“HoRenSo” for non-Japanese employees (4) How Should You Handle a Direct Instruction Beyond Your Superior

HoRenSo for Non-Japanese Employees (4): How Should You Handle a Direct Instruction Beyond Your Superior

Q: The manager was out on business trip yesterday. During his absence, I received instructions directly from the managing director at the headquarters. As they were from the managing director, I stopped regular work and gave priority to the instruction.

This evening when I reported it to the manager, he was very upset. Should I have told the managing director to tell the manager first?

A: Be sure to report to your superior about a direct instruction.

Let's see the conversation with the manager.

“While you were away yesterday, the managing director came along and gave me the instructions.”

“Why do you tell me about it now, Mr. Y?”

“I am sorry. But you seemed very busy.”

“So what did you do?”

“As they are from the managing director, I stopped regular work and handled them right away.’

“I see.” (Silence)

You cannot ask the managing director to tell the manager first. It is no problem to receive an instruction from the managing director. It was not good that you did not report immediately to the manager. You cannot postpone the reporting even if the manager seemed busy. Thus let’s bear in mind the next two principles.

First Principle: Report Immediately “a bypassing instruction to Your Superior

Sometimes you receive an instruction from the other superior when your immediate superior is not around. In such a situation, as soon as possible you report to your immediate superior that you received an instruction. That is the first principle. What sort of instruction the other person has given to you is very important information for your immediate superior.

Next, it is also necessary to report to your immediate superior on the progress or make a final report on whether the task is completed, or half way in the process or not yet started. This is because your immediate superior may have some judgments or instructions regarding this.

Second Principle: Report Directly to the Person Who Gave an Instruction

Direct instruction from higher up than your immediate boss is common in a Japanese company.

You should make a final report to your immediate superior as well as the managing director who gave an instruction.

In a large company it may be difficult to directly report to the managing director. In such a case, you submit the report through the managing director’s secretary. But you should ask your immediate superior to take a look at the report. “Reporting directly to the person who gave an instruction” is the second principle.

As an exception, when you are told by your immediate superior that he or she will report to the managing director instead, you can leave it to him or her.

Some people think that since they have reported to their superiors, they will make a report to the managing director if necessary. This is wrong. You have to make sure the person who gave you the instruction will get a final report.

Organizations in Japan Are Flexible

The above-mentioned example is not just for when you receive an instruction from the managing director. The same also applies to when you receive a direct instruction from the executive director or a director from other department.

In European companies where the organization principle is “one man to one superior” meaning that “there is only one person you receive an instruction from and report to.” Bypassed instructions or bypassed reports are very rare. In Japan there is also probably no such bypassing in the Self-defense forces or government-branch organizations.

Generally in Japan, there are many companies which adopt the one-man-to-one-superior principle but at the same time have characteristics of being flexible and being able to change according to the circumstances. “Bypassing” is possible in such companies that you should remember the above-mentioned first and second principle.

Your superior cannot fulfill his or her responsibilities in an organization if he or she has no information of an instruction coming from the outside of his or her department. The person in the position of subordinate should understand this.

If you are in the position of superior, it is important to have considerate subordinates who report any news to you in an appropriate manner.

If you share information or your thoughts with your subordinates on a daily basis, and let them know implicitly or explicitly what kind of reports you want, they will be able to meet your expectations.

Go on to the Horenso Serial (5): Which is Better, Verbal Reporting or Written Reporting?

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