Monday, May 05, 2008

Let's Ecology! 1: "They can't fire you"

"Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

"Don't worry, they can't fire you"

On the train back to Tokyo, people weren't exactly avoiding me, but they weren't going out of their way to sit next to me either. Honda-san came up to me. "Don't worry," he said sotto voce, "they can't fire you."

"Fire me?"

"Yeah, they can't fire you, because they need you."

"Fire me?"

"Don't worry, there's too many things you can do that no one else can."

"Fire me?"

"Don't worry, they need you too much."

I worried anyway. It was the first time firing had occurred to me. Did people get fired for making suggestions about how to improve the company? Then I thought of something else. "What about Charles? He can do most anything I can."

"Charles isn't the same, he just started here last month. Don't worry, they need you."

I suppose this was meant to be comforting, but I had been much more comfortable before Honda went and mentioned getting fired. It was something that simply had never occurred to me. I only spoke out of a sincere desire to improve the organization, because I believed in it and in what it was supposed to stand for. I thought that was the last thing that should get a person fired.

When I got home I told my wife what had happened, and what Honda said. "Do people actually get fired for that sort of thing?" I asked her.

"In some companies, yeah. The boss could decide that if you don't like the way he runs the company you should leave," she answered.

"Why didn't you tell me!" I hadn't known that I was risking my job. I had enough guts to offer my opinion in public, but I wasn't sure if I had enough to put my job on the line that way. "If I'd have known that, I'd have thought a lot more carefully about whether or not to speak up."

"I thought you knew." She didn't seem very worried though, so maybe it was okay.

When I went back to work the next week, there were no immediate repercussions. It seems that I wasn't going to be fired after all. The only direct comment I ever heard about the whole incident came from Murphy-san. She came up to me one day that week and said, "Akemi-chan told me what you did at the training last weekend. I think that was so cool!" Akemi-chan hadn't even been there. How did she know, I asked. Murphy-san said Honda-san had told Akemi-chan, who told her. Apparently the news was spreading, but no one else ever mentioned it to me. Not directly, anyway.

What was I doing in Japan? How did I end up working at a Japanese (sort-of) environmental group? What did I do to get people talking about firing me? And what the hell does "Let's Ecology!" mean anyway? The answers to these questions and more will become clear in the coming weeks. "Let's Ecology" appears every Monday.

More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here.

1 comment:

  1. very nice hook . . . you're quite the tease. I look forward to more.


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