Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Do it; Or Die
Death by overwork actually has its own special name here:
During the huge economic boom 20/30 years ago it was very common. It is thankfully not as common now, but it still happens. People are starting to realize that this is not an honorable way to die.
Unfortunately the people that reach this point in their life are no longer thinking clearly, if at all.
Suicide, they believe, is their only way out. Sometimes their body just gives out, one minute they are standing the next they are dead.
At work they take stress very seriously. If you are feeling stressed you will automatically get days off and your boss will not chastise you for it. If you have reached a point of requiring a doctor, the boss will follow all doctor rules, no questions asked.
I have had two students who actually temporarily lost their vision due to stress. One was given an entire month off work and then had forced sleep time in the nurses room every afternoon after lunch. (This is quite common. The nurse actually has a list of people she is supposed to supervise during their rest time. There are beds with curtain just for this in the nurse’s room.) The other was given a few days holiday and then has to report to his doctor every Saturday. He has been reporting for over three months now.
One of the guys here has had breakdowns twice now. When he was transferred to a new project I started to get really worried about him. His face was looking scary. His boss finally noticed and made him take two days a week holiday for over a month. When the project was almost finished he got transferred to another division.
I am mentioning this because right now we have two young guys in my section that are on stress leave. Both are very young.
The one, Mr. W, has only been working for two years, the other, Mr. E, for three. They both work in the same group. Mr. E. is given every Thursday holiday and has to report to his doctor. For the rest of the day he is not allowed to do anything that might make him tired. He has medication and says that at times he has huge anxiety feelings that fill his chest. I have noticed that since his stress level has dropped his terrible acne has cleared up a lot. (It was really bad.)
The other guy, Mr. W. is a real cutie with doe eyes and very long eyelashes. He is an avid golfer and a joy to talk to. Well, was. His face turned to white plaster before he was finally sent to the doctors. He had a month holiday then came back and tried to work a very relaxed load only a few days a week. Didn’t work. You could see his eyes loosing their light, and I haven’t seen him in the office for over a week.
Both these guys work for the same project. It is some important new age thing for a chip or something. Either way, I have not been impressed with their group leaders leading abilities. He has a work to death attitude. He is incredibly bright and I have been told he is quite intimidating to talk to about work related stuff. His brain never stops and he talks in such complex terms that a lot of guys have trouble understanding him. He was made a manager because of his seniority not because of his managerial skills. He has terrible communication ability and cannot understand why people don’t understand him. One of my more enjoyable students used to be in that group. He was a high level manager as well, who loved art and wind surfing. We would have the best conversations. Well he got transferred out of the group to Tokyo. He thinks it was because he refused to accept the leaders grueling work schedule. He had enough seniority to defy him, the young guys don’t.
Mr. E is a student of mine and we have talked about things in a casual way, more out of my curiosity than anything. What has struck me most, and made me a little upset, is that the company and the doctors are all great about attacking stress when it happens, but they do nothing about preventing it before it happens. This seems to be a Japanese attitude towards most things.
He is not going to a psychiatrist to learn how to channel his stress or to identify what it is that is causing his stress. The workloads here are not diminishing, if anything they get worse every time the oil dollar rises.
He is given drugs but not told to stop smoking or do a little bit of exercise. Even walking outside would be healthier than sitting in the office all day every day.
I worry about them.
Mr. E seems to be improving, but Mr. W….
I don’t know.
I just worry about them.