AS HONDA SOICHIRO built his company from a small producer of engines to attach to bicycles into a global carmaking giant, he developed a reputation as a talented engineer and a maverick executive. He was also known to be an exacting boss, even a violent one. “When he got mad, he blindly reached for anything lying around, and started throwing whatever was in reach randomly at people,” one former executive later recalled. Such fiery tempers remain all too common among Japanese managers. A Japanese psychologist even coined a term to describe the particular abuse that the country’s supervisors pile upon some of their employees: pawahara, or power harassment.
Complaints of harassment in the workplace have been growing in recent years, hitting a record high of 82,797 in 2018, up from 32,242 a decade earlier. In 2016 the country’s labour ministry found that a third of Japanese workers had experienced power harassment in the past three years. The trend worried the government enough to spur recent passage of anti-harassment legislation. As of June 1st, Japanese firms are required to have clear policies in place and to create internal systems for reporting and verifying claims of abuse.
At the extreme end, workplace bullying can still include physical violence of the sort displayed by Honda. More typically…