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Hitachi Seeks More Casual Employees

April 16, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Major staff cuts. A new president. Now major Japanese appliance maker Hitachi is telling workers to take one more step to upgrade its staid image: dress casual.

In a memo passed around the Tokyo headquarters earlier this month, Hitachi encouraged employees to shed coats and ties for polo shirts and slacks, company spokeswoman Emi Takase said today.

The new policy, to begin April 21, is intended to lighten the workplace atmosphere and encourage creative thinking, Takase said.

``The emphasis is on respect for the individual,″ said Takase. ``We want to give employees have freedom to make their own judgments.″

Hitachi could use the make-over.

Japan’s largest appliance maker has been criticized in the past for having an inflexible, bureaucratic structure that hampered efforts to improve its performance.

Earlier this month, however, the company announced plans to cut 6,500 workers by March 2000 as part of a major cost-cutting plan.

And new Hitachi President Etsuhiko Shoyama said he is determined to put the company in the black and intends to present a new management plan within the next six months.

While the casual dress policy applies equally to men and women, Takase said it will have a bigger impact on Hitachi’s male workers, who like most Japanese businessmen go to work in dark suits, ties and white oxford shirts.

The new policy doesn’t stop with clothes.

Hitachi also asked workers to stop addressing superiors by their formal titles _ a common practice in Japanese companies _ but to use personal names instead. The company will also do away with routine morning calisthenics, which Takase said fosters group mentality at the expense of individuality.

Employees, however, will still be expected to wear suits and use appropriate respectful titles when meeting customers.

Takase said workers are enthusiastic.

``Personally, I can’t wait to see what kind of clothes people start wearing,″ she said.

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