Monday, November 17, 2008

Lets Ecology! 17: That's why I get the big money, Part 1

At my job interview, Takahashi, Soga, and I had agreed that I would work part-time on a trial basis for a month. Now five weeks had passed, and nobody said a word about my status. I didn't know how I was being evaluated; I'd gotten almost zero feedback about my work. (This was the case at every Japanese company I worked at. They just weren't big on feedback.) I had spent most of my time working on the CCOF translation, but no one had even looked at it yet -- so much the better for me, probably.

Although I had been given no signs that they were dissatisfied with me, I had also been given no signs that they wanted to take me on full-time. This was a kind of situation I would have struggled with even in America. Speaking up for myself was something I'd never been skilled at. In America, though, I would at least have known that that's what I was supposed to do. (Although in America someone almost certainly would have already spoken to me about it). But in Japan, I wasn't really sure what to do -- was I supposed to wait for them to bring up the subject, or should I do it myself? In light of Japanese culture, I could see it going either way, and I feared making a faux pas at a critical time.

Finally I asked my spouse, H, the sensible one (as well as the Japanese one) in the family, what the proper thing to do was, and she said I should talk to my supervisor. That was Okayama. The next day I approached him. In properly humble form, I reminded him about the agreement at the job interview, and asked him what was going on. He asked me if I wanted to work there full time. I told him that I certainly did.

He nodded in his usual friendly manner. "Good. I'll talk to Mr. Soga about it. You work hard and you're not a furyo gaijin or anything, so I'd be happy to have you working here full time with us." Furyo gaijin was a new one on me. While gaijin, of course, is "foreigner," furyo literally means "not-good," but it's used in words like furyo shonen "not-good youth," which means "juvenile delinquent." So I wasn't a "delinquent foreigner." I supposed that was meant as a compliment.

Okayama asked me how much money I wanted. "At least $2,500* a month take-home," I told him. The going rate for English teachers was about $2,500–$3,000 gross, and most Real Jobs also included big summer and year-end bonuses, so that seemed reasonable to me. Actually, I was very happy with the prospect of a Real Job, and since I liked the idea of working for the environment and would also be getting bonuses twice a year, I wouldn't have turned down as little as $2,500 gross. Asking for "at least $2,500 take-home" was my idea of negotiating to make sure I got at least that much.

Okayama said, "I'll tell Mr. Soga you want $3,000. Give me a couple of days to talk to him, and I'll get back to you."

"Oh, OK. Thanks." If my supervisor wanted to hit up the company for 20 percent more money than I asked for, I wasn't going to complain. I couldn't figure out how I had been evaluated, though. Just showing up for work and not being a furyo gaijin didn't really seem like enough to base a personnel decision on, but maybe they thought it was. I wasn't going to complain about that either.

*All these negotiations were actually in yen, but I'm using rough equivalents in dollars.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?