Feb 10 2020 How to deal with bullying in the Japanese workplace

Whether it’s because you are a foreigner or not, bullying is never acceptable. It comes in different forms and it is not to be tolerated. It’s a very sensitive topic in Japan and the workplace is not entirely safe to be completely free from it.

During one of our recent live interviews, we came across a participant who anonymously raised her concern about being bullied because she is a woman and a foreigner in her Japanese workplace. Luckily we have Ms. Jennifer Shinkai, Tokyo’s Ikigai & Inclusion facilitator and executive coach, to give us her expert advice on the subject matter.


1.) Get Support
It’s very important to get support when dealing with bullying. Talking to someone from your team, someone within the organization, or the HR person is something that might help you get through it. You can also get support from external sources so you won’t feel alone during difficult times.

2.) Try to understand the person
Spend time trying to understand the person. Why is he attacking you and what do you think is going on behind everything?

3.) Try to change the situation
You can also try to change the situation as much as you can within your sphere of influence. There is no one way solution to solve bullying but you can always try and express yourself. Sometimes it’s about making it clear and saying “I’m not happy with the way you talk to me.” It sounds simple but we understand that it isn’t always easy to confront people. How you engage and present yourself can also change the feeling of empowerment from both you and the other party.

4.) Try to move the conversation to a more closed room
Extra tension, negative vibes or gossip is not very healthy and other people can sense that. Do not feed the other party’s ego and give him/her an audience.

5.) Ignore it
Sometimes the more you feed the other person fear and validation of their power to get through you, the more they do it.

6.) Quit
If you experience constant bullying and nothing worked, you should always prioritize your mental and emotional health. There are other workplaces with better environments that offer a more suitable work culture than the one you are suffering from. Do not let incidents drag you down and consume you with self-doubt and anxiety. Of course you have to make sure that you have enough savings to get you through your job hunting phase and don’t feel trapped because of money.

Bullying should never be tolerated. It is never okay to be the subject of it. There might not be one solution that fits all situations but you should always try to do something about it and stand your ground.

If you want to watch the full interview session where Ms. Jennifer Shinkai answered a lot of questions regarding communicating with colleagues and bosses in Japan please click the link:

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