Wednesday, October 26, 2005

[Work] It's a Supervisor Thing (long)

I realize I forgot to mention another adventure at work this past week.

Last Friday, I took a vacation day. There were no classes for me that day at my visiting school, due to a sports meet (my visiting school has only ~60 students). So, they asked me to take a vacation day.

Of course, they could have just given me the day off, but that would be crazy. So forget that. However, I'm not too bitter because:
  1. Last year, I only took 6 days off.
  2. I start with a (theoretical) maximum of 20 days off a year.
  3. That left me with 14 days.
  4. Up to 12 vacation days carry over to the next year.
  5. That brought this year's total up to a (highly theoretical) maximum of 32 potential days off.
So, what's one day? No big deal, right?

Sigh. You foolish fooly fools! Of COURSE it would be a big deal!

This was my first vacation day this contract year. And instead of letting me (or forcing me to) do the paperwork myself, they gave it to my supervisor.
At this point, I should point out that I absolutely adore my supervisor. When I was robbed last year, she took me to the police station to file the incident report. When I fell into the rice field, she took me to make the apologies to the field owner. So, she's been there for me, is what I'm saying. AND, she's a joy to work with. She brings such an infectious energy to the lessons, the kids go über-genki. It's fantastic.
So, anyway, this week rolls around and my supervisor tells me that she needs my hanko.

We have a rule in the JET program, and that is NEVER GIVE YOUR HANKO TO ANYONE. This is an important rule. The paperwork she needed my hanko for was my old vacation forms from last year.

Last year, when I only used 6 vacation days, so I had 14 left. Minus Friday. 13 left.

Here's a summary:

Vacation days left: 31Vacation days left: 13

Can you spot the mistake here?

They took away 18 days of vacation time! More than TWO WEEKS! More than HALF of my vacation days remaining!

And just a reminder, this is also the same week that they:
  • Forgot to pay me
  • Asked me to work overtime
It's almost as if there were some pattern to it...

But that's not the part that bothered me. A mistake in the paperwork? Easily corrected. Right?


What bothered me is what happened when I pointed it out to my supervisor: she wouldn't accept the correction. She tried to convince me that it was correct.

Now, having carefully read and re-read my contract several times (due to prior incidents), I *KNEW* what it said.

First tactic: Point out the mistake. Explain how many days I should have.

Result: Unacceptable. There has been no mistake. I've looked in the (Japanese version*) contract.

*There are two versions to my contract. I've only read the English version, she's only read the Japanese version. I wonder if some things have been lost in translation.

Second tactic: State the obvious. This vacation day count was from my previous contract period.

Result: She corrected me. Our vacation days start in January.

Third tactic: State the obvious AGAIN. Well, YOUR vacation days start in January. *I* came here in July. If I could take 20 days off a year, starting in July and then starting AGAIN in January, I could have 40 days off my first contract period. Does that sound right?

Result: She consulted the contract, and eventually (after much time and argumentdiscussion) agreed that my vacation time is per contract year, which starts in July. YES! But she only bumped it up to 20 days, and not 32. NO!

Fourth tactic: Go to the contract. Up to 12 unused vacation days carry over to the next contract period. I had MORE THAN 12 vacation days left. I have 20 NEW vacation days for this contract period, plus the 12 that I was allowed to carry over. That's 32. It really is. I swear.

Result: Much much contract referring. Telling me that it wasn't in there. When I went to pages with the number 12 on them (in Arabic numerals, thankfully, since I couldn't read through all the kanji), pages that she had previously skimmed past, she assured me that THAT clause only referred to second and third year ALTs. Not to me.

Fifth tactic: Stare in bemusement.

Result: After a while she remembered that I am, in fact, a second year ALT.

BUT, she wasn't giving up just yet! She actually asked me:
"Well, are you planning on even using them? Last year, you only used six. What difference does it make?"
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Even KNOWING about the mistake, and KNOWING the correction to make, she was still resisting. What did she think I was going to do, try and take an entire month off?

All vacation requests have to be approved. Even during August, a month of NO CLASSES, I was allowed to take 5 days off. So, no month's vacation for me.

It's got to be a supervisor thing. Try and wring out the most amount of work with the least amount of reward.

Final tactic: "I'm not necessarily planning to take any more days off this year than last year*, but the ALT guidelines tell us to always be accurate in our paperwork."

*Actually, I am planning on trying to take the breaks off.

Result: Ah...the power of guidelines. Even potentially made-up ones.

Finally, the paperwork was corrected, and I felt OK putting my stamp on it. Time elapsed: maybe an hour. Maybe two. Maybe more? I lost track.

The underlying problem is that, because I have not taken very many vacation days (seven, total, since I arrived one year and three months ago), and because I've done the paperwork myself in the past, my supervisor is unfamiliar with the procedures. This is bad, because they will have a new ALT next year, and I don't want them to have to go through all of these same problems over again.

The only solution is to take more time off. I don't really want to, but I will, for my successor's sake.

For KEN ALTs: At last year's MYC, some KENs expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that CHO ALTs (like myself) get 20 vacation days instead of 10 (or 12 or whatever you guys get). Please keep in mind:
  • You probably get to ACTUALLY USE all 10 of your vacation days
  • You likely get all or part of the school breaks off
I don't know how many more times I can hear KENs complain about vacation days before I totally lose it.


  1. So, would a Japanese employee just be expected to roll over and suck it up?

    Congrats on winning, by the way.

    I wish Morah and I had enough money to make it over to Japan to visit you (especially if you're going to take a bunch of time off. It would be nice to have someone who at least sort of knows how to deal with crazy Japanese people).

  2. You get 20 vacation days? bullshit dude, we ken ALTs get less. I will thumb wrestle your ass at MYC. Then drive your car into a ditch.

  3. (note spelling of Phoenix above)
    (I'm not pointing that out to anyone specifically, just making conversation)

    So, would a Japanese employee just be expected to roll over and suck it up?

    I wouldn't consider keeping my contractually-agreed-upon number of vacation days "winning", although if I let them take them away I definitely would have been a "loser".

    I don't think Japanese people are crazy, it's just a cultural thing. [overgeneralization]Abuse from the top is accepted, because you get to abuse those below you. Eventually you move up and are abused by fewer, and can abuse more. This is the motivation for advancement.[/overgeneralization]


    Daniel, you're awesome.

    And now all my co-workers are staring at me. AGAIN

    Of course, my car is a yellow-plate. If you drove it into the ditch, I could just pick it up and set it back on the road. Or leave it there and buy another one. It's a yellow-plate!

  4. I wouldn't consider keeping my contractually-agreed-upon number of vacation days "winning"

    Yeah, I was pressed for time and couldn't think of a better word.

    I don't think Japanese people are crazy, it's just a cultural thing.

    See above.

  5. What I meant to say was, thank you for your comment, Thomas! Keep 'em comin'! :D