Japanese drinking culture has its own quirks, one of which is the concept of going to drinking parties with senior colleagues after work as a means of improving communication. This practice has become known as nominication, an aggregate word made up of the verb stem “nomi” — “to drink” — and the second half of the English word “communication”.
Younger generations have now started to question whether or not this somewhat out-dated practice should continue, and if it were to continue, whether or not they should be awarded overtime for participation…
From Yahoo! Japan:
Should There Be Overtime Pay For Work-Related Drinking Parties?
I’m not sure if it’s due to Abenomics or not, but nominication [a play on the words ‘drinking’ and ‘communication’] is experiencing a revival. In a survey among new company employees, 80% of them said they wanted to go drinking with their superiors, and superiors organising drinking parties are on the rise.
A place for communication is sought in drinking parties, with high hopes of “deepening amity between superiors and subordinates” and “creating a company with a feeling of openness”.
However, the day after such a party, one superior turned pale with fear at an unexpected question from their subordinate.
“We’re getting overtime pay for the drinking party yesterday, right?”
That superior had planned a party with full staff attendance, with the aim of deepening friendship between staff. Some of the cost was paid for by the company, but there was also a charge of 2000yen each for attendance. Attendance was not forced. However, the subordinate had the following complaints:
“Aren’t all things we’re told to do by our superiors work? And if we’re told that everyone in our department should attend, we don’t have much choice. Why were we made to attend a drinking party that wasn’t even fun, and then even made to pay a fee? I naturally thought we would get overtime pay.”
The superior was troubled by the words of this worker.
“There is no way you’re getting overtime pay!” retorted the superior angrily, persuading the worker. As poor choice of words can lead to future bullying from your boss, the worker settled it by saying that he would try and let his superior know the next time he didn’t want to attend.
That superior went on to lament about workers “these days”, but were the drinking parties during the period of high economic growth that first lead to the creation of the word “nominication” as loved by all as they’re made out to be?
There were surely people who thought “give us overtime pay or we won’t do it.”
Whether during the period of high economic growth or the bubble period, if the boss said you were going drinking – that was it. There would be no choice but to cancel dates with your girlfriend at the last minute, drink alcohol you didn’t even want to drink, sing songs you didn’t even want to sing at karaoke. Far from “nominication”, this was undoubtedly a form of bullying that lead to exhausted employees.
I used to be a cabin attendant, quite different from your average job, but even so I have been dragged to drinking parties by my “superiors”, with no way of refusing. I somehow got through being made to sit through a merciless slew of boastful stories, opinions on life and the like from my superiors by devoting myself to my counter-attack of “yeah, that’s true”.
To make matters worse, based on the arbitrary equation that “young= eats a lot”, I was pressured to eat the leftover food.
At the time, I thought it was torture.
Though the young workers who swaggered about during the bubble period may not have asked for overtime pay the day after a drinking party, I think many of them thought it deep down.
When alcohol first became a social lubrication to facilitate “good relationships” between superiors and subordinates, it was a time when companies treated their employees with such importance that it was almost as if they were family. With lifetime employment, they worked under the assurance that their job was secure and they could be evaluated on strengths that aren’t reflected by experience, with a system of age based superiority.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with the head of a large company who said that his “employees are ‘family’”, using “family” to describe the extent to which he thought of the needs of his employees and the extent to which he took care of them.
However, 3 months after this conversation, this company underwent a large scale restructuring. Officially, they had appealed for voluntary resignations. However, in reality, they had targeted workers on the production line, massively cutting the production line before appealing for voluntary resignations. Workers who turned up to work to find there was neither any work for them to do, nor a place to work had no choice but to quit. They were partially forced into “voluntarily resigning”.
Do families have “restructuring”?
In recent times, where families take on a variety of shapes and sizes, what exactly can you call the “restructuring” of a family?
At least, you won’t be thrown away for an unjust reason from an “important family”. Most Japanese companies nowadays do not think of their employees like family. For the most part, companies that truly treat their employees like family don’t need to hold drinking parties with the aim of developing amity between staff.
In that type of company, without having to go to the lengths of organising drinking parties, there is connection that exceeds official positions of “superior” and “subordinate” and hierarchy – the connection as a “human”. Without having to rely on the power of alcohol, there exists a proper mutual understanding and moments of closeness.
In those types of places, every now and then people may happen to go for one drink or go to talk about something over a drink that wasn’t easy to talk about at work due to a lack of time. As the bar/pub is just used to supplement a little extra, nominication has meaning.
Though this is extremely obvious, having drinking parties doesn’t mean that amity between superiors and subordinates will be deepened. If there are conversations of mutual respect in the workplace then drinking parties can be the first place to talk about things outside of work and reduce the feeling of distance between bosses and workers.
Of course, occasionally, as a result of drinking parties, communication at the workplace may become easier and flow more smoothly. However “a good relationship with superiors” is not something that can be built without consciously making the effort to face employees directly as a human being. In other words, if there’s a firm resolution to really face employees directly, there’s no real need for drinking parties.
Whether in the meeting room or in the cafeteria, if there is really a will to face employees directly, it can be anywhere. Even if you think “Well… meetings have to be formal”, the mood can be changed just by placing a snack bought from the convenience store on the table.
It’s just that it’s troublesome. Facing staff on a person to person basis is difficult, even a little scary. There’s no need for the bother.
If you really face people head on, whether you like it or not, you also have to face yourself. You can tell from the expression and the subtle body language of the person you’re speaking to that they’re getting tired of what you’re talking about or even with just you in general.
In any case, superiors who avoid direct communication with their employees often hurry to organise drinking parties to provide the solution to the lack of communication.
Of course, going drinking is not a bad thing. But if the aim is to reduce the feeling of distance between superiors and subordinates, alcohol isn’t needed. The only thing needed is a resolution to face employees directly on a one to one basis.
“But, alcohol makes you relaxed…”
The only one who is made relaxed by alcohol is the superior. Subordinates are only nervous.
Comments from Twitter:
Yup, there are times when I’d like overtime. Because in effect you sometimes end up doing 4 hours’ overtime.
Should you get overtime pay for work-related drinking parties?
I mean, you see each other at work everyday, so I don’t really feel the need for drinking parties in themselves w
Company drinking parties are a pain in the ass, so I bunk off ヽ(´ー｀)ノ If I’m drinking, then I spend my time quietly and luxuriously alone, with no one getting my way.
I’ve never really felt much difference between whether or not you go to a drinking party and your actual performance at work. I guess it also depends on what kind of work you do though. I’m usually one of the ones who’ll go to a drinking party, but still, I don’t think that whether you attend or not is commensurate with how good you are a communication.
This kind of stuff was even being talked about more than 20 years ago, when I made my own debut as a professional.
The article says you can still communicate with junior staff even if you don’t have a drinking party. I agree. It’s probably more fun to have a drink, but I think you can still make time to talk with junior staff over lunch, too. But if overtime was demanded for that, they’d go crazy (笑)
佐藤真広 (Masahiro Sato):
Apart from the title, I agree with the second part of this article.
Drinking as a means of communication…hah, the world itself stinks of old men…
I wouldn’t want overtime, but I also wouldn’t want to go drinking, personally.
Overtime…well if they’re being forced to participate, then they shouldn’t have to pay anything and get overtime.
Huh? If you get told by your superior “Take a good rest tomorrow”, then would you still get overtime?
Right, but in the end should you get overtime or not?
This is not the problem. The problem is that these days I feel like there are a lot of people — not just young people — who complain about stuff they have to do instead of just doing it.
The point of the article is a bit strange. I mean, what’s the conclusion? Should you get overtime?