TikTok executive ‘retracts’ after FT investigation into aggressive work culture
A TikTok CEO has been replaced amid a cultural conflict with staff in the company’s UK operations in his role after he made comments that he “doesn’t believe” in maternity leave.
Joshua Ma, one of China’s top executives Byte Dance – Viral video app owner – ‘will take some time’ and ‘step back’ from his role in leading the UK e-commerce team, according to an email seen by the Financial Times and sent on Wednesday.
Follow this step F investigationwhich revealed Ma’s comments at a dinner with employees of the e-commerce team at TikTok in London.
In an email to employees, TikTok said it was continuing to investigate the allegations.
“As you know, the Financial Times today published an article containing some frustrating allegations about TikTok store operations in the UK,” reads the email to employees titled “Maintaining a Positive Work Culture.”
“We hope this traumatic experience will make us a stronger, closer and better team in the long run,” the email read.
The Financial Times article, which was based on testimony from 10 current and former employees, revealed how the launch of TikTok’s direct shopping feature in the UK drove employees out of the e-commerce team in London. Some employees complained of an aggressive company culture, with unrealistic goals and expectations at odds with British business practices.
Staff said they were expected to frequently work more than 12 hours a day, start early to accommodate calls with China and finish late because live broadcasts were more successful in the evening, with extra time celebrated in internal communications. Some members of the e-commerce team have been removed from customer accounts after going on annual leave.
“The well-being of our team is our top priority… [and] Leadership 100% supports using annual leave to fully recharge and spend time with friends and family,” the staff email said. TikTok said it is investing heavily in expanding resources, structures, and processes to support a positive employee experience.
The email also urged employees to report any violations of ByteDance’s Code of Conduct through an anonymous hotline.
Patrick Numensen has been announced as the temporary successor to Ma. According to the email, Nommensen spearheaded the launch of e-commerce in the UK and was responsible for the creators’ operations, as well as beauty and other categories.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Nommensen has been at ByteDance since 2016 when TikTok launched, as well as Musical.ly, a viral music app that ByteDance acquired in 2017. “He knows the business well and will be a strong interim leader,” the email said.
TikTok declined to comment on the email.
On Wednesday, an internal document was shared by a TikTok employee that suggested that keywords related to the FT’s investigation be banned from comments in the TikTok store’s live stream. The list included the following words: ‘Financial Times’, ‘article’, ‘culture’, ‘toxic’, ‘Joshua Ma’, ‘capitalist’ and ‘motherhood’.
Referring to the internal document, TikTok said, “While we welcome and encourage independent ideas from team members, not all ideas were implemented and this idea was never considered.”