I suffer from overwork, harassment by my superior

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company worker in my 20s. I’ve been distressed because my work is so tough.

I graduated from university last year, and now work for a staffing agency. I’m given too much of a workload. I also need to work a lot of overtime, but I have yet to be paid for it. In addition, I’m regularly subject to power harassment from my superior and sexual harassment. Some of my colleagues have even become ill.

It’s so tough that I consulted with a nonprofit organization handling such matters and also with my parents. But people there didn’t take me seriously and laughed at me from beginning to end. Similarly, my father said such things as “How can you leave your job without finding the next one?” My mother said, only with superficial compassion, “Work isn’t everything.”

I now dream of going to graduate school to learn law and sociology to research working environments in Japan and contribute to society. I want to save people like me, even one person, and eliminate cases of karoshi (death from overwork). I’d even like to eliminate the word itself.

However, I don’t have a lot of savings yet. Also, I may be evaluated as a person who has failed to have hung on. I’m so scared of it that I cannot leave work. Please advise.

S, Tokyo

Dear Ms. S:

The central government has been promoting “work style reforms,” but its efforts have yet to take root.

I admire your dream of saving other people. But there is a long way from researching a particular subject to implementing a policy based on its results. I know how hard it is based on my own experience. I suggest you first make yourself the subject of your own case study and think about what you can do under the circumstances.

I think you were right to consult with a nonprofit organization. However, I’ve heard such organizations are asked for guidance on power harassment by superiors and overwork by so many people that they cannot handle all of them.

Nonprofit organizations as well as public labor consultation offices put importance on objective evidence of such problems. So I suggest you keep records of such matters as your work hours and hospital treatment to verify your problem, even though it may be tough for you. A diary can work, too. If you go for a consultation again, by bringing such evidence with you, you should be treated differently.

In fact, the process is similar to research — collect objective data, derive a conclusion from the data and convince other researchers of the conclusion. If you aim to be a researcher, this experience will help.

The most crucial matter is your health. If you feel ill, you should take time off from your job and consider leaving it. Nobody will think you are a person who can’t hang on, as many people suffer from similar problems today.

Masahiro Yamada, professor

(from Jan. 9, 2017, issue)Speech

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