Yesterday I read that a very young man died from overwork.

That might sound crazy, but in Japan, where I live now, this is a standard issue.

“Why would someone work that much?”, you might ask.

I am not Japanese, but after reading Brene Brown’s book about shame and vulnerability, I have a plausible answer:

Because of shame.

Shame is everywhere in Japan.

At work, I can see it in my Japanese colleague’s eyes, like if they are hiding something, a “sin” they don’t want others to know, something to be ashamed of.

What could that be?

That they “haven’t” worked enough!

In Japan, there’s a taboo about taking holidays.

I’ve taken my holidays because I have the right to. I have the right to 2-3 days of summer vacation + 15-20 days of paid holidays.

But I know people that haven’t taken any single holiday during two years!

In their minds, there’s this voice that might tell them: “You lazy employee! You’ll take holidays while others work? You’ll take holidays when you haven’t published yet? You don’t deserve to rest. Keep working. Work, work, work!”

Shame at work can be stronger than a mean boss.


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