office found it difficult to work with the JETs. As far as they were concerned, the JETs were never there long enough to become part of the group, it seemed just like after they got to know one, he or she left and was replaced by another. Another problem was that since the foreigners usually did not speak Japanese, communication with them was extremely frustrating. They also caused problems with Mr Higashi and were disrespectful. Mr Higashi was the boss and he would be so, long after Kellie, Mark and Suzanne had left.
Many of the other workers in the office also resented the fact that the JET workers were paid more than them and even Mr Higashi, despite the fact that they were far younger with much less experience. To make matters worse, these young foreigners were also hired to advise them how to do their jobs better. The Japanese employees did not consider the JETs to be very committed workers either. They never stayed past five o'clock on week days and never came to work on weekends, even though the rest of the office did. Mark never came to the bar in the evening with them either and seemed to lack commitment. The JETs also made it very clear that they had a contract that allowed them vacation days, and they made sure they used every single day. Japanese employees on the other hand, rarely ever made use of vacation time and knew that if they took holidays as frequently as the foreigners, they could return to find that their desks had been cleared!
Kelly woke up one Monday morning with a high fever and a sore throat. She rang Mr Higashi to let him know that she wouldn't be coming in that day and possibly not the next either. Mr Higashi asked if she needed anything and told her to relax and take care of herself. But before he hung up, Mr Higashi told her that when she came back to the office, to make sure to bring in a doctor's note. Kelly was annoyed. The last thing she wanted to do was to get out of bed and go to the clinic for a simple case of the flu. But as she was getting dressed, she thought she was being treated like a schoolgirl by being forced to bring in a note.
Two days later, Kelly returned to the office with a note from the physician in her hand. Mr Higashi informed her that Suzanne and Mark had also been sick and he appeared suspicious that the three of them had been sick at the same time and had commented that he knew that foreigners sometimes pretended to be sick in order to create longer weekends. Kelly was glad that she had gone to the doctor and got a note to prove that she really was sick.
Mr Higashi took the note without so much as looking at it and threw it onto a huge pile of incoming mail on his desk. He asked her if she was feeling better, and then went back to his work. At mid-morning, the accountant came over to Kelly's desk and asked her to sign some papers. Kelly, reached for her pen and started to sign automatically until she noticed that she was signing for two days of paid leave and not sick leave. She pointed out the error to the accountant, who told her that there was no mistake. Kelly told the accountant to come back later and went over to speak to Mr Higashi. She was surprised to find that Mr Higashi said that there had been no mistake and that it was standard procedure in Japan. He said typical Japanese employees normally did not make use of their vacation time due to their great loyalty to the organisation. If an employee became sick, he or she often used paid vacation time first, out of consideration for employers.
Kelly responded that this was fine for Japanese employees, but since she was not Japanese, she preferred to do things the Australian way. Mr Higashi replied that since she was in Japan, maybe she should start doing things, the Japanese way. The next day, both Mark and Suzanne returned to the office only to find themselves in the same predicament as Kelly. Suzanne called Mr Higashi a lunatic and Mark chose to stop speaking to him altogether. Kelly was furious that they were being forced to waste two of their vacation days when their contracts clearly stated sick leave entitlements. She threw the JET contract on Mr Higashi's desk and pointed out the sections that stipulated the number of sick days they were entitled to and demanded that he honour the contracts as written.
Mr Higashi looked extremely agitated and said that he had to go to a very important meeting and would discuss the situation later. The accountant reappeared with the papers for the three JETs to sign, but they all refused. Suzanne started to complain about Mr Higashi's incompetence, while Mark complained about the Japanese style of management. Suzanne wanted to call AJET as she was a member and this was the kind of problem unions were supposed to handle. Kelly stared at the contract on her desk and said that they could take it to a higher level and involve CLAIR. One of the office staff urged her to avoid contacting CLAIR as people could lose face if it went that far. Nevertheless, Kelly opened her desk drawer and began looking for CLAIR’s phone number.
Case Study Questions
Identify the key influences that you believe have caused, influenced and exacerbated the conflict described in the case study. Support your argument with relevant literature?
Within an organisational circumference approaches cordiality between the employees and the management is the most elusive factor that helps in developing the organisational structure. Loyalty of an employee for the organisational operations, and cordiality of the employer for the employee juxtaposes. Dale-Olsen (2013) has affirmed that by maintaining this essential positioning the services to the targeted people of the society can be rendered. Having been in the age of intense globalization, the organisations appear to hire the foreign expert and experienced employees (Rugless and Taylor, 2011). This enables in performing the work for the organisation efficiently. The researcher is going to focus on some of the proficient approaches of managing the foreign employees by the employers in order to maintain the organisational working ethos. For this purpose the researcher is also going to focus on the particularly given case study where an employer of Japan has to face different inquisitive approaches in handling the foreign employees.
2.0 Brief Overview of the Case Scenario:
Kelly, working in Japan with JET, under the supervisation of Mr. Higashi who appears not to be so much effective in his approaches towards the foreign employees. Along with Kelly, Suzanna and Mark also work there to accompain her. Kelly had failed to come two days in the office because of fever. She informed Mr. Higashi who asked her to take rest. But he also asked to bring a doctor’s certificate as proof when she resumes. Kelly managed all the factors properly. However, the problem begins when after rejoining of Kelly after two days, Mr. Higashi said Suzanna and Mark were also on leave for these days and he suspected that they had taken the leave to enjoy their extended weekend. Therefore, they all would be awarded with non-paid leave. He insisted his accountant to make the papers signed from them. When they tried to approach Mr. Higashi and showed him the rule of giving sick leave in the contract, he tried to overlook them and stick to his points. This situation has brought an immense dilemma for all the three foreigners who feel quite wired and drab to work for JET anymore. At the same time, boasting and bossy attitude of Mr. Higashi has become a matter of headache for them. The employee and employer relationship, therefore, come standing before a big question in JET, especially for the foreign employees.
3.0 Critically Analyzing Case: Reasons, Points of Influences, Areas of Conflict
In this current case study it is seen that Kelly, Suzanna and Mark are working for JIT under Mr. Higashi as supervisor. It is natural that both of the parties feel quite hefty initially while keeping a good cordiality between them. Mr. Higashi although primarily had tried to become affluent in his approach to maintain proper relationship with the employees but it appears that his approaches were not proficiently taken by the employees. At the same time, the distance between the senior authority and lower employees could not have been avoided. Mr. Higashi from the first day appears not to be so much intrinsic towards the foreign employees. But as for fulfilling the necessities, he has to hire them. On the other hand, analyzing the case scenario it is clear that he had a little faith or belief on them (Hansson et al. 2008). Asking for the doctor’s note from Kelly on the date of joining however seems to be justified, but disclosing his doubt that Kelly had taken the leave to enjoy the extended weekend is in no way supportable. The fact is, as stated by Andersen (2010), making the employees doubted although is intrinsic, but disclosing that without having any justified information or document to prove it cannot be supported.
The approaches of Mr. Higashi in this case study appears to be quite absurd and disappointing. It can better be stated his supervising power is really weak and not efficient as well. First of all he does not seem to be ethical with his own employees. He initially asked Kelly to bring the medical certificate for giving her the paid leave on that specified day. But later he is seen to judge the case of Kelly from the same point of view Suzanna and Mark. When he was having doubt, he could have cross-checked it from that (Skatun, 2002). But despite doing that he directly accused three of them and forced to accept the non-paid leave. He even has refused to look at the agreement of medical leave that the foreign employees are liable to cherish. The decisive approach of Mr. Higashi is the primary matter of crating all the troubles and problems for all of these foreign workers. In no way the attitude of managing any incident seem to be affluent that influenced all the problems (Berkley and Watson, 2009).
At the same time, Mr. Higashi was barely familiar and appreciated among the foreign employees. Kelly although at the beginning of her working with JET seemed to have been fascinated by Mr. Higashi, but later she also refused to obey his order proficiently. He seemed to have arranged so many meetings with JETs and postpone them without letting the employees know even. The bossy attitude of Mr. Higashi has never been appreciated by the foreign employees ever. On the other hand, making the employees forced to work on the holidays although may seem to be successful to fulfill the predestined objectives of the organisation, but it deteriorate the management and employee relationship (Kuehn, 2012). For example Suzanne has been forced to work during the Christmas Eve holiday by Mr. Higashi and thereby she has to spoil her personal planning. Therefore, Mr. Higashi fails to acquire the appreciation of the employees. In order to bring them under control, he seems to have lost his own control over them and started becoming autocratic. This was not accepted by the employees.
Desai (2011) states that mental satisfaction of the employees within an organisation is the most essential part that propels the growth of the organisation further and also help to attain the faith of the employees. But while in JET the foreign employees barely felt any mental calmness and tranquility (Treble and Barmby, 2011). What is more, it has been witnessed that apart from the posts of personal secretary Mr. Higashi has hired no female Japanese employees which is quite wired within an organisational circumference (Ashford, 2011). From this fact it is proved that Mr. Higashi typically believes in gender discrimination. At the same time, the behavior of Mr. Higashi has been tagged by the female foreign employees as “sexiest”. It is also sure, as stated by Osterkamp and Rohn (2007), as the foreigners grow up in a different atmosphere, they need time to cop up with the situation and culture of a different country. But it appears that instigation of Mr. Higashi again works as a barrier for these people as well. Less faith has been gained by Mr. Higashi to attain success of the organisational structure. This particular incident is not only a strategical approach which intensifies the situation at the same time (Waters et al. 2013). This situation was really expected and appeared as well.
If thought from a different point of view in Japan loyalty of the employees towards the organisational ethos and towards its development is intrinsic. Van Poppel (2002) has stated that in no way mismanagement in the organisational structure is entertained in Japan. Therefore, Mr. Higashi performed his duty. The rule within an organisation is needed to be same and spontaneous for all of the employees, irrespective of their entity and designation. If the same scenario happens with a Japanese employee, using the paid vacation stands to be the only option opened (Osterkamp and Rohn, 2007). Mr. Higashi, therefore, appears to have taken the justified decision by letting Kelly and other foreigners getting the paid leave. It is necessary that the intensity of the organisational ethos is needed to be maintained without by harming the employee statistics. Within the organisation no partiality should be influenced. Though it may not seem to be similar, followed in UK or Australia, but it is needed to be mentioned that one has to follow the rules and regulation of a different country (Lofvander et al. 1997). On the other hand, CLAIR needs to make Kelly cleared about all the norms, rules and regulations that needs to be followed. If it would have guided her with all the approaches such incidents may not happen.
Throughout this analysis the researcher has tried to evaluate the problem generally seemed to be faced in the professional fields. Sick leave or medical leave is typically tried to be avoided or overlooked by the organisations. Even after the authentic documents presented by the employees before the management, management barely cares for them and let them enjoy these days with non paid leave. Although it appears to be illegal it has become a problem of all the countries. Violation of the agreement is often taken as casual basis. This research work highlights all those sectors promptly by considering a specific case scenario.
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