The Law @ Work

Japanese Employee Who Felt It His Duty to Work Off the Clock for 29 Years, Dies

by Timothy F. Murphy

Hiroo Onoda, a mid-level manager stationed in a Philippines satellite office in 1945, was told by his boss to stay and compete against the soon-to-arrive American forces intent on taking back the Filipino market from the Japanese. The boss, who was high-tailing it back to corporate headquarters in Tokyo before the Americans arrived, told Mr. Onoda that he may have to compete against the Americans, with his small team of highly motivated subordinates, for three to five years before he could be transferred back to corporate.

When his replacement did not arrive as promised, Onoda did not call the corporate compliance hotline to complain. Rather, he remained in his small jungle office dedicated to his duty to resist American competitive advances. Eventually, Onoda’s team of three left to pursue other interests.   One resigned without notice in 1950 to join the competition. The other two were shot dead by local Filipino competitors in separate incidents decades apart.

Citing a communication snafu and a shift in corporate competitive strategies, the boss returned to the Philippines twenty-nine years later to inform Mr. Onoda that he’d been RIFed. Mr. Onoda received a modest pension, reportedly after signing a release of claims.  Perhaps the all-time most dedicated employee, Mr. Onoda passed away on January 16, 2014.  

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