6

Having worked in a Japanese office for years, I have noticed this behavior thousands of time:

  1. An important customer rings the reception's bell.
  2. An employee 10 to 30 meters away (who has an appointment with the customer, or who must lead them to the meeting room) need to go greet them.
  3. Instead of walking normally (or running if it were really urgent), the employee walks with very small and fast-paced steps, making a characteristic sound akin to dragging their feet on the floor. All in all, the employee does not move faster than when I see them walking normally.

It happens with both males and females, maybe more with the latter. Occasionally it even happens when an employee is talking on the phone with a customer. I believe this is for politeness, but feel free to correct me (post a comment or edit this question) if I am mistaken on that. I don't think I have ever seen this behavior outside of professional settings.

Just like there is a word for お辞儀, is there a word to describe this behavior?
If there is no word, what expression is usually used to describe it?

4

This movement is called すり足, and it's primarily for suppressing the sound of footsteps. If you're at a traditional ryokan, you can see professional 女将 doing this on a tatami floor. I think people who learnt Japanese tea ceremony (茶道) know how to do this, too.

That said, floors on modern offices are not that noisy, and I don't believe this is part of everyday business etiquette. No one around me do this in this situation. There may be a few people who learnt traditional manner on Japanese tatami rooms and do すり足 unconsciously believing it's a kind of "beautiful humble movement".

  • Thanks for the word, that's it! The word does not seem to appear in ビジネスマナー textbooks indeed, but it appears in at least one book about business manners. Most people probably do it without even realizing. – Nicolas Raoul Dec 13 '17 at 8:30

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