Japanese business culture: the window tribe

Japanese business culture: the window tribe

Japanese companies are barred both by societal and legal constraints that make it very difficult to fire employees.  Historically, that led to the phenomenon of the madogiwazoku – literally, the tribe that sits by the windows.  Employees whose services were no longer needed, but that the company could not or did not want to fire, would be given a pleasant spot by the window to while away working hours by reading the newspaper.  However, as the Japanese economy has had to deal with years upon years of recession, and the increasingly stiff winds of global competition, many Japanese companies are finding themselves with more redundant staff than could fit at the window seats.

The oidashibeya is in a sense madogiwazoku on steroids.  Employees are typically placed in a room, often windowless, where they have nothing to do.  In many cases their business cards are taken away, and they are forced to do menial, mind-numbing tasks, or given nothing to do at all. Being excluded from the mainstream is particularly painful for those who have dedicated themselves to the company for many years, especially in the context of Japanese culture where murahachibu (ostracism from the group) is a traditional and strong form of punishment.

The idea of the oidashibeya is that stripped of their status, ties with colleagues, and interesting work, the employees who are placed there will eventually quit out of shame and sheer boredom. 


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