National

Suicide spurs Dentsu to review 'work to death' principle

Kyodo, Bloomberg

Advertising giant Dentsu Inc. might erase references to its 10 corporate principles, one of which encourages employees to stick to a goal “even if you are killed,” from the next edition of its corporate pocketbook distributed to new employees.

The proposed measure comes amid a public outcry over what is seen as Dentsu’s strict corporate culture, which is alleged to have led to the suicide last year of a 24-year-old employee. The Christmas Day death of Matsuri Takahashi in 2015 was recently declared a case of karoshi, or death by overwork.

The 10 rules were written by former Dentsu President Hideo Yoshida and were viewed by employees as the pinnacle of commitment, a Dentsu official said.

One of the “Oni Jussoku,” which can be translated as “Ten Rules of the Demon,” reads: “If you have tackled it, don’t relinquish it. Even if you are killed, don’t relinquish it until you achieve your goal.”

The company’s official English translation of this principle softens the language. It reads, “Never give up on your task. Treat it as if it was your own life with utmost determination and responsibility.”

The other rules include, “Work is something you create, not something given to you,” and “Work people around you like a horse.”

Yukimi Takahashi, the victim’s mother, says the principles embody the ad giant’s exploitative corporate culture.

“The famous principle says, ‘Don’t relinquish your work even if you are killed.’ No work is more important than life,” she said at a lecture in Tokyo on Nov. 9.

Matsuri Takahashi clocked 105 hours of overtime over a single month starting from Oct. 9, 2015, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The company said earlier this month that it is cooperating with a labor ministry investigation of its labor practices. Starting this month, employees have been barred from logging more than 65 hours of overtime a month, down slightly from the previous limit of 70.