Buzz People

Japan's workplaces rethink 'drinking with the boss'

Riku Kitamura remembers his first "drinking party" as a new graduate in Japan. The 28-year-old worked for a market research firm and the team would regularly socialise over drinks in the evening.
"[At first] I did feel the pressure that I had to drink more, that I had to catch up to others. It got me quite drunk," he says.
Drinking with colleagues after work has long been part of Japanese culture. Nomikai, or drinking gatherings, are seen as central to building strong relationships.
But in some offices, those gatherings have become less frequent as concerns over power harassment grow. That's taking away a path many workers in Japan traditionally relied on to get to know their boss.
Essentially workplace bullying, power harassment ranges from isolating an employee to physical abuse by a superior.
"Forcing people to go to a drinking party is sometimes seen as harassment," says Kumiko Nemoto, professor of sociology at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.
"In the past, it happened all the time. It was part of normal corporate culture in Japan but now it's seen as power harassment."
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