132: Stay Out Of Trouble In Japan

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Reputation in business is critical. Being honest, law abiding and treating business partners in a fair manner is the best policy for enhancing our reputation. Japan is a hard place in which to get into trouble, but that doesn’t stop some from trying.

No possibility of jail time for me, you say. Hopefully you are correct, but you might be juiced up having a big night on the town celebrating in Roppongi and a fight suddenly erupts with some fellow muscular revelers sporting crew cuts. You jump in to help your mate, things rapidly go south and the cops arrive to clean it up. If the fracas involves locals, then don’t imagine the cops to give any credence to your side of the story (“Hey, they started it!”) and expect the judicial system to take a similarly harsh view of your unseemly behavior.

It might be social media that brings your reputation undone. Your good name can be trashed all over the internet very easily and quickly. Recently, I received a broadcast Facebook query looking for help in locating a bad debtor. “Wow, this is going everywhere,” I thought and how damaging that was for the named business partner’s reputation. We are all so interconnected today, one simple posting can be shared and dispersed with speed and breadth. It may or may not be warranted but the damage is done all the same. Retribution for not paying your way can be very expensive. Tokyo is still a small village for foreign businesspeople and everyone knows everyone else, pretty much. Broadcast postings set off concerns about not getting paid which means future potential business evaporates.

Another cautionary tale came about from a false Facebook address. If you have really upset someone and they decide to go after you, then the business social media environment is perfect for waging acts of revenge. The Facebook posting looked like it was real, had a really intriguing tag line and took me to the fake site, where the dirt was piled high. This site was bursting with this person’s alleged business skullduggery and their reputation was being shredded on the spot. It took me a moment to work out it was a fake posting, because it was so well done, but the damage to reputation must have been enormous. For a small amount of money, you can command Facebook to send out a promoted post to specific demographics. That provides a lot of scope for little investment. Again, dealing with people honestly and in a straightforward manner, saves a lot of time devoted to damage control and precludes reputation obliteration.

So what can we take away from this discussion? As we know, Japan is pretty amae (indulgent) with foreigners, however, let’s not get sucked into a false sense of security. Jailbird time here is no joke, so just don’t take the risk. Treat business partners with respect, pay your bills or come to a mutually acceptable arrangement. Social media is an instant killer of reputations, the stain is semi-permanent and very hard to erase. If you create an adversary on social media, hostilities could continue indefinitely and future business opportunities could close out

As the saying goes, “the radius of the circle of karma is shorter than you think”.

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