As a member of the Orchestral Committee, I'm a part of a team that meets with the office to discuss issues concerning the core members of HPAC. It's a wonderful experience for me. I get to work closely with four wonderful core members, two of whom are Japanese, and I get to sit in meetings with the office staff listening to Japanese and English translations of everything everyone says (great language practice). It is also a chance to understand a little more closely how things work at HPAC in particular, and a Japanese organization in general.
Today we were discussing some changes to our master agreement and the question of the purview of the document arose. How much control should a contract have over one's behavior? If one's behavior effects their performance at work, is it the prerogative of the institution to control it? What about all the other people that must adapt and amend their own behaviors to work with it? Do they have any recourse of action?
From a polling of most of the members of the orchestra, it seemed that all of the Japanese members were in favor of strict language to ensure that certain behavior was enforced, whereas only a majority of non-Japanese were in favor of it, not wanting words to be used against someone in certain situations where the issue might not be so clear.
And the office? They mentioned that in Japan, it is often the case that when an agreement is put in writing, the words are very vague so that things may be determined in a more case-by-case basis.
I don't know where the cultural divide falls here. Like so many situations I find Japan, attempts to generalize often fall short of the reality. People from both cultures want to have a happy workplace, one in which everyone's personal behavior contributes to the good of all. And people from both cultures want to have freedom and flexibility in the contract to avoid as much conflict as possible.
It is one of the pleasures of being on the Committee that such divides are dissolved. The divide between the orchestra and the office, the divide between Japanese and non-Japanese members, the divide between possible and impossible. There is something deeply rewarding about working together in such a way, about bringing everyone together to realize the similarities of our goals. Differences give way to familiarity and we become more united in our endeavors.