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2.8 Training of New Employees and Initiation

Initiation is a typical rite of passage consisting of the three stages of separation, transition, and reintegration, as formulated by A. van Gennep (1909). The initiation ceremony and the new-employee training system in Japanese companies are characterized as follows:

1. A new employee is separated and isolated from the student-like state.

2. During the period from the initiation ceremony to the end of training of new employees, a tidily dressed new employee lives in an orderly manner confined at a training center. A new employee says goodbye to the students' way of thinking, tries to take responsible action as a full-fledged member of society, becomes conscious of being a member of the company, learns to pay respect and be obedient to superiors and the president, and acquires manners and knowledge as a member of the company. A new employee memorizes the company philosophy, the motto of company, the company song, and proper speech for dealing with customers; learns the company history; vows to be punctual; adapts himself/ herself to the company rules; and gets training to work according to higher targets and carefully thought-out plans. In addition, a new employee undergoes severe trials including labor service cleaning a rest room, sitting in religious meditation at a Zen temple, and survival training in an uninhabited island. Lately, the ties of community are strengthened through sports for handicapped persons. Male and female employees must wear typical dark suits and uniforms respectively. Men are instructed to remove mustaches and beards, long hair, and sideburns; women are prohibited from wearing bangs and long fingernails.

3. A new employee gets posted as a regular employee after completing the initiation training and is included in the regular duty structure.

As described above, it can be well understood how the initiation ceremony and training of new employees are systematized and follow tradition as a modern initiation. Indigenous Amazonian males preparing for intertribal struggles and Sony employees being absorbed in business competitions are in a similar position.

However, there are some major differences between company initiations and those conducted in traditional societies. The principle of equality at the company initiation ceremony relinquishes its seat to the principle of inequality. There is a difference in promotion. There are some possible cases of early retirement and change of job, that is, dropping out.

Akio Morita with Sony is well known as a controversial figure who emphasized “no need for a school career.” “Advice toward early retirement” is also spiced up with his direct tone of argument. The logic is, however, paradoxical. Sony seems to have consciously wedged into “the lifetime employment system” by emphasizing “trial employment” and offering “the advice toward early retirement.” While it is a government employment ideal to serve faithfully until retirement age without committing any serious errors, the Sony case may be appropriately referred to as a venture business type going in the opposite position. The message that only fit persons being conscious of happiness should remain to the last is inversely related to the feeling of happiness at retirement, which does not necessarily mean retirement age. It is not advice toward long-term employment. Of course, there are no words securing employment to the retirement age. Rather a sense of growing crisis is stimulated by emphasizing that the company may fail unless it is victorious in competition.

Morita told new employees that they should leave Sony if they disagreed with the Sony spirit and the view of “a community bound together by common fate.” He urged new employees to change their values. This coincides with the theme of “death and rebirth” common to initiations.

Note that Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO, who took his post on April 1, 2012, emphasized, “I will do my best to change Sony together with you.” Compared with the days of Morita, there is obviously a large difference.

2.9 Concluding Remarks

If we consider the company as a cultural community, the initiation ceremony for joining a company bears an important meaning. In the case of Sony, major emphasis is put on biller trials, as well as readiness to share fate and destiny. Novices gradually become members of a cultural community named Sony, inspired by the Sony Spirit. The Sony Spirit is nothing more than the mental projection of company culture, and its practices are put into ordinary work. In other words, daily salaryman life is molding the company culture of Sony. In contrast to the initiation ceremony, a corporate funeral functions as a major separation ritual from the cultural community of Sony.

In the following chapters, companies will be considered cultural communities, as illustrated by concrete items such as corporate funerals and corporate museums. As a devise, enterprise is also a cultural community which frames the company life of the salaryman and OL. It is hoped that this volume will be read from these perspectives.


Murayama M, Ogashiwa K (eds) (1998) Keiei Jinruigaku: Dōbutsu teki seiki no ningen ron (Keiei Jinruigaku: human theory of animal vitality) (in Japanese). Sōseisha, Tokyo

Nakamaki H (ed) (2013) Business and anthropology: a focus on sacred space, Senri Ethnological Studies, no 82. National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka

van Gennep A (1909) Les Rites de Passage: Étude Systématique des Cérémonies. Librairie Critique, Paris

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