In workaholic Japan, job leaving agents help people quit

In workaholic Japan, job leaving agents help people quit

In workaholic Japan, job leaving agents help people quit

In Japan, a nation reputed for loyalty to companies and lifetime employment, people who job-hop are often viewed as quitters. And that’s considered shameful.

Enter “taishoku daiko,” or “job-leaving agents.” Dozens of such services have sprung up in the last several years to help people who simply want out.

“Imagine a messy divorce,” says Yoshihito Hasegawa, who heads Tokyo-based TRK, whose Guardian service last year advised 13,000 people on how to resign from their jobs with minimal hassles.

People often stick with jobs even when they're unhappy, feeling as if they are “kamikaze” sacrificing their lives for the greater good, he said, comparing his clients to pilots sent on suicide missions in the closing days of World War II.

“It’s the way things are done, the same way younger people are taught to honor older people,” he said. “Quitting would be a betrayal.”

Founded in 2020, Guardian, a taishoku daiko service, has helped various people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, escape less painfully from jobs they want to quit. That includes people who worked in a Shinto shrine, a dentist’s office and law firm to convenience store and restaurant staff.

Nearly half of Guardian's clients are women. Some work for a day or two and then discover promises of pay or work hours were false.

Guardian charges 29,800 yen ($208) for its service, which includes a three-month membership in a union that will represent an employee in what can quickly turn into a delicate and awkward negotiation process in Japan.

Generally, Guardian's clients have worked for the small and medium-sized businesses that employ most Japanese. Sometimes people working for major companies seek help. In many cases, bosses have a huge say over how things are run and sometimes simply refuse to agree to let a worker leave, especially since many places are shorthanded to begin with, given the Japan's chronic labor shortage.

Japanese law basically guarantees people the right to quit, but some employers used to an old-style hierarchy just can’t accept that someone they have trained would want to walk away. Those tackling the quitting battle who were interviewed for this story used terms like “fanatics,” “bullies” and “mini-Hitlers” to describe such bosses.

Conformist “workaholic” pressures in Japanese culture are painfully heavy. Workers don't want to be seen as troublemakers, are reluctant to question authority and may be afraid to speak up. They may fear harassment after they quit. Some worry about the opinions of their families or friends.