Negative survey of NJ employers by J headhunting company “Careercross” to make “employers see their own bias”


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Turning the keyboard over to member of The Community, about an issue recently uncovered:


Date: November 6, 2008 12:35:18 AM JST
From BCD at The Community


Below is a survey I just saw on, which, if you don’t know it, is a job placement site.

CareerCross provides information on bilingual employment in Japan for bilingual Japanese and English speakers, plus an invaluable resource for non-Japanese Living and Working in Japan.

Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive or something, but something about these questions, targeted at foreign employers of Japanese seems wrong.

I can only imagine that if a similar survey were asked in any other country, where any racial group as asked to rate and compare another racial group, it would cause a hell of a fuss. Pick any two racial groups… the kinds of questions asked here seem to be in really poor judgment.

What do you guys think? Is there an unsavoury form of cultural insensitivity being displayed here or am I seeing something that isn’t there?

The questions are as follows:

1. How comfortable are you working with Japanese subordinates?
Somewhat comfortable
Neither comfortable, nor uncomfortable
Somewhat uncomfortable

* This question requires an answer.

* 2. Can you rely on Japanese subordinates?
I can rely on them
I can rely on them somewhat
I can not rely on them so much
I can not rely on them

* This question requires an answer.

* 3. Do you have occasions where you are not able to understand what
Japanese subordinates really think?

* This question requires an answer.

* 4. Please compare Japanese subordinates with those of your
nationality. Please choose 1 answer from each of the following questions.
* 4a. Work Speed
Somewhat faster
Neither faster, nor slower
Somewhat slower

* This question requires an answer.

* 4b. Quality of work
More careful
Somewhat more careful
Neither more careful, nor more careless
Somewhat more careless
More careless

* This question requires an answer.

* 4c. Creativity
More creative
Somewhat more creative
Neither more, nor less creative
Somewhat less creative
Less creative

* This question requires an answer.

* 4d. Logicality
Somewhat logical
Neither more, nor less logical
Somewhat less logical
Less logical

* This question requires an answer.

* 4e. Risk taking
Accepts challenges
Somewhat accepts challenges
Neither accepts, nor avoids challenges
Somewhat avoids challenges
Avoids challenges

* This question requires an answer.

* 4f. Attitude in discussions
Unafraid of conflict
Somewhat unafraid of conflict
Neither unafraid, nor afraid of conflict
Somewhat afraid of conflict
Afraid of conflict

* This question requires an answer.

* 4g. Negotiation skills
Better at negotiating
Somewhat better at negotiating
Neither better, nor worse at negotiating
Somewhat worse at negotiating
Worse at negotiating

* This question requires an answer.

* 4h. Problem solving skills
Better at problem solving
Somewhat better at problem solving
Neither better, nor worse at problem solving
Somewhat worse at problem solving
Worse at problem solving

* This question requires an answer.

* 4i. Leadership skills
More willing to take leadership
Somewhat more willing to take leadership
Neither more, nor less willing to take leadership
Somewhat less willing to take leadership
Less willing to take leadership

* This question requires an answer.

* 4j. Effectiveness
More effective
Somewhat more effective
Neither more, nor less effective
Somewhat less effective
Less effective

* This question requires an answer.

* 4k. Cooperativeness
More cooperative
Somewhat more cooperative
Neither more, nor less cooperative
Somewhat less cooperative
Less cooperative

* This question requires an answer.

* 4l. Adapts to change
More flexible
Somewhat more flexible
Neither more, nor less flexible
Somewhat less flexible
Less flexible

* This question requires an answer.

* 4m. Assertiveness
More assertive
Somewhat more assertive
Neither more, nor less assertive
Somewhat less assertive
Less assertive

* This question requires an answer.

* 4n. Communication skills
Better communication skills
Somewhat better communication skills
Neither better, nor worse communication skills
Somewhat worse communication skills
Worse communication skills

* This question requires an answer.

* 5. What do you find difficult in working with Japanese subordinates?
Please choose as many as you like. If you have other examples please
write them below.
Slow work
Careless work
Lack of creativity
Lack of logic
Avoids challenges
Afraid of conflict in discussions
Poor at negotiating
Poor at problem solving
Lack of leadership
Lack of flexibility (Poor at adapting to change)
Lack of assertiveness
Poor communication skills


* This question requires an answer.

* 6. If you were to hire Japanese subordinates what qualities would you
look for? Please choose as many as you like. If you have other examples
please write them below.
Fast work
Careful work
Accepts challenges
Unafraid of conflicts in discussion
Better at problem solving
Flexibility (Adapts to change)
Good communication skills


* This question requires an answer.

* 7. If you had to hire one candidate from 2 who had the same
competency, which would you hire: a Japanese candidate with fluent
English ability or a non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability?
Definitely the Japanese candidate with fluent English ability
Preferably the Japanese candidate with fluent English ability
No preference
Preferably the non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability
Definitely the non-Japanese candidate with fluent Japanese ability

* This question requires an answer.

8. Please tell us the reason for your answer of the previous question.
* 9. Do you think Japanese business people would do well globally?
Yes, they would.
They probably would.
Cannot say either way.
They probably would not.
No, they would not.

* This question requires an answer.

10. What do you think is necessary for Japanese business people to do
well globally in the future?
* 11. Finally, do you feel threatened by Japanese business people taking
your position?
Yes, I feel threatened.
Yes, I feel somewhat threatened.
No, I don’t feel very threatened.
No, I don’t feel threatened.



Totally agree this survey is very biased, especially question 5 as BCD pointed out. I have two Japanese subordinates – Kondo-kun tends to be a little slow in reporting changes and Adachi-kun tends not to express any opinions at meetings, but I couldn’t say anything about Japanese subordinates in general from that.  Kaoru



After having slept on it, and seeing your comments, I’m a little more convinced that the questions are inappropriate and Careercoss should probably be called on it.

Two main reasons: If such a survey were conducted in Japanese by employers of foreigners, we’d be up in arms about it. And the fact that the tone is overwhelmingly negative. Question 5 does not offer any way of opting out of a negative impression of Japanese employees, and is chock full of stereotypes.

I don’t know how to find the survey online if you are not a member. It was offered to me via email because I’ve had a resume on Careercross for a while.

The link they sent me was:

I’m considering getting in touch with them to make known that their survey is poorly executed and has the impression of bias against Japanese. If anyone has suggestions on what might be said, or what parts pointed out, please let me know.



Thank you for the link, because that helped me look for something that seems to me to be very important when sending out any survey — what is the purpose of the survey. I don’t see any reason given for the survey on either page.

As for Q5, what really concerns me is there is no place to check a block which is a positive response. 

“What troubles do/did you have …?” — How about allowing us the opportunity to check a box that indicates, “None.” 

All the answers are negative, unless one were to put a positive answer in “other”. I would think a “positive box” should go at the very top as a first choice. Otherwise, we get the impression that it’s a foregone conclusion that us non-Japanese folks always have negative views of our Japanese subordinates.

Okay, that’s my take on Q5, but I have other concerns about this survey, so I just called their offices about ten minutes ago. The lady I eventually spoke with indicated that the person responsible for the survey was not there to answer my question about what the purpose of the survey is and why there is no positive answer available for Q5, so I gave her an email address to let the person send me an answer. I declined the offer of a phone call. The lady seemed to understand my questions just fine, but we may yet have some problem with my questions being communicated through her to the person having to answer. *If* that person will answer.

Is that a practical good first step — some kind of initial contact with two basic questions, and then we can decide if and how to go further? I suppose it’s a bit late to ask, as I’ve already done it.

By the way, I think going much “further” is going to be necessary. For one thing, if one is to send out a survey that is essentially only going to cover negative aspects of an issue the introduction to the survey must explain why.

Let’s say I send out a survey titled, “What Don’t You Like About GM.” I think I should preface that survey with some reason why I assume all of you don’t like GM.



date: Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 1023 AM

subject: CareerCross survey

To: GM

Thank you very much for contacting us on Friday and for taking part in our survey.
This survey is an important part in understanding the attitudes and perceptions of foreign employers as it applies to their Japanese hires. Actually the survey is, as you had pointed out, slightly on the negative side which we feel is important in getting straight answers about negative perceptions that a foreign boss may have. We do not think that a “fell good” survey would not bring out information of value.

Please not that it was myself and our Japanese staff, with the help of our foreign staff, that came up with these questions. We hope this survey will be useful for both employers to see their own bias as well as Japanese working at companies for a foreigner.
Thank you again for participating in our survey.  Best regards,

Masayuki Saito
Director COO
C.C.Consulting K.K.
Tel: 03-5728-1861 Fax: 03-5728-1862




Points that I think need to be addressed in a response to the CareerCross CEO:

1. A “feel good” survey is not the only alternative to a negative one. It is entirely possible to create a merely objective survey.

2. Any market researcher knows that asking leading questions gets the answers that the respondents were led to. If they want genuine and meaningful result, then they necessarily should allow clear options for both positive and neutral responses, not only negative.

3. The old “Japanese think so too” argument is as tired as ever. Just because the boss had some Japanese people work on the survey doesn’t justify anything about it. Not only is it unclear whether or not the Japanese or non-Japanese involved honestly felt the freedom to construct the survey differently than what their higher ups wanted, in any country and culture one will find attitudes of criticism of local norms that can be exploited. Just because I can find a Canadian that says Canadians suck doesn’t make it a more accurate description of Canada.

I could rip apart this guy’s justification of this survey even more, but I’m a little tired right now.

GM, this time, before firing off any more responses to CareerCross, maybe wait a bit until we’ve had time to flesh out some consistent points. The whole advantage of a group like this is the collective wisdom.


Okay, readers, time for some collective wisdom… Comments please.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

10 comments on “Negative survey of NJ employers by J headhunting company “Careercross” to make “employers see their own bias”

  • “We do not think that a “fell good” survey would not bring out information of value.”

    Okay, let’s let the spelling error (“fell good”) slide, since English spelling can be tricky. But the double negative in that sentence is a simple logical error.

    Also, what BCD said.

  • Does it bother you if a company asks its clients what dissatisfaction they have about its service? Soliciting complaints is a good way to improve its service and customer satisfaction. I do not see anything wrong with the questionnaire.

    — Are you sure that’s what the questionnaire is asking…?

  • QUOTE – Are you sure that’s what the questionnaire is asking…? ENDQUOTE

    Debito – Are you sure that the questionnaire is actually asking something else? Or are you just seeing it through your activist prism?

    Don’t mean to knock you … well, yes I do, to an extent … and I feel you need to be cognizant that not every perceived slight toward foreigners or exposure of the cultural/linguistic rift between J and NJ is meant to antagonize mutual relations.

    A long time reader of your blog, I will be the first to say that you’ve done a lot of good out there, and there is a lot that Japan needs to do to put its international house in order, but I will also be the first to note that not every poorly constructed statement or mishandled action is a definite, intended smack to the NJ population.

    Blogger HO, above, is right – CC is just trying to find some information. On the while, this questionnaire is bumbling and pedantic. The questions are riddled with old stereotypes and could have come straight from one of my 1988 Japan culture textbooks (where one claimed that “foreigners cannot handle chopsticks because of their larger hands”). Had received this, it would probably go straight in the e-bin. It would not be worthy of my time. However, it is derived from ignorance, not hostility. I don’t see it laced with a hidden agenda. I think you are really over-reaching if you think it has.

    – John @ Yokohama

  • The majority of questions are racist ! Generalizations! Makes me wince when reading it. Careercross should be ashamed and embarrassed.

  • The basic problem with the survey is that it only provides one variable for distinguishing among employees: J or NJ. With that as the only characteristic in question, the survey respondents are forced to ascribe any differences among their employees to their J or NJ-ness.

    If you wrote a survey dividing employees into any two groups — smokers and nonsmokers, male and female, old and young, married and single, etc. — you would get results that allow you to make a point about one group versus the other, regardless of whether that particular two-group classification is actually relevant to how employers think about their employees.

    A serious effort to understand employer views would collect lots of data on employees AND employers (NJ as well as J), and then would ask employers to evaluate each of their employees on a person-by-person basis, without labeling them as a member of one out of two possible groups.

    Then, the researchers could look for patterns in the data and draw meaningful conclusions like, “80% of employers feel their nonsmoking employees are better negotiators than their smoking employees.”

    Or “80% of NJ employers feel their NJ employees were more likely to “do well globally” (whatever that means!) than their J employees. However, virtually the same percentage of J employers feel the same way.”

    Or “Male employers were twice as likely to feel their male employees have better problem-solving skills than their female employees, regardless of whether the employees or employers were J or NJ.

    As it stands, the survey is worse than useless; it is actively harmful to a genuine understanding of workplace relations because it aims to obscure the truth in the interest of promoting a preconceived agenda.

  • The survey is a bad joke, for all the reasons mentioned and more.

    All of its questions deal with “Japanese subordinates”. At the very least, every case should be reworded to “your Japanese subordinates” to avoid making generalizations about Japanese subordinates unrelated to you.

    Question 5 is just bad. You do not get accurate information by forcing people to give negative opinions.

  • Like it was mentioned before, what jumps at me is that whoever wrote this seems to see the world purely in racial colors. This kind of attitude is so divisive. Why force people to make a difference between J and NJ employees? Why assume that a boss is prejudiced because of his race (and isn’t that some kind of contradiction)?

    IMO, the correct answer to all those questions is “depends on the employee.”

    Although I think this sort of thing is understandable considering the ultra nationalism that was forced down people’s throats in the Meiji period. Maybe what we see today are the remaining traces of that old shintoist purity mentality that are hard to wash off. Japan seems to still have a difficult time distinguishing ethnicity and nationality. In most of the world, racism is “you’re one of them.” In Japan, it’s “you’re not one of us.”

  • You don’t have to be a NJ in Japan to see all sort of wrong things with this survey. It’s just plain bad. I’m sure the intent was pure and honest, but c’mon! Question #5 is just all around horrible…it implies that J-subordinates are bad and you must choose one of 14 reasons why they’re bad…and if none of the above fit, you can write in your own. There isn’t even an option for “None of the above.” WTF???

    Now, let’s pretend this was a survey found on a U.S. headhunting website and we change the titles from “Japanese subordinate(s)” to “Mexican subordinates.” How fast do you think the ACLU will scream racism and slap an injunction to keep this questionnaire from ever being used? Oh, imagine the uproar!!! (Heck, you don’t even need to change the titles-leave them as such and the reaction would be the same!)

    Bad, bad, BAD!!!

  • Debito,

    Is there any survey on what J employers feel about employing NJ people, especially those who would have problems like communications, families, relocation etc ?

    I am sure there must be some info somewhere, but its E side is not known to us.

    I appreciate what CareerCross did in one way, they should also let the readers know if there is an exactly opposite survey done and if so, what were the findings of both ?

  • Debito,
    As a (very hopeful) future NJ but as a current american I can see both sides to this survey. I can see how some might take it to be negative and seeing that as a bad thing, but sometimes…. its a good thing. However I do see your point of view that the writers of the survey assumed that NJ bosses would think negativly. I think the final soultion….. Dont release any surveys.

    Great work by the way love your site it’s been VERY helpful.


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