In Japan, a nation with a reputation for loyalty to companies and lifetime employment, people who job-hop are often viewed as quitters.
Enter "taishoku daiko," or "job-leaving agents." Dozens of such services have sprung up in the last several years to help people who simply want out.
"Imagine a messy divorce," says Yoshihito Hasegawa, who heads Tokyo-based TRK, whose Guardian service last year advised 13,000 people on how to resign from their jobs with minimal trouble.
Founded in 2020, Guardian, a taishoku daiko service, has helped various people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, escape from jobs they want to quit.
Guardian charges 29,800 yen — around $208 — for its service, which includes a three-month membership in a union that will represent an employee in what can be a difficult negotiation process.
In many cases, bosses have a lot of power and sometimes simply refuse to agree to let a worker leave, especially since many places are already short-staffed because of Japan's chronic labor shortage.
Japanese law guarantees the right to quit, but some employers just can't accept that someone they have trained would want to walk away.
Conformist pressures in Japanese culture are also painfully heavy. Workers don't want to be seen as troublemakers, are reluctant to question authority and may be afraid to speak up.
Lawyer Akiko Ozawa, whose law firm advises job-leavers, acknowledged it may be hard to believe people can't just leave on their own.
"But switching jobs is a major challenge in Japan that requires tremendous courage," said Ozawa, who has written a book on taishoku daiko.
"If you are so unhappy that you're starting to feel ill, then you should make that choice to take control over your own life," added Ozawa.
Toshiyuki Niino founded job-leaving agency Exit Inc. in 2018, after working for a boss who constantly yelled at him. Another threatened to kill him.
He quit both jobs, and saw an opportunity.
Niino, who says he never once expressed an opinion in school, blames the Japanese educational system for creating obedient workers who are unable to assert themselves.
"It's best if you yourself can say you want to quit," he said.
Who was the worst boss you ever had?
Which of your coworkers would you be most upset about leaving?
What advice would you give to a friend who's unhappy at their job?
Do you know anyone who changed careers later in life?
It is never too late to be what you might have been. — George Eliot. What are your thoughts on this statement?