There's been a lot of differences working at a big company vs. working at a small company. Most of them very Dilbert like. Which ones are big company issues and which ones are Japan issues I'm not sure. I've tried to mostly consider them big company issues because I've never worked at a big company before coming to Japan but I'm not sure all of them are.
For example there are zillions of forms. If you are late you have to fill out a form. Sick, fill out a form. Need something for work even small, fill out a form. Mondays, fill out a form about what you did last week and what you are going to do this week. At the beginning of the month, double check your time sheet for the month, print it out and sign it.
At a small company, most of those issues were handled with a word. If you were sick you'd call in to say you couldn't make it today and that was the end of it. If you bought something for work you handed over the reciept, end of story. All the other forms just didn't happen.
Here if you are sent by the company somewhere outside the company like to a seminar or presentation or trade show you have to fill out forms saying why you were not present at the company and you have to fill out forms to get reimbersed for your transportation costs. Your transporation costs, train fare, will probably be between $3 and $5 total. Just the time you spend filling out the form + the time spent by all the other people that have to deal with that form probably costs the company $10 to $15. Why they don't just have you walk by the person in charge of petty cash, hand over your receipt and give you the money is beyond me.
A big difference between American and Japan though is here in Japan there are a set of laws that basically make it nearly impossible to fire someone. Once you've hired someone, unless they commit a crime or something like start destroying computers or hurting people etc you can't fire them. Instead, if you really want them out you have to demote them, take away their position, lower their responsibilities, lower their salary. You can lower their salary gradually. You can't make it 1 yen a year overnight. Basically your only option if you want to get rid of someone is to try to make them want to quit.
That makes me wonder, what kinds of things go on at Japanese companies? Are they full of lazy people who know that no matter what they won't get fired? I've asked around and friends say there are people in their companies that only come in once a week. Another said one girl has not been in in 6 months but she will not be fired. But, those are exceptions I think. If you were subjected to that law, as a boss, what would you do? Would it encourage you to find a way to make each person on your team productive since you can't get rid of them? My impression is that that's not true. At least not with my bosses.
The Japanese managers that I've been exposed to seem particularly bad. Their sole job in life seems to be to get you to fill out your forms 100% correctly and that's about it. Trying to make it easier to do your job, trying to get problems solved, things out of your way or things more efficent is not part of their charter.
There's a plus to the core hours thing at my current company. Even though you don't get paid for overtime it does get accounted and you can use it to leave early. So for example core hours are 10am to 3pm. That means I can leave at 3pm if I want, no questions asked. As long as by the end of the month I've worked an average of 8 hours a day I'm fine. If you miss time between 10am and 3pm you get docked DOUBLE your salary.
It gets silly though. They account 15 minutes in their favor. So, 9:46 to 7:14 is not 8 hours and 28 minutes it's just 8 hours. It gets even sillier though. If you work 8 hours on a day off (sat, sun, holiday) you get a comp day. But, this last year we were told to take off the week of New Year's. Except, Monday Dec 30th was not actually a company holiday so they took one of our vacation days from us and told us to take it off. If you happened to be busy you were welcome to come in that day but as it was not an *official* holiday if you were late (past 10am) you'd get docked!!!!
The sad thing is I'm sure the people that came up with this system thought that by setting core hours they'd get more work out of people. (note: they did not have these rules 5 years ago). The thing is, they actually encourage abuse. At the end of the day I might be on my way out, see that it's 7:10 and think, "gee, if I just hang out for 5 more minutes I'll get 15 minutes I can take off another day. hmmm, maybe I'll just sit here for a hour and read my e−mail and then take off a hour early some other day". If on the other hand they didn't have this system but instead just had normal *flex* time like many development companies, staying 45 minutes after work goofing off becomes MY time I'm wasting instead of the company's.