Different countries have different values regarding work ethics. Their work environment most certainly varies between one country to another. Japan is no exception. If you are looking to work in Japan in an office environment, then there are certainly a few things or rules that you should watch out for. Here’s a few:
1. Being on time
Punctuality is a big aspect of Japanese life. One cannot afford to be late in a Japanese work setting. This is true especially for assignments and due dates. While appearing 5 minutes early is good enough for foreigners, sometimes appearing 10-15 minutes earlier may be better depending on the company. Delays caused by trains are frequent and easily forgiven, but anything else is generally unacceptable. If you plan to work in Japan, then keep in mind that it is always better to appear earlier than later.
2. Have a good relationship with the higher-ups
Following the Confucian traditions, the Japanese work environment is still based on experience. The more experience you have (the older you are, in general), the more authority you command. In a more traditional Japanese company, generally most of the command will be left to the eldest person in the company. Since Japanese people rarely leave their company, this will usually mean that that person has been in the company for the longest period of time. That being said, a good relationship with them cannot be stressed enough. In addition. the hierarchy of a company should always be respected at all times. This means that in general, you shouldn’t question the authorities of your boss or leaders of the company, unless the company you work in happens to be open-minded.
Good understanding and usage of keigo (敬語), is therefore necessary in achieving a good relationship with your boss/senpai. Before working, you should try to polish your keigo by attending classes or practicing during your part time work.
3. Show up to nomikai
Good relationship with your coworkers will benefit any jobs everywhere you go. In Japan, nomikai (drinking parties) is held in order to commemorate, introduce new members, or bid farewell to retiring members of the company. Either way, the purpose of a nomikai usually stays the same: it is a time where coworkers socialize with each other through drinks. You are usually expected to participate in a nomikai, and failure to attend will generally result in strained relations with your coworkers.
Keep in mind that there are rules when participating in a nomikai. For example, while getting drunk is accepted and encouraged, this does not mean that you can freely badmouth other colleagues or your bosses. Always try to keep your dignity and try to talk to other people instead of chatting with people on your smartphone. More details about the nomikai can be found here: http://japan-work.com/archives/6743
4. Collectivism over individualism
Japan is traditionally known as a collectivist country. Its values, therefore, lies in the group over individuals as a whole. While this may vary from office to office, in general, most actions that show preference towards the individual tends to be frowned upon. Cooperation between coworkers and establishing good relationships is the key to having a good reputation in a company.
When you go to work in Japan for the first time, remember that the Japanese tends to value good relationships and cooperation above individualism. Respect your bosses and be aware of every actions and words that you do or say, as it may have consequences in the relationships between you and your coworkers. Also note that the points above does not necessarily hold true to all companies in Japan, as there are some younger companies that adopt a more Western approach.