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Is AEON a cult?
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rslrunner



Joined: 12 Feb 2010
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:25 pm    Post subject: Is AEON a cult? Reply with quote

I do not ask this question to equate AEON with Jim Jones, Heaven's Gate or any hard-core religious group. AEON is not fanatical, and they are not on the same moral plane as these groups either.

But I think the case can be made that AEON would qualify as a cult, if a cult is defined as I do here: a group that demands a strict adherence to a set of behaviors and beliefs that do not apply in the outside world.

Here are some examples:

1. Your personality and individuality must be suppressed in favor of the characteristics that AEON wants.

2. There is a rehearsed way of speaking that every AEON teacher must follow. The recruiters speak and behave in a certain way, and ultimately recruits will be expected to speak and act in the exact same way.

3. The company constantly employs leading questions, which are by definition designed to elicit a certain answer and response. These questions are designed to ensure that an AEON representative, boss, etc... is the one who wields the power.

4. The company focuses on the behavior of its employees as much as or more than the content of their job. That is why within minutes of the first day of work, one is told to "avoid distracting habits, and avoid distracting extremes."

5. Often significant commitments are expected after simply asking one question. For example, future teachers are told before leaving Japan if they are willing to market certain products. Most teachers, who are agreeable by nature, will say yes, and then find that when they get to Japan, they have committed themselves to sell AEON products on a constant basis with specific targets put in place.

6. Teachers are expected to perform tasks that are extremely difficult or impossible to complete. This is designed to make every teacher subject to criticism, regardless of how good their performance actually is, thereby cementing the power relationship.

7. AEON has established a system where the teacher is perpetually made to jump through hoops, but the teacher's worth is determined by their ability to do it all with obedience.

8. One's success is determined is how much they can model, copy and imitate the prescribed model, and by how closely one can emulate the AEON ideal.

9. This ideal is called "the AEON way". Deviance of any kind from this way is unacceptable.

____________________________________________________________

Some may say that the issues I laid out are typical for all of Japan, and many aspects of business and personal life in Japan are both rigid and cultish to many gaijin. There may be something to that.

But I think that AEON would go above and beyond the typical Japanese experience.

The majority, although certainly not all, of new AEON teachers are young and just out of college. I am concerned that too many of these new hires end up feeling guilty for resenting the strict conditions that are placed upon them. There is a fine line between rightfully expecting employees to do their job, and then wrongfully taking advantage of them. As I believe AEON to be a mild but definite kind of cult, this line is crossed often.

I welcome the input of others. If I am wrong about anything written here, please let me know.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To set the context:

rslrunner was sacked by AEON during training. He has never taught at any school in Japan.

http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=100984

His principle complaint at the time was that he was not given the training materials to study before he came to Japan. Since then, rslrunner has started to become more and more interested in the "AEON as a cult" idea.
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fat_chris



Joined: 10 Sep 2003
Posts: 2557
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, PRC

PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou,

Many thanks for setting the context.

That post was from nearly eight months ago. Just curious, OP, why still bring this up?

Warm regards,
fat_chris
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rslrunner



Joined: 12 Feb 2010
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fat_chris wrote:
Pitarou,

Many thanks for setting the context.

That post was from nearly eight months ago. Just curious, OP, why still bring this up?

Warm regards,
fat_chris



I bring this up so that people who may be considering joining AEON can be cautioned about what to expect.

I also bring this up so if one decides to join AEON, they are better equipped to navigate and ultimately thrive in that specific environment by adjusting their behavior accordingly.


Last edited by rslrunner on Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Solar Strength



Joined: 12 Jul 2005
Posts: 560
Location: Bangkok, Thailand

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rslrunner,

I think you make a good point. A lot of the big chain language schools operate this way. They tell you what to wear (e.g., the GABA black undertaker's suit), what to say and how to interpret what is happening inside the workplace. GABA staff and head teachers chastised people I know who referred to their "studios" as "the classroom", etc. And one cannot disagree with or contradict a head teacher, staff or management - Critical thinking must be avoided in such workplaces.

You're American, if I remember correctly, right?

Cult like environments exist in the retail sector also, like Walmart and TGIF, etc. The military and police services also use cult techniques to program, brainwash and indoctrinate their subjects, especially during the first several months of training. They feed you, clothe you, house you, and tell you what to think and say. They even go so far as to tell you, "You have a new family now!"

I agree with your final comment that, if people are going to come over and work for a company like NOVA, AEON or GABA, they better have a good idea before signing on what is in store for them in terms of being monitored and indoctrinated. And the indoctrination usually involves corporate suckholes, often gaijin, telling new teachers that the company has invented the "best teaching method" or that they must use specific jargon approved by the company to refer to "clients", "studios", etc.

In sum, they are terrible places to work. But all the young twenty dumbthing gaijin back in the UK, US and Australia are hard core weebos wanting to live the dream in Japan. As a result, they are prepared to subject themselves to all kinds of nasty, abusive behavior by their eikaiwa employers and work for 1/2 of what they should be paid at twice the hours.
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timothypfox



Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 347

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rslrunner,
With all due respect to a fellow ESL colleague, I think taking the time to fuss with this kind of post on an ESL Board is wasting a lot of time and potential experiences you could be having right now - if not in Japan elsewhere.

If you've exhausted your options for getting your dream entry job in Japan, I urge you to try another country at least for a while. You could be living an amazing life somewhere with a rich culture and interesting people instead of lamenting that you did not get a job at a big chain school which you appear to dislike deeply anyways.

What happened to the old saying that if you fail you run harder, or if a mountain suddenly blocks your path you make a new trail. Good with your journey in life! But, keep positive and open yourself up to other possibilities. You'll do just fine then.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, since you ask, cult in the literal sense is defined as:
Quote:
a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
"the cult of St. Olaf"

a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
"a network of Satan-worshiping cults"
So, no it isn't.

More figuratively, a cult is defined as:
Quote:
a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.
"a cult of personality surrounding the leaders"

a person or thing that is popular or fashionable, esp. among a particular section of society.
Well, I guess you could call it a "cult of the AEON method", but you haven't presented any evidence of veneration that goes beyond: "We have a method and an image. It makes us lots of money. We've hired you to apply that method and maintain that image, and that's what we expect you to do."

So, no, I don't think it's a cult. From your description, it sounds like just another rigid, overbearing Japanese organisation. Pretty normal, really. Heck, our neighbourhood committee can be pretty tyrannical at times.


Last edited by Pitarou on Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:35 am; edited 2 times in total
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mitsui



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 452
Location: Kawasaki

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say Interac is a cult.
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Solar Strength



Joined: 12 Jul 2005
Posts: 560
Location: Bangkok, Thailand

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mitsui wrote:
I would say Interac is a cult.


mitsui,

Funny you should mention Interac.

I applied to Interac from Thailand, had the interview, then received an e-mail telling me that they had hired all of the new candidates for 2014 that they needed.

I won't re-apply, however, why do you think they are a cult like? I mean, is there anything specific that you can tell me that they do with their new hires and teachers? I can imagine, but would like to know anything specific that they are doing.

Interac is one I don't have a ton of info on.
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kah5217



Joined: 29 Sep 2012
Posts: 255
Location: Ibaraki

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interac's only a cult for maybe the first few weeks and the one-off training sessions throughout the contract. For the rest of the time, you're in a school where the ESID mantra takes over. The word "cult" really only works for places that have their own curriculum like an eikaiwa.
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rslrunner



Joined: 12 Feb 2010
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

timothypfox wrote:
rslrunner,
With all due respect to a fellow ESL colleague, I think taking the time to fuss with this kind of post on an ESL Board is wasting a lot of time and potential experiences you could be having right now - if not in Japan elsewhere.

If you've exhausted your options for getting your dream entry job in Japan, I urge you to try another country at least for a while. You could be living an amazing life somewhere with a rich culture and interesting people instead of lamenting that you did not get a job at a big chain school which you appear to dislike deeply anyways.

What happened to the old saying that if you fail you run harder, or if a mountain suddenly blocks your path you make a new trail. Good with your journey in life! But, keep positive and open yourself up to other possibilities. You'll do just fine then.


Tim, you misunderstand both me and my post.

I have no interest in going back to Japan.

Yes, I understand the need to move on both professionally and personally. I have moved on. Writing a post here does not indicate otherwise. Don't worry about me.

We all have the power to create meaning out of our experiences. For me, how do I make my experience, which was difficult, meaningful? The answer for me is to empower other people by letting them know what to expect with AEON.

Does one have to agree with my characterization about the company? No. Can one have a positive experience with the company? Sure. Many people do. Some people are well-suited to work there; others are not.

But my goal is to point out that if you work for AEON, one will be expected and required to behave and think in very specific and regimented ways that go well beyond a typical job.

AEON will not tell you this directly. So I am. This is consistent with the whole purpose of these forums: to inform and empower people.
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rslrunner



Joined: 12 Feb 2010
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou wrote:
Well, since you ask, cult in the literal sense is defined as:
Quote:
a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
"the cult of St. Olaf"

a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
"a network of Satan-worshiping cults"
So, no it isn't.

More figuratively, a cult is defined as:
Quote:
a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.
"a cult of personality surrounding the leaders"

a person or thing that is popular or fashionable, esp. among a particular section of society.
Well, I guess you could call it a "cult of the AEON method", but you haven't presented any evidence of veneration that goes beyond: "We have a method and an image. It makes us lots of money. We've hired you to apply that method and maintain that image, and that's what we expect you to do."

So, no, I don't think it's a cult. From your description, it sounds like just another rigid, overbearing Japanese organisation. Pretty normal, really. Heck, our neighbourhood committee can be pretty tyrannical at times.


Yes, the word cult has multiple meanings. No, AEON is not a religion. Nor are cults sinister by nature. (Please see my OP again to see how I defined a cult.)

For me, any organization that demands individuals to subsume their identities, employs constant psychological techniques to retain control over people and remains clandestine about its own methods is a cult.

Perhaps the distance between a rigid, overbearing Japanese organization and a cult is not that great....
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rslrunner



Joined: 12 Feb 2010
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Solar Strength wrote:
rslrunner,

I think you make a good point. A lot of the big chain language schools operate this way. They tell you what to wear (e.g., the GABA black undertaker's suit), what to say and how to interpret what is happening inside the workplace. GABA staff and head teachers chastised people I know who referred to their "studios" as "the classroom", etc. And one cannot disagree with or contradict a head teacher, staff or management - Critical thinking must be avoided in such workplaces.

You're American, if I remember correctly, right?

Cult like environments exist in the retail sector also, like Walmart and TGIF, etc. The military and police services also use cult techniques to program, brainwash and indoctrinate their subjects, especially during the first several months of training. They feed you, clothe you, house you, and tell you what to think and say. They even go so far as to tell you, "You have a new family now!"

I agree with your final comment that, if people are going to come over and work for a company like NOVA, AEON or GABA, they better have a good idea before signing on what is in store for them in terms of being monitored and indoctrinated. And the indoctrination usually involves corporate suckholes, often gaijin, telling new teachers that the company has invented the "best teaching method" or that they must use specific jargon approved by the company to refer to "clients", "studios", etc.

In sum, they are terrible places to work. But all the young twenty dumbthing gaijin back in the UK, US and Australia are hard core weebos wanting to live the dream in Japan. As a result, they are prepared to subject themselves to all kinds of nasty, abusive behavior by their eikaiwa employers and work for 1/2 of what they should be paid at twice the hours.


Yes, I'm from the United States.

Cult-like environments in Wal Mart and TGIF? What a nightmare! I remember being in China and there were about eight people marching and chanting in unison. I asked someone what was going on. "They are singing songs about their company and how they like to serve the company." Not my cup of tea.

I don't think young foreigners are wrong to try to seek work through an eikaiwa. Heck, I did it myself. But there is too little online about the psychological techniques that these companies use, and I think it goes a long way towards explaining why turnover with these companies is so high.

Companies exist to make money. I don't object to that. But once many gaijin get to Japan, they are often at the mercy of these companies, and few resources are dedicated to helping them. Indeed, their only support network lies within the company itself. Hence the cult-like tactics.

That is why my concern lies with these employees, while I view the concerns of companies like AEON with cold disinterest. For it is too easy for the companies to be concerned only with themselves, and to view their employees with cold disinterest, and merely as means to an end.


Last edited by rslrunner on Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rslrunner wrote:
I don't think young foreigners are wrong to try to seek work through an eikaiwa. Heck, I did it myself. But there is too little online about the psychological techniques that these companies use....
Psychological techniques? Please.

[deleted the rest ... a bit too "contentious" as the mods would put it]


Last edited by Pitarou on Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for my sarcastic reply earlier. I guess you can see my irritation about rslrunner's attitude. I'll try to be more constructive this time.

rslrunner: You're not being as helpful as you like to think. If you were really interested in just helping other people, rather than patching up your bruised ego, your post would have read more like this:

Quote:
My experience at AEON

I came to Japan to work for AEON, but they fired me during the training. The whole experience was a nightmare. I want to share some of what I learnt to help others who might work there in future.

1. Don't believe everything they tell you. I made a big mistake when I took my former boss' advice and cancelled my visa. Do your homework, and make sure you're well informed BEFORE you arrive.

2. AEON hires "teachers" in the same way that McDonald's hires "chefs". They have a "method" and an "image", defined in painstaking detail. An AEON teacher's job is to follow it exactly. There is NO professional discretion. If you trouble conforming to micro-management, AEON is not for you.

3. Management can be critical and overbearing.

4. AEON teachers are also salespeople, and are pressured to meet a monthly quota.
Facts, not name-calling.

In point of fact, all of the above has (with some honourable exceptions) been standard practice in the eikiawa industry for a long time. I was certainly aware of it before I came to Japan, mostly through reading this forum. Which is why point 1 is so important.


Last edited by Pitarou on Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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