TikTok, behind the fun hides a “toxic” working culture. Former employees: “Symptoms of burnout, secrecy and pressure” – Il Fatto Quotidiano


TikTok, behind the fun hides a “toxic” working culture.  Former employees: “Symptoms of burnout, secrecy and pressure” – Il Fatto Quotidiano
Written by aquitodovale

“If I had known who to work for TikTok it would cost me so much, I wouldn’t have never accepted the work: the ‘me’ of June 2020 she would have run away ”. And the November 2021when Melody Chuex senior product manager, decides to leave the US unit of the Chinese company after only a year and a half. Among the many professional experiences featured on his resume – Facebook, Nextdoor and Roblox – that had been “the most difficult“. Chu understood the sacrifice personnel required by the company. During the period of activity, she had happened to work even more than 60 hours per week, a difficult pace to sustain. Not surprisingly, the product manager experienced some of the symptoms from burnout (sleep deprivation, paranoia, nervous breakdown and weight loss), complained by many employees of multinational tech companies, such as Amazon And Half. Contexts in which thehustle culture, a lifestyle in which career is conceived as the main experience for self-realization, while affections and self-care are relegated to the margins of existence. A culture defined work “toxic” from the Sloan Management Reviewmagazine for business executives published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. So harmful as to be counted among the causes of “Great resignation”, The recent phenomenon that has seen a large mass of people voluntarily leave their jobs.

Aim for the maximum – Born in 2016within a few years TikTok surpassed the billion usersconquering the Generation Z – most users are between 16 and 24 – and billing 4 billion dollars in 2021. A success also confirmed by the statistics of download last year: first among the 10 most downloaded apps. However, nothing happens by chance: what at first glance appears to be an innovative space for the divertissement collective hides exploitation and violation of rights. According to the philosophy of Elon Musk“No one has ever changed the world by working only 40 hours a week”. ByteDance – the Chinese company it acquired in November 2017 for a figure of about one billion, unifying it the 2 August 2018 to the app TikTok – took this warning literally. Some former employees of his US unit, based in Los Angeles“During their time with the company they averaged 85 hours of meetings per week and they had to carve out additional time to complete their work ”. The testimonies, collected by Wall Street Journal in a recent investigation, they denounce the stress to which all those employees who keep the platform standing are subjected.

Skeletons in the closet – There is one ideological kinship among some big techs, starting from motivational slogan of their respective founders. “TikTok borrows some of its approach from Amazon – reads the New York daily – also known for its culture of demanding work. TikTok executives regularly tell employees: ‘It’s always the first day‘, repeating a popular phrase of Jeff Bezospresident of Amazon, to encourage theinnovation and avoid thecomplacency“. Do not bask in the goals achieved, therefore, but strive to overcome your limits, taking advantage of every moment to be productive. An unwritten law that hovers within the ByteDance offices. Like other companies in the technology sector, these are working environments in which theinnovation is presented as the panacea for the ills of society, but its dark side is hidden. There Sloan Management Review explained how those who decide to work for an innovative company can meet “timetables more long, rhythms working more fast is one poor balance between work and life private“. To all this, we must add the difficulty of escaping from this yoke: “An employee of the social network – continues the WSJ investigation – said he had convinced his boss to spare him the night job only after sharing results from a medical lab showing a potentially condition lethal“. There are also forms of performance anxiety verging on self-harm: “An employee said she felt such pressure during TikTok meetings, so much so that she bled in the trousers rather than apologize for taking a absorbent“.

Be sincere and clear – “We encourage a culture of transparency he was born in feedback, and we are committed to building a platform and business that allows our community and our employees to thrive, ”said a spokesperson for TikTok. To add to the dose of the official press release i memento mori carved on the walls of the “happiest place on the Internet”: “Be sincere and clear“,”Be open and humble“,”Be solid and courageous“. But, according to the testimonies of those who read those messages every day, it was not so much that prevailed in the working environment serenity and the confidenceas much as the worry And distrust. Pabel Martinezex account director for advertising sales of TikTok, he told reporters about the episode in which “he was told to do not share data with lower-level employees “. A clear sign, so much so that Martinez himself translated it with a lapidary expression: “We don’t trust you“. The Chinese social network, to prevent competitors from accessing important information, “does not make available to employees a organization chart and forbids them to create and share their own, ”says the Wall Street Journal. Yet, while maintaining a high level of secrecy in the short term can stabilize a social structure, anxiety And frustration have the upper hand when projects and mission require longer times. “For months – it says – some former employees have told that the members of the human resources and finance team of the office of New York they didn’t know there were separate teams performing the same functions in California“. As if that were not enough, there are also those who have had to discover the identity of their colleagues on the Internet. Jamie Lim Yin Yina former Singapore employee who quit after four months, “when he received e-mails from colleagues, he looked for them on LinkedIn to understand which team they were part of “.

Cultural distances – United States And China they are separated by thousands of kilometers. A distance that is not only physical, but also temporal: 15 hour time zone. When a TikTok employee in Beijing wakes up to start the working week, his American colleague in Los Angeles finished the previous day’s lunch a few hours ago. However much the Internet can bring people living on different continents together, time will always show reluctance to such forcing. But nothing is impossible for TikTok: “Some former US employees – continues the investigation – said that to participate in virtual meetings with Beijing managers, they often had to start the working week there Sunday afternoon, which in China corresponds to Monday morning “. Challenging, tense meetings, during which American colleagues also saw flowing under their eyes papers written in Chinese. To translate them, they relied on “software that doesn’t always manage to grasp the nuances”. In the November 2021ByteDance has decided to reform the policy of shifts of exhausting work: abandoning the formula 9-9-6ie from 9 to 21 for 6 days a week, to adopt the “1075“, From 10 to 19 for 5 days a week. A more dignified variant, if only it were applied. “Many employees say that longer hours remain the expectation,” the WSJ points out. Moreover, with extraordinary paid up to three times the wage normal, the new policy is likely to cause the opposite effect. Said in the words of a user of Weibothe Chinese Twitter, “if everyone around you stays in the office, it will be difficult to go home at the appointed time.”

Squeeze job – The literal translation is “squeezing work“. In other words, the most innovative technology companies can count on a constant job offer: a “reserve army” composed of graduates eager to adorn their resumes with new and prestigious experiences. Employers exploit youth aspirations by demanding superhuman effortswith the knowledge that when the yield new recruits will drop, they can be replaced. Although it belongs to another sector – management consulting – it does strategy consultant, Peter Cohanhe described this dynamic well: “Once hired, the consulting company require almost constant trips to customers and working weeks of 80 hours. After a few years, most of the new recruits run out and fail to reach the partner position. However, the prestige of having worked in these companies and the skills developed make them valuable to other employers. THE recent graduates therefore continue to crowd these studies “. L’up or out policy it is a company policy whereby, by contract, employees have a predetermined period of time to reach a certain level of progression, under penalty of dismissal. ByteDance resort to a similar expedient. According to former workers, “TikTok often has multiple teams working on the same project, and pits them against each other to see who can get it done faster.” In theory, “this tactic is meant to push the employees to work the most quickly possible, “but” some former employees said it feeds the paranoia to lag behind colleagues, or the frustration when their projects do not see the light “.

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