View Full Version : Academic/psycologic harassment, Discrimination
Please, let me to briefly explain my situation.
I am citizen of a West European Country who has been working for 6 years (until 9-18-2003) in a Japanese Institute as a researcher (supported by a Japanese Organization, then by the European Union..), with and open mind, and looking forward to the new life in Japan. My thinking was to get integrated into the Japanese Society, learning the language, and following customes and culture. However, It has been very difficult when I dedicated much time to the work and:
1.- Frustration when people of the Institute get surprised/some times dissapointed if I start a conversation in Japanese. Just because of my face I am supposed to speak English (it is not my mother tongue), in particular the head of the laboratory. My goal was progressively speak Japanese in order to communicate with all the people of the Institute, I did not see the meaning (like the laboratory Head) of saying just Hello!, How Do you Do!, when most of the people speak only Japanese, the Meetings are in Japanese, and most of the e-mails are also in Japanese. I though of the sentence: If you are living in Rome, you better do as the Romans, or at least attempt to do it.
My Japanese has progressed in spite of being excluded from meetings and discussions, by the head of the laboratory.
2.- I did not have problem about the project to do. As in my previous jobs I wanted to get integrated in the work, develop a project and participate in discussions/collaborations with other people. With the time, I realized that i was handed a project without future, or a secondary project without a significant base, which finally I was told it was too risky for other people to help/collaborate with me in the work. On the other hand, if a project goes well then it will be handed to other people/group of people (not much credit for me), and I will remain with the secondary risky part.
When I realized it, it was too late: to continue my career in other place it was very important to conclude my work in this Institute and write some research articles out of it.
By now, it has been too late!!, my contract finished and I feel my Research career is over (it was promising 5 years ago). I am frustrated about that, but much more about the way it happened: incommunication, exclusion, and discrimination by the laboratory head, I was just something to use and then Good Bye (not sayonara). Most of the people (not all with this laboratory Head) had the Normal opportunity to discuss/collaborate and develop their work and lives, for me it was the Black Hole..
What Should I do??. Now, I know the meaning of being treted because of Who I am, and not because of What I do. In general explain to this laboratory head the difference between Power Use and Power Abuse..
Post Edited (09-29-03 21:11)
2003-09-29, 04:22 PM
Do I understand you right? You worked on a project for 6 years and didn't complete it? This is how I gather your meaning. If so, then I'm finding it hard to understand how you should be able to write any papers on the topic. (Co-authoring when the project is finished by others, ok.)
I can understand your feelings about being used, but to have spent 6 years on a single project seems inordinately long, so maybe they just wanted some closure on it. Maybe they felt you weren't contributing enough for their tastes. I really don't know, so I'm just speculating.
As to the language issue, you will probably find people with varying levels of acceptance for foreigners. I suggest you read this web site / book for some consoling background.
However, to say your research career is "over" seems rather severe. Why is it over? You have 6 years of experience to tout on a resume (without publications, perhaps, but 6 years is 6 years!). I'm sure you can state some improvements to your skill set from that time frame, can't you? You weren't doing the same thing on the first and last days of work, were you? Where would you LIKE to go next? I guess that is the big question.
Thank you very much for answering to my message.
Talking about the projects I have been working on, actually it is difficult to explain it in detail. The first year I was working on a different different project (I was one of the authors of a paper that was published later), then I have been working on a second project (it was the secondary project: the results totally dependent of a primary project with a more solid base that needed to be developed). Some of these kind of experimental projects require time, and it is now when the primary project is being uncover by several people (not a single person), for me, it was important to have a good communication in order develop my project, if possible within a team (which, on the other hand, will give me some time to work in alternative projects). Also, in the institute I have been doing some part time work for a company project in order to get funding last year (the work was fine, but this is not a work for writing a paper).
As I said in my former message is not only the fact, but mainly the way what is producing frustration on me. Considering also, that with the -standard- treatment things might have been different for me.
Again, thanks a lot for your message, and will be thinking about that next question of Where to go Next?
Post Edited (09-29-03 21:13)
Lupin the 6th
2003-09-30, 02:23 AM
I am sorry to hear about your bad situation.
It is a hard lesson for foreigners to learn, but you will only be accepted in Japan if you act in a way that the Japanese expect you to behave. Proving yourself to be a good-speaker of Japanese was not something the company wanted, therefore you were punished.
It is clear that you are a very intelligent person, and someone who tried hard to "fit in". It came as a shock to you that the company only wanted you there as, to put it simply, a "research monkey". In other words - you are a foreigner, and you are expected to sit politely in meetings, and quietly do your work - nothing else. In the western world employees are rewarded for effort which goes "above and beyond" their assigned duties. In Japan you the foreigner are punished. Sad, but true.
As for moving forward by complaining to/about the company ("Power Use and Power Abuse"), I am not sure how useful that would be. Yes, you might "raise awareness" among some people. But most people are aware of the way things are. Would you be able to actually correct and reverse the damage done to you? Probably not. I recommend finding the best way to move on (that is, away) from your situation here.
Hope things work out,
2003-09-30, 11:39 AM
If it makes you feel any better, I have a lot of friends who feel like they're in the same situation. I also have some of the same problems. I think you should be careful to separate the "harassment" that you feel as a foreigner from the harassment that the research leader gives to anyone (including japanese) below him. If you have to write papers for your boss, correct people's english, and produce results that if they are good, are taken away from you, and if they are bad are left with you... these kind of things suck, but they are also happening to your japanese colleagues. It's just the system here. I've seen mountains of english correction work dumped on my J-friends too, maybe it's an ellaborate scheme to make me feel better about when it happens to me, but either way, a lot of the stuff that I don't like is happening to everyone.
So if you've decided it's time to move on, then fair enough, but I can't quite see what you're asking. If you're considering staying, then I suggest looking at the problems of the other guys there. Like Lupin said, you might bring these issues up with your boss, but that's crossing a line. You should think carefully about whether they really want you there or not. If they want you there, they might consider your complaints, and might allow you to change a few things. But if they don't care too much either way, you'll be shooting yourself in the foot to go and talk to your boss that way. There was a guy in my lab who had some legitimate concerns about how things were going, but he'd already done enough things to upset everybody in the lab so that when he went to them with a complaint that was fair, he only made things worse for himself. In his case, right or wrong, he would have been better not to have brought it up and instead, to just make the decision to stay and make the best of it, or to leave.
About the language thing though, totally agree. It's not good, but good luck changing it.
Glenski: I hadn't seen that link, and I'll be looking forward to reading it. It sounds a little bit old ('95), since the university systems are changing quickly, but I'm sure that there'll be some great anecdotes in there.
Dear RP, sorry to hear of your difficulties, but if I may be a little direct; before one commits to such a long association with any establishment, one would be well advised to take a long hard look at their history and operational norms before making a decision.
Sadly, the more autocratic the organization, the less space there is for individual genius (except at the very top). Persons who rise to middle positions of authority in such organizations have usually done so through an ethic of unquestioning obedience and (perhaps) obsequiousness, and although they may make for great 'company men', and produce a solid 'bottom line' - they are often very uncomfortable around highly motivated or inspired individuals.. whom they often see as a threat.
Most of us eventually have to choose whether we are going to be pioneers or passengers.... whether we will shape our own lives on our own merit, with all the ups and downs that entails - or; whether we will settle for the safety and security of salaried positions in established companies.. and put our dreams and idealism aside for the time being. Unfortunately, the type of people who traditionally go for the latter choice have to some extent sold their dreams in exchange for a company car (so-to-speak). When we work for others we are of course 'selling' them our time, skills, and ethical loyalty, and as long as we have done our best, we should feel no shame in walking away - regardless of the material outcomes of any projects we were involved in. True satisfaction comes in knowing you have done your best - given the circumstances. I sincerely hope you will not let this disappointing experience prevent you from pursuing YOUR dreams further.
2003-10-09, 09:53 AM
The Japanese institutions suck arse big time.Don`t ever expect any credit,rewards or respect-especially respect.The idiots at the top are all elitist scum who are scared to admit that a stupid gaijin can do the job as well if not better.
My advice is to use the time to your advantage.Do a little research on the side for yourself and keep it to yourself to use it later.
2003-10-09, 12:52 PM
Sounds like a typical corporate experience RP, Not nice mate, especially
when it involves your sweat and tears.
Japanese corporation where competition is so fierce it is the norm.
But I admit I would,nt have thought that the biomedical trade was
so machevillian at even the reach levels, I thought certainly it would
be a bitchy place to be once you are fighting to hold on to lucrative
research grants and such, but no field/trade is immune it seems.
Reepo is probably right in saying while in Japan get as much as you can
for yourself and use it to your own benefit accordingly.(nods as good as wink!)
After working with people for several years one would expect you could
refer to them as your respected colleagues, not the case in Japan.
As horrible as it may seem, Nice guys finish last, and you are now meeting the winners.
PS get your references before you start flame throwing those bridges.