Well-liked and trusted by all in his department at Tokyo Kenden, a mid-sized manufacturer, sales manager Sakado is accused of power harassment by Yasumi?an older colleague with a reputation for being a slacker and forever stuck at the rank of assistant manager. Against all expectations, the investigating committee affirms the charges and Sakado is removed from his position. His successor, Harashima, questions the verdict and pressures Yasumi to tell him what happened. "You're better off not knowing," responds the latter, but Harashima insists; when he learns the truth, all he can do is roll his eyes toward the ceiling and emit a deep sigh.
The story centers on the intense pressure employees are under to hit sales targets in a company where harsh work conditions compel them to make their sales by hook or by crook. It comes to light that even top salesman Sakado had succumbed, leaning on a subcontractor to produce substandard screws at low cost. When Tokyo Kenden learns that the screws used to build seats delivered for use in aircraft and trains do not meet durability standards, it moves to avoid an expensive recall by covering the problem up. Whistle-blowing within the company is quickly quashed. As the tale progresses, unfolding through meetings and events in the lives of various individuals involved in or affected by the company's doings, we learn that this is not the first such incident: there has in fact been a repeated pattern of similar cases since before Sakado's departure . . .