You may or may not know it, but one of the stereotypical traits of a Japanese person is that they are hard workers. Is it true? Well, I don’t think any stereotype is 100% verifiable. But I do think many Japanese people devote a lot more time to their jobs than I suspected. Often it can even be for jobs that don’t pay all that much. I don’t think the time spent at work is always productive, but sometimes staff members will stay just to show gaman (がまん or 我慢) that sense of patience, that sense of self-denial, the ability to “suffer” with your co-workers. I have often heard that one way to get in good with Japanese workers in a company is to stay as late as they do. It really builds rapport.
I won’t sit here and lie to you, I don’t stay as late as many of teachers at my school. Many stay until seven, eight, or on rare occasions, 9:00 pm on a regular basis. Considering that many teachers come in at 8:00 or earlier, that translates into 12-hour days on a regular basis. I always excuse myself when I leave around 4:45, saying “O saki ni shitsurei shimasu (please excuse me for leaving early).”
While some of the Japanese teachers may have a reason to stay early, I can’t say it would be all that beneficial for me to stay late. I’d just be looking busy and wasting my time. If I am studying Japanese, sometimes I’ll stay later. The latest I’ve left (if you exclude my welcome party) is around 6:15. At one time I would have felt really bad for leaving (sorry, just being honest). I really and truly enjoy teaching and do my absolute best to teach good/effective lessons, but that doesn’t mean I need to stay there all night.
Sometimes I have to wonder, though, when people stay late it it because they want to? Because of they love their jobs? For appearance’s sake? Out of obligation? Lack of other staff members? I’m sure every case is different, but I think sometimes people confuse time spent with being committed to a job. It is true when you’re devoted to something, you put a lot of time in (I did a post called The 10,000 Hours Approach to Japanese…please take a look 🙂 ). But just because a person puts in time doesn’t mean that they’re devoted to what they’re doing. Does that make sense?
So is being too committed to your job a bad thing? My answer to that is “yes” if your job is making you miserable, stressing you out or throwing everything else in your life, health/family/friends, way out of balance. My answer is “no” if you’ve found something that you’re head over heels in love with what you’re doing. I would have told Bruce Lee “You are way too committed to your martial arts.” I never would never say to Lady Gaga “You are spending WAY too much time on your music!” Or say to Warren Buffet “You are too committed to investing.” I can’t say that these people necessarily have balanced lives, but they’ve really made a lasting difference in their respective fields. In some cases, with some people, without their level of commitment, the world as we know it would be worse off.
What do you think? Is being too committed to your work/to a job a bad thing?
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