The “996” overtime culture, which has been criticized in China, spread overseas and caused personnel shocks. The British London e-commerce team of Douyin’s overseas version of TikTok is dissatisfied with the high-load overtime culture brought by the parent company ByteDance, and has left half of its employees; American team employees said that TikTok emphasizes efficiency and confidentiality blindly, and many employees feel overwhelmed. Many people have gone through resignation procedures.
There have been many “cultural conflicts” between TikTok’s Chinese management team and overseas employees. According to an investigation by the Financial Times, ByteDance executive Joshua Ma, head of TikTok’s European e-commerce business, said at a dinner that, as a capitalist, he does not think companies should offer maternity leave.
The remarks sparked outrage among employees of the London e-commerce team. Several employees believe that ByteDance has brought a tough corporate culture from China, which conflicts with the relaxed office environment that British employees are accustomed to.
Some team members said that they often work more than 12 hours a day. In order to facilitate the phone call with the Chinese side, I have to work early in the morning, and because the live broadcast is more effective at night, I usually get off work very late. After the live broadcast, employees must submit a “feedback report” immediately, and they also need to respond to work requests in a timely manner after work, otherwise they may be named and criticized.
In addition, companies advertise working until the wee hours and during vacations as good role models, and employees who go on vacation may face losing clients or being demoted when they return. Employees based in London say the company’s heavy workload is deteriorating their health.
“It’s a toxic corporate culture where people’s relationships are built on fear rather than cooperation,” said a former London office chief. “They don’t care if employees get burnt out because someone can replace them at any time.”
A follow-up report from the Financial Times pointed out that Joshua Ma will withdraw from the TikTok UK e-commerce team. TikTok responded that all systems followed local laws and regulations, and launched a formal investigation into Joshua Ma’s remarks.
This “toxic” overtime culture has made many TikTok employees choose to leave. So far, at least 20 employees of the London e-commerce team have left, and the team is only half the size of the previous one. “It’s like a game where people leave every week, and every Monday we ask who got fired and who quit,” said one current employee.
“Culture clashes” not only happened in the UK, but the TikTok US team on the other side of the Atlantic had the same scene. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that at TikTok’s main U.S. office in Los Angeles, some employees revealed that sleep deprivation was exacerbated by frequent overtime on weekends and mandatory meetings with colleagues on the other side of the world.
Several former U.S. employees said they averaged 85 hours a week in meetings while at TikTok and had to take extra time to get work done. Another employee said he persuaded his superiors to avoid continuous overnight work only after he shared medical reports that showed potentially life-threatening conditions.
Lucas Ou-Yang, a former engineering team leader at TikTok in Mountain View, Calif., tweeted that under the pressure to keep up with Chinese colleagues and schedule work according to their schedules , all 10 product managers he worked with quit after about a year on the job.
In response, TikTok said the company has made some adjustments to its practices and work culture to achieve its goal of “building and nurturing a global team that can support our growing growth.” It added in a written statement: “We encourage a culture of transparency and feedback and are committed to creating a fair platform where our employees can all thrive.”