So I Work Again


About a month ago, I sat down to have my review meeting. Present was the HR woman I had seen many times over the past few weeks. My first meeting with her happened when I went to her office sobbing, saying I couldn’t stand working for two of my three bosses anymore.

The very Japanese working environment was too much for me, and the cycle of me eager to get to work in the morning to perhaps have a day when I didn’t mess up and get shouted at, but ultimately having someone be angry at me and going back to my car at the end of the day with tears down my face, was all too much.

What did I get wrong? Sometimes I verbally checked the contents of emails with my boss to make sure I had understood the very formal Japanese before I started a task. Sometimes I completed the task “please print these papers” without completing the unwritten task of “and make changes to the layout/text”. One time I stapled at the wrong angle.

However, what did I get right? Without having any handover period and extreme minimal training, I worked out what the three bosses wanted most of the time. I remembered what time they liked to take their trains, how they liked their schedules to be managed, when their credit card bills came through. As I bragged on Facebook, my ultimate proud moment was when I had an email from a top-top manager in very formal Japanese, asking me to help him arrange his trip to Germany. In German, I booked his restaurant and limo, then translated it all back into formal Japanese for him. I never got to know how that trip turned out.

My manager entered into my review meeting. “Thank you for agreeing to come today. I went to review your progress over the past two months and couldn’t think of a single good thing to say about you. With this in mind, I would like to terminate your contract.”

More so than him not wanting me to work there anymore, him not being able to pick out any of the good deeds and successes I’d had was what hurt me the most. I replied that I was also deeply unhappy in the role, so we agreed that it was a mutual decision. Then, 30 mins later, I was out of that office for good.

I am not one to sit around and mope, but my feeling in the next few weeks was really low. I went to interviews but, feeling very similar to how I felt coming out of my abusive relationship, I felt like I was worthless and should just give up. On days when I didn’t have interviews, I stayed in the house and didn’t go outside at all.

A week or so later, I was called into an interview to another very large Japanese company. I swore I would never work for a Japanese company again, but aware that I was becoming a hermit, I made myself go down to central London to sit it.

The woman who greeted me, a bubbly Polish woman, was so warm and lovely, I forgot about disliking Japanese companies. She gently asked me what happened in the previous company, and when I hinted that I wasn’t happy there, she told me about how she’d worked at a big bank that treated her badly. We opened up to each other about our very similar experiences, and she started talking in “when I train you up” as opposed to “if you are hired”.

A week later, I was sat at her shoulder, ready for two weeks of me learning everything I needed to know to take over her job.

Traveling to central London every day is really, really hard. But when I’m stood on the platform at 7am ready to get the train, I remember how I felt at my previous job and know that I’m in the right place. After Christmas, the location will change to a town near to where I live, meaning I can drive my little Toyota to work in peace, without any armpits in my face.

Eventually, I’d like to write a post on tips for working in a Japanese office. People I’d spoken to about my treatment before had told me that it was very common in Japanese companies. So perhaps I can collect different tips from people.

For the time being, I’ll be a little slower with my blogging tasks – slower replying to comments, a little less present on Twitter and Instagram. The working day is hard and I’m constantly tired, but I’m respected and happy and hopeful for the future.





  1. Wishing you so much good juju – when you’re unhappy at work it’s incredibly hard!
    Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi recently posted…Tromso wandering, NorwayMy Profile

  2. Hard times … I wish you all the best for the new job!
    You are such a nice person, I am feeling with you.

  3. Good luck with your new job.
    Anca recently posted…Liverpool, by nightMy Profile

  4. Are you familiar with the research of Erin Meyer? She works with multi-national companies on learning to give feedback across cultures, general “how to work with countryman A, if you are from country B”. Also I love reading He also writes a lot about German/American relationships. Mostly though he focuses on how to get through the conflict created by the culture gap. So glad though that things worked out for the better. I need to come over and have you show me around London.
    Kathleen R recently posted…What’s all the fuss about ClassDojo?My Profile

    • No! I’ve not! *Googles her* OH I have her book in my Amazon Wish List! I really should go buy that soon… It’s funny, that company always gave lessons to the westerners on how to work with the Japanese, but I’m not sure they did it the other way around…

      I am always here to show you around London! I’d love to take you to see Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I think you’d love it.

  5. I’m glad everything is so much better for you in this new job – evn if the commute is hard/tiring. It makes me mad that your old boss couldn’t think of a single positive thing to say! It sounds a lot like the boss I had before starting at my current company (except he wasn’t Japanese – just mean!).
    bevchen recently posted…Bad BergzabernMy Profile

    • Ah…it makes me mad too, believe me. But it’s all behind me. Thank goodness. I’m glad you’re away from your terrible boss too!

  6. Aw, that previous job experience sounded horrendous. And although you hated it and you needed to move on, being “fired” is always horrendously unpleasant. It happened to me once, urgh. On one other occasion, I told the manager straight that I couldn’t stand the job, and just walked out right there and then, lol. He wasn’t actually a bad guy, and I duly sent him a replacement the next day, who, luckily, enjoyed working there 😉

    Anyway, best of luck in the new position, sounds like it might be a winner. And yes, the daily London commute sucks…
    Simone recently posted…Toledo Does Cocktails!My Profile

    • You sent a replacement! I think you’re a very nice person, I wouldn’t have done that!
      Thank you for the kind words!

  7. Ugh. I’m going through the same things with my new job (the good, new things). Every day I am incredibly grateful for how nice and understanding and normal and lovely all the people are I’m working with are; and every day I realise more and more just how f*cked up my old job was and how it properly, really, genuinely traumatised me. It’s a bit like having a really shit ex-partner who makes you appreciate your new one even more. I know just how hard it is, believe me – I’m still going through the process – but I hope you’re able to shake away all your horrible feeling from the last job.

    And I am so happy you’re getting out of the armpits. But before you do, it’s Christmas party season, which means Christmas party hangover armpits! Yay!
    Christie Dietz (Eating Wiesbaden) recently posted…The month in food: gin, dog biscuits and a porky Halloween – plus, the Christmas markets are coming!My Profile

    • I remember you saying before about your old boss… It really is like having a shitty ex.
      Oh wow, Christmas Party Hangover Armpits sound like…the pits. (bu-dum-tish!)

  8. It’s brave of you to write about this. No one likes admitting that they felt worthless and that they were bullied, but I’m glad you did. You’re not worthless and you deserve to work for a great company that treats you well. It’s horrible that the guy wouldn’t find even one thing that you had done well. What an asshole! I’m so so so happy that you’re working for a company that you’re excited to work for! I wish you all of the best! 🙂
    Sara Strauss recently posted…November Wishlist + Clear the Way Giveaway!My Profile

    • I always try to be honest and raw on my blog. I’m not one of these perfect bloggers, it just wouldn’t be me.
      Aww thank you for your kind words. They really comfort me.

  9. I wish you the best of luck in this job! It’s great that you’re in a place where you are happy! It’s good to get out of toxic environments, so I’m really happy you’re at a work place that treats you right!!
    Jess recently posted…The Bookworm Does: 11 FactsMy Profile

  10. Good luck with the new position! It seems like it’s a much better fit. Ugh, those people at the last one sound like such douchebags. Stapling at the wrong angle, seriously? Ridiculous.
    Marielle recently posted…Haven’t done this in 15 yearsMy Profile

  11. I must have missed all of this about your first job. I am happy you found a new job so quickly and it seems to be a much better fit! Kudos and much love!

  12. I’ve been meaning to reply to this forever, and although I’m horrifically overdue I wanted to let you know you’re in my thoughts and I hope you’re feeling better. Nothing is worse than having a bad boss. I think when it comes to being happy with your job, your manager can make all the difference. The fact that you were dealing with two awful managers sounds like a nightmare–I’m surprised you hung in there as long as you did.

    I’ve only worked at Japanese companies, and because of that I can relate to almost everything you wrote up there. I’m currently at a Japanese government job and there are days I really want to throw my keyboard against the wall. From the condescending remarks “Is Japanese too hard for you?” to the layers of red tape, useless reports and charts and inefficiencies that lead to overtime–oh my lord. It just drives me insane.

    I remember I was chewed up and spit out for arranging a meeting, but forgetting to write the meeting place before departure. Since we were all leaving from the same building I figured I’d just go to his desk and be on our way–but in Japan, marking the exact location and time for 集合 and 出発 is common sense. He e-mailed a nasty letter to all my managers saying how rude and unrefined I was for not writing “let’s meet at the front door.” It was awful. Another time I was ridiculed for how I wrote my numbers (your 5 looks like an S, etc..) and forced to redo stacks of paperwork.

    Anyway, I’m glad you found a new job–even if it is a Japanese one. After my current job I also promised myself never to work at a Japanese company again.

    Good luck, and I hope all is well for you at the new job!
    Mary recently posted…Is Living in Big City America Worth it?My Profile

    • OMG I had exactly the same thing. Every meeting, even if it was just some guy going into my boss’ office to discuss something, I had to write the WHO WHAT WHERE and if I didn’t, my boss would just email me a really patronising reply about it.

      I’m sorry you’re still stuck in an environment much like the one I left. You’re much stronger than me.
      I’ve not had much drive to do much these past few weeks but your blog is in my bookmarks and I’ll have a massive read of it with some tea in the next few days. I keep not having time to sit and read the bloggers I love.

  13. I read your post a while back, but hadn’t managed to comment – partially because I was honestly almost speechless. What an absolutely terrible situation! Unbelievable that anyone could be that rude and heartless, so – VERY glad you got out of there (albeit in an unfortunate way), and so glad you found a new job quickly! Hope you’ve settled in reasonably well, and this job/office/co-workers are far better than working with who only could have been Satan’s spawn!!
    Daina recently posted…Glögi & Gnomes at the Finnish Christmas BazaarMy Profile


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