Photos and story by Joyce Lopez,
Public Affairs Specialist,U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center
SASEBO, Japan (July 13, 2016) – U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) spearheaded the first “Bystander Intervention to the Fleet” (BI2F) training sessions in Japanese. In a five-day span, eight two-and-a-half-hour sessions were conducted with all supervisory and general Japanese employees at the command’s detachment facility in Fleet Activities Sasebo.
SRF-JRMC provides ship maintenance and modernization for Commander, Naval Forces Pacific and U.S. Pacific Fleet using advanced industrial techniques while keeping the U.S. 7th Fleet operationally ready.
“At this point in time, every Sailor in our command has successfully completed the [BI2F] training,” said Capt. Garrett Farman, the SRF-JRMC commanding officer. “However, this command is unique from any other, so much as that more than 80 percent of our entire workforce is Japanese nationals – a majority of whom work in the production shops and work on the deck plates.”
The command is considered a large U.S. naval organization, composed of more than 2,500 Japanese national employees and more than 400 U.S. Navy military and civilian service employees. The Sasebo detachment alone has more than 300 Japanese employees.
“And because of that,” Farman said, “bystander intervention and awareness is essential for each and every single member of the SRF-JRMC team – not just to our U.S. Navy military members. Everyone has a major role in promoting a respectful work environment; eliminating safety mishaps and workplace misconduct, including power harassment.”
“There are things that could be stopped, but people just don’t know how to at the lowest level,” said Senior Chief Dominique Taylor, the command managed equal opportunity manager, Command Assessment Team (CAT) member and electronics technician. “Doing this training overall will hopefully reduce incidences and allegations [of power harassment] and empower our own employees to ‘step up and step in’ before it’s too late.”
In July 2015, with Farman’s direction, the translation project utilized the command support division’s translation staff and continuous improvement office to recreate the BI2F training materials into Japanese. The project included the training facilitation guide and six supplementary video scripts and subtitles.
“Some Japanese companies conduct bystander intervention training as well,” said Kenichi Kashima, CAT member and one of the three Japanese training facilitators. “But for SRF-JRMC, the training is Navy-centric with American context and values, intended for Americans. Because of that, we anticipated language and cultural barriers.”
Kashima facilitated the sessions together with Noriko Fujiwara, a management analyst from the continuous improvement office, and Fumitada Mizorogi, an interpreter and translator from the command support division. As the CAT expected cultural barriers, the three facilitators focused on the concept of “leadership” as a quality that every employee has, regardless of rank, position and seniority in the command.
“The majority [of Japanese] tend to be shy and hesitant to step up, since harmony is a huge thing here,” said Ship Superintendent Kenta Nakashima, a training participant who was asked about his perception of “leadership” in the context of Japanese culture.
From session to session, Kashima observed a pattern among the groups of employees while watching the supplementary videos. “I was doubtful that our Japanese workforce will comprehend the contents,” he said. “But as I found out, people were receptive to the material. Most [Japanese] people did not look bored. Because the videos were developed by professional videographers, it really drew their attention regardless of who watched them.
“Without translated subtitles in the videos, I don’t think it would have been as easy to understand fully for [Japanese employees] themselves and their own situations at the production shops or office spaces.”
In effort to bridge cultural communication barriers, the command assessment team used a random number-drawing system called “Bystander Bingo,” in which all participants are assigned a number and may be called upon to partake in open discussion.
“From my prior experience in conducting command-wide training,” Fujiwara said, “Americans tend to voluntarily respond to our discussion questions. There’s a tendency for Japanese not to voluntarily speak in front of their peers or in front of the class. This time, the bingo system worked. Some participants put much thought in their responses before answering; yet, everyone gave great answers. It showed they were processing the material in their heads.”
At the end of all sessions, the Japanese facilitators and employees unanimously bowed and exchanged the words “arigatou gozaimashita,” an expression of gratitude said after receiving great service. Some employees personally approached the facilitators and assessment team members to share their feedback and afterthoughts.
“I now recognize there is actually more than one way to report an issue or harassment,” said Tomohiro Hisata, an engineering technician from the detachment’s safety office. “[As an intervening bystander,] I would not always be sure if what I will say is right or not. But I feel more empowered, now knowing there are indirect ways to intervene and still be able to take care of the situation.”
The training sparked an idea for one participant in how to improve the quality of life in his work group. “Maybe we can use lunch time as an opportunity to talk about anything and just have casual conversations with our peers,” said Tetsuya Imaizumi, a safety inspector from the detachment’s safety office. “If we could interact with each other a bit further, we can get to know each other better. This way, I can make better judgments of everyone’s range of acceptance and values.
“We can respect each other that way. So in case bystander intervention is needed, I will have a better idea of how to approach a person with least resistance. Because now, I know a bit more about that person.”
SRF-JRMC’s philosophy and equal employment opportunity policy states its workforce is its most important asset, or the “heart of their success.” As such, humble leadership and mutual respect are mentioned as the means to guide all of their employees through all their management practices, work processes and training programs.
“No matter if you are a U.S. civilian, military, contractor or Japanese employee,” said Alicia Akashi, the command support division head and a CAT member, “everyone is held up to the same standards of what is acceptable and important at SRF-JRMC. Those standards lie in our command’s core values, all of which are laid out in our command philosophy, guiding principles and policies.”
The BI2F training objectives were regarded by SRF-JRMC’s command assessment team as a means to address increasing power harassment allegations and incidents, which have recently occurred throughout various commercial companies and governmental organizations across Japan.
According to Japan Today, Japan’s Welfare, Health and Labor Ministry (WHLM) reported that consultation centers at labor departments throughout the country received 40,000 calls in 2010. The ministry also said that an increasing number of individuals seek advice or counseling as victims of power harassment.
When examining the breakdown of labor counseling at prefectural Labor Bureau, 5.8 percent of the cases were about workplace bullying and harassment in FY2002. Ten years later, the cases increased to 17 percent, marking power harassment as the most common consultation in Japan.
Based on Shino Naito’s “Workplace Bullying Japan” analysis paper from the 2013 Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training Report, there is an observed increase in mental and psychological injuries, including suicide as a result of workplace bullying and harassment. Such cases and a number of other workplace harassment judicial rulings triggered WHLM to take further action.
In 2009, WHLM officially recognized power harassment as a cause of a worker’s health problem during the work injury approval process. This allows power harassment victims in Japan to apply for financial support for medical costs and also file civil lawsuits for negligence against their offenders and their companies.
In light of this nation-wide issue, WHLM released its official definition of the term “power harassment” in 2012 in order for the Japanese government to begin taking the first steps to address the issue.
“By having every single SRF member attend and digest the same [BI2F] training,” Farman said, “we will have a 100 percent informed workforce equipped and ready to address and raise issues to the appropriate supervisors before it gets the chance to deteriorate our workplace and culture.
“That vision is aligned with our all-hands investment in workforce and leadership development – one of the command’s strategic areas for 2016.”
With all detachment personnel trained on BI2F, SRF-JRMC plans to train the remaining U.S. civilian and Japanese employees at the headquarters based in Fleet Activities Yokosuka in the fall this year.