To Be Honest
I shudder and cringe if I am in a situation with a Japanese where he/she says to me, “To be honest…” or, “To tell you the truth…” because the Japanese notions of honesty and truth bear almost no resemblance whatsoever to what Westerners imagine/recognize. It is always the beginning of BAD news. I think Japanese think that they have to preface bad news this way because they were taught somewhere in school that foreigners prefer direct speech to typical Japanese “aimai,”or vagueness and to them expressions like “To be honest,” and “To tell you the truth” are a way of softening bad news and at the same time trying to make it sound like they are not indulging in anything nasty by dressing it up in some manner of cultural sensitivity.
Specifically, it is one of the ways Japanese employers fire foreigner employees. I know, because I have been through that. Maybe it is how they fire Japanese employees as well, but my language proficiency is insufficient to that purpose. Employers do not like to
fire an employee outright because it is so bothersome, uncomfortable (Japanese prefer to avoid confrontation), and in many cases legally questionable. So if an employer wants to be rid of an employee the most common strategy is just to let our one-year contracts expire without an offer of renewal. That way the employer can save face by passing the blame onto the employee and claim that the employee “retired,” thus saddling the employer with a problem.
Breaking the bad news goes something like this:
“To tell you the truth, you don’t need to come next week,” or,
“To be honest, it is difficult to keep you.”
If an employer reallyhates an employee then he/she assigns the most degrading, miserable work, or else enforces impossible work restrictions and requirements in combination with threats, gossip, and rumor in an effort, first, purposefully to inflict gratuitous suffering and, second, to push the employee to resign of his/her own volition.
I wonder if it’s the same in Canada?