On Not Enjoying Work in Japan

May 8, 2017
by Noriyuki Morimoto

Fraudulent business is sustainable if the people involved don’t think it’s fraudulent. But when the customer is emotionally harmed at some point, that sustainability is lost. When you know well as an insider that the product you offer is not good, you would normally not have the emotional durability to keep offering it as a good product.


Things continue because they come with joy and without harm to the society: they wouldn’t last if they are totally joyless, and even if they do, the occurrence of social harm would put an end to them. We enjoy our work when we create good things and our customers enjoy them, and that joy ensures that there is no social loss. Such a business is likely to generate sustainable profits.


Reforming the working style is a hot topic in Japan, but it seems to be perceived as the effort to reduce working hours. However, this is really not an issue of making working hours shorter, but one of the emotional length of labor. If you keep on doing joyless, menial labor for many hours, you become exhausted more emotionally than physically. Fun times fly past, while boring times drag on. The question is how to make labor enjoyable.


You’re likely to enjoy offering what you love and believe in to your customer. At least there should not be any emotional burden of contradicting yourself. By contrast, wouldn’t it be a cause for pain and psychological illness if you are forced to offer something you lack confidence in, of which faults you know well, and dislike, just to make a living?


The suicide of an employee following excessive working hours at Dentsu, a major advertising agency, became a big social issue. It was also a trigger to push forward the working style reform. So what is an advertisement? Is it a way to make faulty products sell better by making false claims to its quality? It’s understandable that one would want to commit suicide if forced to engage in such futile effort over long working hours.


True advertising should be to unleash the potential demand that exists only for a good product. The true client of an advertising agency is not its direct clients, but their customers. It may not always be fun and may sometimes be hard to strive for the client’s satisfaction. But it’s probably fun to think advertising from the ultimate customers’ perspective. At least it should not be a torture.


Dentsu has probably lost its advertising philosophy. There is no future for Dentsu if it has lost perspective of its true customer and continues to make ads solely to satisfy its direct clients, thereby forcing its employees to work painful and excessive hours.

Noriyuki Morimoto
Noriyuki Morimoto

Chief Executive Officer, HC Asset Management Co.,Ltd. Noriyuki Morimoto founded HC Asset Management in November 2002. As a pioneer investment consultant in Japan, he established the investment consulting business of Watson Wyatt K.K. (now Willis Towers Watson) in 1990.