Friday, August 28, 2009

The Man by the Window -- American Style

I got this info from the professor of my Group Problem-Solving and Decision-Making class up at Metropolitan State University, in St. Paul. He had worked as the CEO for the Japanese division of an air conditioning manufacturer. The division was having profitability issues, and he was tasked with finding the problem and resolving it.

What he found was that in Japan they have a different approach to career mobility than here in the U.S. There, you’re expected to make solid forward movement throughout your career, achieving positions of increasing responsibility, culminating in a CEO-ship.

There is an age limit on succeeding titles within organizations – by, say, 50 you must be a vice-president, by 55 a C-level, by 60 a CEO (don’t quote me on the specific ages/titles). Once you pass the upper-limit for the position you’re in, if your work does not justify that next promotion, you are moved to an honorary position and given a desk along the outside wall to await appointment to another, smaller company, where your skills are more appropriate for the next level up.

You become manohito – the man by the window.

Your CEO, using the connections he forged in school, is tasked with finding you such a position and getting you off the company payroll. At my prof’s company, their profitability was impacted by having too many manohito, chewing up payroll but unable to contribute anything.

Consequently, his recommendation for addressing the problem was to appoint a Japanese CEO, with the appropriate school-ties to repurpose the manohito.

We have a similar belief here in the U.S., except that we think that if people haven’t made it to the top of the org chart by the time they’re fifty, they are fit only for welcoming people to Wal-Mart.


  1. But what does that say about the corner office???

    The man by TWO windows???

  2. I'm never looking at another org charg again...I'm just going to love what I do and through mobility out the window (right by the man sitting beside it). :)

  3. Interesting, but productivity comes from those of us in the trenches, doing the work. Not the guy climbing the corporate ladder on our backs.

  4. But think of all the interesting people you can meet!

  5. We have many transferred Japanese families in town, mostly because we are a one hour train ride into NYC.

    The husband works a crazy schedule to be on-time in both Japan and US which means he is always at work. Literally.

    The wife is home with the children taking them to American School until 3:30 and then to Japanese school until 6pm.

    I wouldn't have their life for one day. Because they have no life. Just endless striving to climb the ladder. And if for some reason they don't make it, well they did invent hari kari.

  6. The upside , however, of being a greeter at WalMart is you do get to see lots of brillant tramp stamps, tantalizing tribal bicep tattoos, magnificent muffintops, bountiful butt cracks, mesmerising mullets, plentiful piercings,and poofy hairdos to die for. So, there is a certain level of achievement there, if only for self gratification.

  7. That's so sad, because you know more people won't make it than will. Simple logic. Very sad.

  8. So you're telling me I've got 15 years to make it big? That gives me a little more time to blog...

  9. A quick look at my company's org chart shows that this concept is alive in Minneapolis as well!


    p.s. Went to Metro State as well for a bit. Hey, neighbor!

  10. Well, as you know, I'm about your age, and retired out of the metals business- because in America, valuable or not, after 50 you're making more money, you have more vacation coming, and your health care is more expensive to a company- and you are expendable. I worked for 25 yrs. with a publically owned(stock) steel service corporation and was valued. Sold in Chapter 11 to private owners quit after 5 years, and then worked for two privately owned metals companies where I found out knowledge and brains were secondary to what the families wanted...

  11. Tough situation....ugh. And not an anomaly by any means either.

  12. How true. I read about a guy today 58, with excellent credentials and he literally cannot find a job. It is so so distressing


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