Monday, June 11, 2007
Largest table by end-game wins!
Location: Company X boardroom in Osaka
Participants: Mr. Salaryman and Meg
One big part of the work we do here in my lovely company is to talk to different actors in the specific field we are working in. Just last week I was in Osaka where we had scheduled a meeting with a partner company of the company we are currently hired by. The short story of the current project is that we are looking in to how our client can support its Japanese partners better. In case you are getting my different projects mixed up, this is the one I'm working with Meg and Dr. Y. on. Thankfully it is not the project that this post refers to.
Anyway, it starts with me and Meg arriving at said company and getting shown into the boardroom of this considerably large Japanese company with a huge table. As we sat down on one side of the table it was probably 3 meters to the other side where our interviewees would be sitting. Forget about handing papers across the table, which would be a breach of Japanese etiquette anyway, no, giving documents required getting up and taking a long walk to the other side of the table. And we were hoping to conduct the discussions in a friendly intimate atmosphere, but those expectations were thrown out the window pretty quickly...
Now, with the focus of this project to find out how our client can support its partners, we were foolish enough to expect, if not open friendliness, at least basic courtesy. We were sorely mistaken. Granted, it was only one of our interview sessions that was met with open hostility. The following dialogue took place as our interviewees sat down. Feel free to act out the dialogue below with a close friend, lover or perhaps distant relative?
Japanese Salaryman X: (Confrontational) I don't understand why we have to have this discussions, we already submitted all our plans to the client! If you haven't looked at those plans, you will have no idea what questions to ask and this will just be a huge waste of our time and yours.
Mr. Salaryman: (Apologetic) I see, well at the moment that is perhaps a bit difficult since we are already here and would like to conduct the interview anyway since we believe that your opinions would be interesting to incorporate in our study...
Japanese Salaryman Y (the subordinate of Japanese Salaryman X): (Passive aggressive) Well, it will just be a waste of time if you don't look at the plan!
Mr. Salaryman: (Gently) I see, well maybe we can take a look at that plan when we get back to the office if the client agrees to it.
Japanese Salaryman X: (Matter-of-factly) No, that's not possible, that information is confidential so you are not allowed to see it!
If someone can please remind me why I'm doing is job again please?