My first few days with Acura Acupuncture Clinic have already helped me gather some valuable insight into the distinctions between typical American and Japanese workplaces. I am fortunate enough to have worked in a health clinic in Rochester, New York during the summer of 2014, and although my role at Acura Acupuncture is a lot different, my previous experience is providing me with a good basis of comparison.
My most significant observation in the Japanese workplace is how meticulous every aspect of customer service is. Many of my tasks here have involved keeping everything clean, tidy, and presentable. This includes making beds, folding laundry, prepping each room for the next patient, and checking the bathrooms to make sure they are clean. Each of these tasks has its own step-by-step process. This was a lot different from my previous work in an American health center, where I would have never been asked to clean the bathroom. Although both positions involved customer service, my work in Japan so far has been focused not only on the verbal and communicative aspects of customer service, but also on material details and presentation.
From my observations and studies of Japanese life, I have come up with a few possible conclusions about Japanese workplace culture. Through my course work at IES Abroad, I have learned about one concept in Japanese culture ganbatte – to always do your best. I think this idea compliments the Japanese people’s pride in their work. Without doing your best, how can you take pride in the work you’ve done? Perhaps the Japanese attention to detail is an extension of this idea. For example, taking the extra time to make sure each gown is folded in the exact same way shows that I am putting forth all of my effort to perform the task in the best way I can.
I also believe, however, that the Japanese concepts of what is “best” may be different from American ideas about what is “best.” In high school, I worked in retail and I was responsible for folding clothes during many of my shifts. I was expected to fold the clothes so that they looked presentable, however, there was also an emphasis on folding as quickly as possible. In America, it seems like some of the quality of the folding was sacrificed for the quantity of clothes folded. Whereas, in Japan, it seems like there is more emphasis on taking enough time as needed to get the best quality result. I think it is a good idea to find a balance.
So far, my workplace experience at Acura has been quite different from any other experience in America. I am excited to continue thinking about and reflecting on the ways in which Japanese and American people differ in big and small acts.