Complaining that the byte culture is too convoluted, half of TikTok’s UK e-commerce team leaves

TikTok is having a little trouble in the UK.
According to the Financial Times, a cultural clash between TikTok’s Chinese boss and London employees caused a wave of departures in the short term, with some former employees complaining to the media that the company’s aggressive entrepreneurial spirit ran counter to typical loose office practices in the UK.
The conflict mainly revolves around the e-commerce business TikTok Shop , which launched on the UK site in October last year , the first market for TikTok Shop outside Asia. This business is similar to the popular domestic live broadcast, which is broadcast live by brand merchants and Internet celebrities on TikTok, and users can purchase products by clicking the shopping basket icon on the screen.
The report said that the fuse of the incident came from the controversial remarks of a byte executive. Joshua Ma, head of TikTok’s European e-commerce business, said in an internal speech: “As a ‘capitalist’, I don’t think any company has to offer maternity leave.”
After the incident came to light, TikTok said it had a clear maternity leave policy in the UK, including 30 weeks of paid leave. According to a TikTok email to employees obtained by the Financial Times, Joshua Ma will “take a break” and “retire” from the UK e-commerce team he leads.
Patrick Nommensen, who led the launch of the TikTok shop in the UK, was announced as Joshua Ma’s interim successor. According to LinkedIn, Nommensen has worked for ByteDance and Musical.ly since Douyin launched in 2016.

1 Chinese boss vs London employee

A survey of Britons working during the pandemic shows that since staying at home, the daily screen time of British workers has increased by 2 hours, from 7 hours before the outbreak to 9 hours.
The working hours of domestic workers, ideally, are theoretically from 9 to 5, but in fact, the Internet giants represented by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance usually work at a rhythm of 996. Overtime is famous for its corporate culture.
In the report, some former TikTok employees of Base UK said that in order to participate in meetings in Beijing, they often had to start their work week on Sunday afternoon, and began to respond to conference calls from China very early every day, and because live broadcasts brought goods in. Even better at night, with “feedback reports” being submitted immediately after the livestream, they end up late, often working more than 12 hours a day.
More situations have emerged. At least 20 members of the London e-commerce team, or about half of the workforce, have left the TikTok shop, and some other employees have expressed plans to leave .
Former employees claim the TikTok shop’s culture is “toxic” — the company’s workplace relationships are built on fear, not cooperation. “They don’t care about employee burnout. This is a big company that relies on the TikTok brand, and employees can be easily replaced.”
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In addition, some employees said that those who failed to complete their work goals or failed to respond in a timely manner during non-working hours were criticized by internal reports, and the wolf-like corporate culture broke down.
A TikTok staff member shared a document internally on Wednesday recommending that keywords related to the FT investigation be removed from comments on the TikTok Shop livestream, with the list including the following terms: “Financial Times”, “article”, “culture” “, “Toxic”, “Joshua Ma”, “Capitalist” and “Mother”.
Regarding the document, TikTok said, “While we welcome and encourage independent ideas from team members, not all ideas will be implemented.”

2 TikTok Shop in the UK: loss drainage

In addition to the conflict of work culture, the operation strategy of TikTok Shop is the second biggest complaint of employees in the UK.
The operation strategy of TikTok Shop largely replicates the domestic style of Douyin e-commerce, which has achieved great success in the past year. According to analysts’ estimates, the GMV of Douyin e-commerce will reach 800-900 billion yuan in 2021. According to Wei Wenwen, president of Douyin E-commerce, in the year from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022, Douyin E-commerce GMV was 3.2 times that of the same period of the previous year, and more than 10 billion items were sold.
However, according to the Financial Times , as the first stop of the e-commerce model to go overseas, TikTok Shop seems to be unattractive in the UK, operating at a loss, and many live broadcast programs have zero sales.
Staff complained that they were being set to unrealistic targets, needing to generate £400,000 in total monthly sales from live broadcasts, but an average seller might not be able to reach £5,000 in live broadcast sales. In theory, TikTok charges brands a 5% commission, but it is usually waived in order to attract new brands to the platform.
In addition, the operating strategy of TikTok Shop in the UK is to source products from cheap manufacturers in the UK and China, and then sell them at low prices. Along with low cost, counterfeiting also appeared.
On the TikTok Shop, the popular product is a £14 “Dyson replacement”, similar to a Dyson Airwrap with a suggested retail price of £450. Dyson sent a letter to TikTok after finding out, hoping that the platform will crack down on counterfeiting. product. TikTok says it has a counterfeit detection team and strict product guidelines.
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Dyson replacement products that are popular on TikTok
In addition to the high sales target and the problem of fake products, what makes employees complain even more is the low price strategy adopted by TikTok Shop.
TikTok has hired people with experience in e-commerce and luxury brands including Harrods, Asos and Amazon, offering them signing bonuses and stock options. These employees use their connections to attract big brands to the platform, and brands including Lookfantastic, L’Oreal, Charlotte Tilbury, and others are already listed on the TikTok Shop. Brands are encouraged to offer flash and deep discounts, and TikTok offers some subsidies.
The employee said that the European brand it connects with is uncomfortable with the discount level of its products on the TikTok Shop. “The UK is a different market and ecosystem, but the person in charge does not listen and refuses to make changes.”
Employees use their connections to lure big brands to the platform, but some say their long-term professional relationships with those companies have been sabotaged by having to actively negotiate discounts, sometimes even terminating contracts without explanation. “I lost my credibility with the business,” said one current employee.
Regarding questions from the media, former employees and platform merchants, TikTok said that with the help of the community, anchors and merchants, it is “continuously learning, iterating and improving its services.”
References:
FT, “TikTok executive to ‘step back’ following FT probe into aggressive work culture”
FT, “TikTok Shop’s troubled UK expansion: staff exodus and culture clash”

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