The Gossip Machine – Fear it. Respect it.

Information flow in the Japanese community is down-right scary. One person hears something, then the grapvine kicks in, and before you know it, everybody knows everything about everything.  Take as an example, what happened recently at a company here in Austin.  (I will be deliberately vague here to protect the people involved.)

A manager from Japan, posted in Austin. At lunchtime, some of the ladies from the office were out having a bite at an out of the way joint, fairly far from the office. In comes the manager from the same company, but there was something about how he arrived there that was not very ‘appropriate’. The manager saw the ladies, and the ladies saw the manager. They pretended to ignore each other for the duration of their meal.

A week or so passes, and one of the ladies gets a phone call at her desk. It is a former Austin team member who is now working from Tokyo. He had heard the story of what happened (details withheld) and wanted to see if it was true. The information had crossed the globe in about 10 days. How many miles per hour is that???

The fearsome grapevine had spread the information far and wide, so that even the home office in Japan knew about it. Even other company’s managers here in Austin knew about it (and it was potentially embarassing for the company).

This despite the fact that the ladies who originally witnessed the event had decided to keep ‘mum’ about it all.

This is a truism that I have seen about working and living with Japanese folks here in America. If there is any tidbit of information floating about that has any level of interest attached to it, then everyone in the network both here and back in Japan will know it soon enough. It’s like a virus — it just spreads and there is nothing to do about it but sit back and watch it happen.

I was just shocked that something that happened in an anonymous restaurant here in Austin would have enough raw power, velocity, momentum, to fly all the way to Tokyo and back.

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Kevin Ready

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