Mistakes managers need to avoid when dealing with newly hired employees

TOKYO —

This past week, fresh-faced newcomers started working at companies throughout Japan. According to two articles in Nikkan Gendai (April 3 and 4), managers and supervisors need to understand that there are certain things that must absolutely be avoided to prevent new staff from starting off on the wrong foot.

One thing not to do right from the get-go is to entrust newcomers with answering the telephone without proper orientation and supervision. Sales companies, if they know their stuff, subscribe to the “10-second principle,” by which a phone must be answered after no more than three rings. To make a caller wait longer risks incurring their impatience.

“An experienced worker knows when picking up the phone and being requested to speak to a co-worker who’s not available, to say ‘I’m sorry, but Mr Sato is not here right now,’” says Chiyoko Yasushige, a director of a management consultancy service. “At the very least, courtesy demands informing the caller of the time he’s expected to return to the office and saying, ‘I’ll have him return your call.’”

But inexperienced workers tend to be imprecise about their comings and goings and need to be carefully watched.

“If you don’t know when they’re leaving for the day, that will be seen as your mistake,” says Yasushige.

Another thing to be avoided is to introduce a new arrival to a life insurance salesperson.

“Some bosses introduce their new subordinates to a female life insurance salesperson, which is possibly the worst thing they can do,” says insurance consultant Toru Atoda. “As long as they’re covered by regular health insurance, single people don’t need a life policy. Insurance isn’t a good investment. Instead, a boss ought to just advise a young worker to save up 1 million yen in cash.”

Nikkan Gendai also introduces several phrases that are to be avoided at all costs. The first is “Jibun de kangaero!” (Think on your own!). This is usually stated in response to the question “Do shitara ii desu ka?” (What should I do?).

Human resources consultant Keiko Ogata often hears youngsters during training sessions confide to her how browbeaten they felt by being told the above, or other expressions to the same effect like, “When I was young, there was nobody around to tell me what to do!.”

It’s important to keep in mind that members of Japan’s younger generation have a much stronger sense of equality than do their seniors. So signs of bias or favoritism—for example by fawning over the cutest girl in the group while disregarding the others—is one of the worst things a manager can do.

“Moreover,” adds Ogata, “youngsters tend to be less competitive than the older generation but have strong sense of pride, so they are likely to react negatively to personal criticisms unrelated to their work, such as how they prepare food or the way they grip their pens, and so on.”

In any event, being branded with a reputation for fawning over cute new female arrivals at the office is a surefire way to lose newcomers’ respect and tarnish one’s own career.

Or this: “Two years ago, when I joined the company, I was flabbergasted to see that my boss was a total loss at operating a personal computer,” recalls a woman employed by a trading house. “He’d always ask one of the older girls to come over to his desk and show him how to perform some function. And he didn’t seem to be able to remember how to do it, so he’d ask her the same thing again a week later.

“He was only in his late 40s, but completely hopeless when it came to using his computer.”

Such a cavalier admission of ignorance is simply not the sort of thing that a manager should expose himself to in front of new staff.

Other behavior by a boss likely to invite disparaging remarks by the ladies when they giggle and smirk while making tea would include, “He lets the nails on his pinkies grow long.” “He falls asleep with his mouth hanging open on the train.” “When I had my hair trimmed, he asked me if I’d broken off with a boyfriend.” “He reeks of alcohol from morning.” and “While he’s on the job he plays ‘air golf’ (i.e., takes imaginary swings of his golf club).”

  • 25

    sensei258

    I am sorry I wasted my time reading this.

  • 10

    HaraldBloodaxe

    At my place of business, there is a woman who has sat in her chair failing to understand anything for longer than anyone else, and is therefore the senpai. She truly is woefully inept.

    Our manager put her in charge of "training" one of our new hires, but because she is as useful as Anne Frank's drumkit, the new hire wound up lamentably confused. After a couple of years of bumbling through, she quit.

    This week we hired someone to replace her, and guess who the manager assigned to training her? Despite at least a dozen formal complaints being made against the woman, time served trumps utter incompetence. And so the cycle of despair begins again.

    I'd class that as a mistake managers ought to avoid.

  • 5

    Novenachama

    Starting a new job is both exciting and challenging and all employees whether newly hired or not do make mistakes. A great manager allows their people the freedom to make mistakes. But wise employees are those who when mistakes are made learn from them, fix them, and put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again. I believe the steps to correcting mistakes apply in any area in life and a good employee makes a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those that have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes. Wise people will admit, apologize, acknowledge their mistakes and then attest, assure, and abstain from repeating the same mistakes twice. By doing this your level of trust and respect others have for you will grow tenfold and find that others will be quicker to forgive you and more likely to extend a second chance. Thus it's what you do with it afterwards that really matters.

  • 0

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    I have had the experience of managing Japanese employees, and I spent nearly as much time pulling them apart from each other over their petty squabbles and backstabbing as I did actually working. The level of philandering between married men and women in the office was remarkable. Even our foreign shacho wound up divorcing his wife and marrying the company's administrative assistant, who was a dragon lady type reminiscent of Wendy Deng. At least he had the common sense to demand that she quit the company after they tied the knot.

  • 5

    katsu78

    Training someone for a job is a kind of leadership. The longer I work in this country, the more I realize that while there are many people with excellent managing skills, there is a severe dearth of real leadership skills.

    Nikkan Gendai also introduces several phrases that are to be avoided at all costs. The first is “Jibun de kangaero!” (Think on your own!). This is usually stated in response to the question “Do shitara ii desu ka?” (What should I do?).

    Yikes. That's a serious failing in leadership. It's all well and good to berate an experienced employee who doesn't know how to think on their own, but to just expect a new person to know what you want from them on day 1? Sheer incompetence.

  • -1

    Qamar

    I will just say one thing: Managers are human too! The company I worked at had a manager who took interest (in a good way) in employee's life, in that way it was more of a friendship than boss-employee relation.

    It took me a long time though to understand this and he would complain about me mistrusting anybody (by rule, I never EVER make friends in the office, most people are just waiting for a sign of weakness to wash the floor with you). When I told him this, he told me to chill and experience the office a bit. (Not the type of boss who would scream at you, he would just call you in the office and gently explain what you did wrong, at least with me!)

    I quit some time later because honestly, I'm not good with working in a group, I'm too much of an introvert. I remember that my lovely office colleagues just assumed I was pregnant, because ofc, if a girl quits, she is pregnant. I fumed so much over it that my manager had made a formal apology in the name of the office!

  • -4

    Frungy

    “If you don’t know when they’re leaving for the day, that will be seen as your mistake,” says Yasushige.

    If a sales company doesn't have a notice board with sliding In/Out next to each person's name and space for a comment like, "Sales meeting" and return time "4pm" or "Tomorrow" then it isn't the new person's fault, it is management's fault for not managing.

  • 6

    LBW2010

    As always, the comments are infinitely more interesting and informative than the article. Great job, JT.

  • 2

    Gramie

    "they are likely to react negatively to personal criticisms unrelated to their work, such as how they prepare food or the way they grip their pens"

    Is that a sign of problems with the new hires, or problems with the stupid managers who make such vapid criticisms?

  • 1

    wanderlust

    Wait for the Go-Gatsu-Byo - or May sickness, when a large number of the new recruits will leave the company...

  • 0

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    Wait for the Go-Gatsu-Byo - or May sickness, when a large number of the new recruits will leave the company...

    That is also referred to in some quarters as 成田退職 (Narita taishoku), a humorous reference to 成田離婚 (Narita rikon), instant divorce at the airport upon return from an overseas honeymoon.

  • -1

    Fadamor

    “Some bosses introduce their new subordinates to a female life insurance salesperson, which is possibly the worst thing they can do,” says insurance consultant Toru Atoda.

    Yeah. Instead, they should introduce the new employee to a MALE life insurance salesman because men don't have girl-cooties. Plus, that way the new employee doesn't have to worry about the female life insurance saleswoman falling madly in love with them and sexually assaulting them. (Wait... that's a bit...)

  • 1

    sfjp330

    Article saids: “At the very least, courtesy demands informing the caller of the time he’s expected to return to the office and saying, ‘I’ll have him return your call.’” "But inexperienced workers tend to be imprecise about their comings and goings and need to be carefully watched."

    You don't want to give the caller a precise time. It's actually better to be inprecise (vague) then being precise. It's better not to make promises. It's better to say "he's not available at this time, can I take your message and he will call you back as soon as he is available?" you migh want to say " he should be back early this afternoon" rather than a precise time.

  • 0

    cvmurrieta

    >

    Or this: “Two years ago, when I joined the company, I was flabbergasted to see that my boss was a total loss at operating a personal computer,” recalls a woman employed by a trading house. “He’d always ask one of the older girls to come over to his desk and show him how to perform some function. And he didn’t seem to be able to remember how to do it, so he’d ask her the same thing again a week later.

    “He was only in his late 40s, but completely hopeless when it came to using his computer.”

    I am in my mid-40s and will be starting a new job for a Japanese company near Detroit, Michigan. If I had said in my interview that I could not use computers, I would not have even gotten a written offer contingent on a background check! I had to prove throughout the interview that I had an interest in procurement and the ability to speak passable Japanese. If I could not use Excel, I would be laughed out out of the MBA program I am attending.

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