Many American employees at Chinese internet tech company ByteDance have decided to quit its U.S. office. According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the reasons is that its subsidiary TikTok exports China’s strict management style to the U.S.
TikTok is a unit of Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. It was founded six years ago.
According to market research firm Sensor Tower, as of the first quarter of 2022, TikTok has set a record for the highest number of downloads among any app.
ByteDance is growing at a high level. As of mid-2020, the company’s U.S. business unit had employed about 1,500 people. Last year, ByteDance said it hopes to increase that number to 10,000.
Its work involves translating products developed in China into products for U.S. customers while exploring opportunities in the U.S. advertising market.
Despite the company’s claim of being the happiest place on the internet, its employees told the WSJ that Tiktok’s success relies on a demanding management style and internal culture. That style differs entirely from the company’s positive and inspiring public image.
Some of them said that they often don’t get enough sleep and frequently work overtime on weekends during their work shifts on the Chinese platform. The employees in the Los Angeles office have to meet with colleagues on the other side of the globe in extra time to get their work done.
Several former U.S. employees said they have an average of 85 hours of meetings a week during their work at TikTok.
A former staff member revealed that he had to submit his medical laboratory test results that proved his condition was life-threatening just to persuade his boss not to let him stay up late.
Other former employees mentioned that they experienced stress, severe weight losses, or emotional shocks and had to seek medical treatment.
According to the WSJ, TikTok also borrows some practices from Amazon. These practices are known as demanding work culture. TikTok executives often tell employees to start a business forever, encouraging innovation and avoiding complacency.
TikTok claimed that its work culture aims to build a solid team that can support the company’s growing global community.
According to former employees, TikTok often assigned multiple teams to complete the same project. The company allowed them to compete with each other to see who got the project done first.
The strategy is launched to push employees to get work done as quickly as possible. However, some former employees pointed out that it made them afraid of falling behind other colleagues. Some are frustrated seeing their projects left untouched.
Pabel Martinez was TikTok’s global account director for advertising sales until February. He said his project progressed on schedule, but the boss still asked him to work overtime all weekend. He refused and then quit TikTok.