That seems to be the idea behind “banishment rooms,” where, according to The Asahi Shimbun, some large Japanese companies are sending handfuls of employees in hopes of nudging them toward the door.
The companies operating these rooms—including Panasonic, Hitachi, Sony, Toshiba and Seiko Instruments—have more palatable names for them, of course.
Certain employees at a Panasonic subsidiary, for example, are assigned to “career development teams,” similar to the company’s “Business and Human Resource Development Center,” typically reserved for employees from sections that are performing poorly.
Panasonic and the other companies specified in the article deny they are exerting pressure on workers to resign by relegating them to lesser duties.
At Panasonic, employees are relocated to “career development teams” to “acquire new skills so they can work at different sections,” according to a public relations official with the company.
But don’t be fooled by such claims, one Panasonic worker told the paper.
Transferred to the “career development team” four years ago, the man—unnamed by The Asahi Shimbun—says he was told the move was only temporary. In the time since, his tasks have included staring at a monitor for 10 hours each day, looking out for irregularities in TV program footage, according to the paper.
The worker also claims that employees given these undesirable assignments “come under enormous pressure to quit,” and described his current work environment as “simply another banishment room.”
A male Hitachi employee in his mid-50s interviewed by the paper recalled feeling “betrayed” by the company, which he says urged him to “find a different career path” upon completing a two-week “career challenge program” last year.
The employee had worked in a computer-related capacity with Hitachi, according to the paper. Upon finishing the program, he says, he was reassigned to a windowless room with only a desk and computer—prepared by a staffing agency—to work on his resume and search the web for job opportunities.
Determining the prevalence of “banishment rooms” in corporate Japan is difficult, according to the article, which also notes Japanese businesses “have been clamoring for an overhaul of employment practices to make it easier for an employer to fire regular workers on grounds that companies need to move more swiftly to seize growth potential.”
Indeed, Japan’s long-standing lifetime employment system often deters organizations from abruptly terminating permanent employees. But here’s hoping the system ultimately evolves to allow employers and employees a cleaner way to make the break.