Business Case Studies, HRM / OB Case Study, Karoshi

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HRM / OB Case Study

Case Title:


Publication Month and Year :  June 2009

Authors:  Christoph Zacharias

Industry:  Not Applicable

Region: Japan

Case Code:  OB0010

Teaching Note:  Not Available

Structured Assignment:  Not Available


The case study was written to focus on the concept of stress management in Organisational Behaviour course. By dealing with the incidents of ‘karoshi’, a Japanese word which means ‘death from overwork’, the case study details the negative impact of stress on employees in an organisation. The first reported case of karoshi was in 1969, wherein the victim, a 29-year-old male married worker in the shipping department of Japan’s largest newspaper succumbed to a stroke. In the 1980s, deaths of several high-ranking business executives, still in the prime of their lives, were reported. Since then, the karoshi phenomenon has drawn media and public attention in Japan. In 1982, a Japanese doctor labelled this phenomenon karoshi. By the 1990s, karoshi had become a buzzword. The National Defense Council for the Victims of Karoshi estimated that annually, about 10,000 workers were becoming victims of karoshi. Most of the victims died of heart failure and a few were driven to suicide. What were the main reasons for the occurrence of karoshi? Is the Japanese Production Management system to be blamed which breeds a culture of disproportionately long working hours in Japan? How can such incidents of stress be managed in an organisation?

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To analyse the business implications of the karoshi phenomenon, the need for change in the working hours and the nature of the Japanese Production Management system
  • To debate on the flaws in HR practices of Japanese companies
  • To understand the consequences of work stress and how it can be managed.

Keywords :  Karoshi, HRM Case Study, Dentsu, Oshima, Death from overwork, Overwork, Suicide, Overtime, Workaholism, Unpaid overtime, Stress, Globalisation, Bubble economy, Japanese Production Management, Toyota, Kaisen, Organizational Behavior, OB, Organizational Behavior case study, Motivation Case Study, MBA, MBA Program, Course Mapping


  • The Oshima Case
  • Karoshi
  • Karoshi Down the Years
  • Overwork
  • Economic Globalisation
  • Workaholism: Is it in the Japanese Blood?
  • Japanese Production Management (JPM)
  • Checking the Karoshi epidemic

  • Japan's Late Premier Keizo Obuchi
  • The Overworked Japanese
  • Factors Contributing to Karoshi Other than Working Hours
  • The Tanaka Case
  • Workaholism: Is It in the Japanese Blood? Historical Accounts of Japanese Work Culture
  • Measures Taken by Japanese Authorities to Check Karoshi

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