In work-till-you-drop Japan, company is coming to the aid of distraught employees who say “I want to die.”

As members of a group-oriented society, Japanese workers are acutely aware that they’re part of a team, and often feel a solemn responsibility to their colleagues. Admirable as that sentiment may be, it can sometimes keep people trapped in bad jobs, or at least jobs that are a bad fit for their skills and personalities.

“After all,” many reason, “if my coworkers are working so hard every day, isn’t it selfish for me to feel bad about how professionally dissatisfied I am? If I were to quit, wouldn’t they all have to work even harder, taking on my workload until the company hires and trains a replacement?” It’s not unusual for Japanese people feel embarrassed or ashamed about wanting to quit their jobs, and even after they make that realization, many are hesitant to actually tell their boss or HR department, out of fear of getting chewed out for what their workplace superiors might argue is a selfish move on their part.

“I worked in three companies before this,” says Toshiyuki Arano, one of the founders of Tokyo-based Exit. “When you quit a job, it takes a lot of energy, so we started this company in hopes of creating a society where it’s easier for people to leave their jobs.”

Exit bills itself as a “resignation proxy service.” Once a client contracts their services, Exit will contact their place of employment and inform the company that the employee is leaving. “Hello. I’m calling from Sentience [Exit’s parent company]. Can I speak to someone in your human resources department?” starts Exit’s polite and professional phone script. Once the Exit agent is connected, he announces “I’m calling today about one of your employees, [name], who will be resigning.”

From that point on, Exit serves as an intermediary, handling all communications between its client and his or her soon-to-be-former employer. After the initial phone conversation, the client prepares a written statement of resignation, which Exit forwards while also obtaining any necessary paperwork from the company, such as the rishokukyo, a document officially recognizing that the individual is no longer an employee and thus eligible for unemployment benefits and other government assistance.

“When we started, we figured this would be a light, simple line of work,” recalls Yuichiro Okazaki, Exit’s other founder. “But we get people contacting us saying things like ‘Please save me’ and ‘I want to die.’ Our clients’ needs are much deeper than we’d originally expected.”

Okazaki’s comment highlights the extreme mental anguish that has to set in before some Japanese workers will finally come to the conclusion that they want to quit their jobs, but at that point, they may feel too much emotional distress to even set foot in their office, and so Exit isn’t just alleviating a hassle, but helping to provide emotional solace.

The company began offering its resignation proxy service in the spring of last year, and says it now handles requests from about 300 clients a month. Exit’s standard fee for resignation services for full-time company employees is 50,000 yen (US$450), while for part-time workers it’s 40,000 yen. And since there’s no guarantee that leaving one nightmare job will lead to you landing directly in your dream position, repeat clients receive a 10,000-yen discount should the need Exit’s services a second time.

“I want quitting your job to be seen as a positive thing,” says Arno. “People should be able to quit their jobs without hesitation.” Achieving that vision on a society-wide scale would, ironically, put Exit itself out of business, but since Japan still has no shortage of companies working their employees well into the night, Arano and Okazaki are unlikely to run out of potential clients anytime soon.

Sources: Exit, Livedoor News/Abema Times via Otakomu
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