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TikTok’s ‘toxic’ culture reviews on Glassdoor impact hiring

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A man holding a phone walks past a sign of Chinese company ByteDance’s app TikTok, known locally as Douyin, at the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China October 18, 2019.

Reuters

LONDON— A number of U.K.-based tech workers are choosing not to accept or pursue jobs at TikTok over fears that the company has an intense work culture with long and demanding hours.

Six people in the industry told CNBC they either pulled out of interviews, turned down job offers, or left the company after learning that TikTok has a “996” culture, either from online reviews or through first-hand experience.

The 996 culture is practiced by some companies in China. The name is derived from the employees’ requirement of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for six days in a week, which works out at 72 hours per week. Meanwhile, the norm in the U.S. and the U.K. is around 40 hours per week, although many workers go over this. It’s illegal to work more than 48 hours per week in the U.K. on average. 

TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, declined to comment when asked about its culture and the hours that staff work.

‘I stopped conversations pretty quickly’

One tech worker, who was approached about a communications role in the U.K., told CNBC that a 996 culture was “certainly a concern” for them.

“The most common ‘con’ I found from my Glassdoor research was around work-life balance and crazy hours and that seems to be the same even now,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussion. “(It) didn’t seem worth it.”

The source added: “I stopped conversations pretty quickly when I established they had very little flexibility around working locations and policies.”

The same person said they were contacted a few weeks later “for a very similar role” at ByteDance. “I established from background reading and Glassdoor reviews that they are one and the same,” the person said, adding that it was “all a bit odd” and “a lucky miss.”

TikTok, which announced on Friday that ByteDance Chief Financial Officer Shou Zi Chew has been made TikTok’s new CEO, may also be missing out on some technical talent too. A senior artificial intelligence researcher, who asked to remain anonymous due to the nature of the discussion, turned down a job offer from TikTok even though the recruiter had told them the salary was likely to be over £100,000 ($139,000) a year plus options.

“I did go to Glassdoor. It doesn’t seem to be positive when it comes to work/life balance, which is something I really value. I was a bit concerned about that,” the source said, adding that the reviews put them off accepting the role but that they weren’t the only factor.

While Glassdoor is widely regarded as a useful platform for doing due diligence on what companies are like on the inside, it’s not perfect and reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. People are able to post multiple reviews, and users may be more inclined to review their company if they’ve had an overwhelmingly positive or an overwhelmingly negative experience. But four former staff told CNBC that they’d had a negative experience at the company, whose video-sharing app has been downloaded over 2 billion times.

One former employee, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussion, told CNBC that TikTok was the most toxic workplace they have ever experienced.

“Everyone there is utterly miserable, and life is too short,” the source said. “During my first year before the pandemic hit, I can count possibly four or five weekends during the year where I did not work.”

The source added: “People are right to be put off and I know they are now struggling to hire, but ultimately they don’t care either way, people are just numbers to them.”

Another former employee, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussion, told CNBC that the average working day at TikTok was 15 hours long. “For them it was normal,” the source said. “Everybody was complaining but really everybody was accepting it at the end, probably because salaries were good.”

The same person said they didn’t like the “very untransparent culture.” The former employee said they didn’t get any answers back when they asked questions about the company. “It was very, very difficult to find the right answers, and to really improve the processes we were working with,” the source said.

‘AVOID, AVOID, AVOID’

Two other former employees, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussion, echoed these issues and one of them referred CNBC to their own review on Glassdoor, which is titled “AVOID, AVOID, AVOID.” In the one-star review, the individual lists 10 reasons why people should “resist the temptation to join (TikTok) and look elsewhere.” Criticisms range from “zero work life balance” to “toxic teams” and “awful management.”

TikTok has been scaling up its workforce around the world to help it deal with the stresses that come with being a wildly popular social media app. This includes content moderation, as well as technical and policy matters.

In a bid to improve workplace culture, TikTok hired Michal Osman from Facebook as its head of culture in Europe in January. But her arrival comes after dozens of departures.

An AI researcher, who wasn’t approached about a role directly and asked to remain anonymous due to the nature of the discussion, told CNBC: “I know TikTok have been discussing with lots of people. I don’t think it’s easy for them to recruit, because there’s still a shortage of people that can lead (AI) labs.”

While some people are clearly reluctant to join, the company has grown its headcount in Europe from around 1,600 in September to over 3,000 today, with many joining from Facebook and Google. It declined to share U.K. and worldwide employee numbers.

Winnie Akadjo joined TikTok as a creator operations manager this month. “There are some interesting reviews on Glassdoor but I wanted to take the leap; and be confident in my abilities to handle a scaling company,” she told CNBC.

Another current employee who also wanted to remain anonymous told CNBC that they haven’t experienced a 996 culture, adding that there are protected meeting blocks where work meetings are banned on Wednesday lunchtimes and no meetings on Friday afternoons.

Meanwhile, TikTok was ranked as the 30th best place to work in the U.K. by Great Place to Work. The survey and consulting firm charges companies a fee before they can appear on its lists, but claims the rankings are wholly determined by employee experience and their anonymized feedback.

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Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law due to Trump statements

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A New York court on Thursday suspended Rudy Giuliani from practicing law in New York state due to making “false and misleading statements” about the election loss of former President Donald Trump, his client.

The suspension, which takes effect immediately, is a stunning blow to Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who previously served as a top Justice Department official and as the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.

It also comes as Giuliani is under criminal investigation by that same federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan in connection with his work in Ukraine.

Giuliani and Trump since last November have made false claims about the legitimacy of the election of President Joe Biden, claiming that Trump was swindled out of a victory only by widespread ballot fraud in key swing states.

Giuliani’s suspension, which was ordered a day short of his 52nd anniversary as a licensed lawyer in New York, was sought by the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, which encompasses Manhattan. The suspension was granted by the Appellate Division for that same department of state Supreme Court.

The court, in its 33-page suspension order, noted that “interim suspension is a serious remedy, available only in situations where it is immediately necessary to protect the public from” an attorney’s violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

“We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020,” the order said.

The court also said Giuliani’s “false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client.”

“We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law, pending further proceedings before the Attorney Grievance Committee.”

One of the examples cited by the order was Giuliani’s repeated claim in an effort to discredit election results that “dead people ‘voted’ in Philadelphia.”

Giuliani at various times claimed that 8,021 dead people’s ballots were cast, “while also reporting the number as 30,000.”

“As the anecdotal poster child to prove this point, he repeatedly stated that famous heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier continued to vote years after he was dead and stated on November 7, 2020 ‘he is still voting here,’ ” the order noted.

In fact, the order added, “The public records submitted on this motion unequivocally show that respondent’s statement is false. Public records show that Pennsylvania formally cancelled Mr. Frazier’s eligibility to vote on February 8, 2012, three months after he died.”
Giuliani’s suspension is temporary, pending the outcome of a full formal disciplinary hearing.

Giuliani’s lawyers John Leventhal and Barry Kamins said in a statement, “We are disappointed with the Appellate Division, First Department’s decision suspending Mayor Giuliani prior to being afforded a hearing on the issues that are alleged.”

“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” the statement said. “We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, (D-Manhattan, who had filed the formal complaint with the Attorney Grievance Committee, said, “I’m glad” about the suspension.

“The profession of law is a sacred and noble one,” Hoylman said in a statement. “And there can be no room in the profession for those who seek to undermine and undo the rule of law as Rudy Giuliani has so flagrantly done.”

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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China plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033

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A Long March-7 Y3 carrier rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft blasts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on May 29, 2021 in Wenchang, Hainan Province of China.

Yuan Chen | VCG | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — China plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033 as it continues to boost its space ambitions in a battle with the U.S.

The world’s second-largest economy is planning regular crewed missions to the Red Planet.

Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, outlined the country’s Mars plans for the first time this month at a space conference in Russia, according to the academy.

It comes just weeks after China landed a remote-controlled rover called Zhurong on Mars, making it the only country after the U.S. to do so.

Wang said the first step in China’s plans is to use robots to explore Mars to sample its surface and help select a place to build a base. The next stage would be to send astronauts up to Mars to build a base station there. Then China wants large-scale Earth-to-Mars cargo missions.

China has earmarked 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and 2043 for such missions and said it will explore technology to fly astronauts back to Earth.

A roundtrip to Mars would have a flight time of “hundreds of days,” the academy said.

The revelation of China’s Mars goals come after a string of successful space missions. China has begun construction of its own space station and earlier this month sent the first astronauts up there. It was the first time China sent a crewed mission to space since 2016.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to the astronauts, congratulating them and highlighting how the country’s space ambitions are supported from the top. Space is an area China wants to lead as part of a broader technology battle with the U.S.

NASA says it plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

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JPMorgan Chase ‘strongly’ urges all U.S. employees to get vaccinated ahead of office return

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JPMorgan Chase is `strongly’ urging all its U.S. employees get the Covid-19 vaccine, warning that the jab may eventually be mandatory for workers, according to a memo sent late Wednesday.

The bank is now requiring all U.S. workers to log their vaccination status in a software portal by June 30. Those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks, socially distance or log their health status on a daily basis when they return to office life; those who aren’t vaccinated need to wear masks and are encouraged to take weekly Covid tests, JPMorgan said.

“We strongly urge all of our employees to be vaccinated because we think it protects you, your friends and family, your fellow employees, and the community at large,” the bank said in the memo, signed by its entire operating committee led by CEO Jamie Dimon.

“We also believe that the more employees who are vaccinated, the safer our offices will be for everyone,” JPMorgan said. “In the future, we may mandate that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.”

JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets with almost 260,000 employees globally, is taking a more gradual approach to vaccine enforcement than smaller rival Morgan Stanley. Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley announced that only vaccinated employees and clients could enter offices starting July 12.

At JPMorgan, while employees can choose to keep their vaccination status private, it means they must continue all the precautions, including social distancing, of the pre-vaccine era.

And the unvaccinated are still expected to return to assigned office locations, along with all other U.S. employees, by July 6. Bloomberg reported the memo earlier.

Here is the memo:

Dear colleagues,

In our country today, we all should feel extremely grateful and fortunate that we are starting to see the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. Given the availability and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and other improved health indicators in the U.S., we are now taking steps to properly prepare for returning to the office in a safe and productive way. We are doing this because we believe that human interaction, spontaneous learning and creativity are so important to the way we run our company and serve our clients.

We want to be very specific about what we expect and what the requirements are related to working in the office.

I.        We need all U.S. employees — it is now mandatory — to log into and enter responses in the JPMC COVID-19 Vaccine Record Tool by June 30. If you don’t, your manager will follow-up with you individually until a response is received. We need you to enter this information so that we can properly prepare for and manage returning to the office in a very detailed way, and by location.

There are three possible answers to the question we will ask you:

a.       I am vaccinated

b.       I am not vaccinated

c.       I choose not to share my vaccination status with JPMorgan Chase (it is fine not to tell us, but you must respond)

   II.        If you have been vaccinated, have entered your data into the Tool, and have uploaded your COVID-19 vaccination card, you will no longer need to wear a mask or social distance in most locations in accordance with our current practices, and you will no longer be required to complete the Daily Health Check beginning July 6. (Note: U.S. Branch employees should continue to follow State-by-State Face Covering Guidance.)

  III.        If you indicate that you are unvaccinated or select the “I choose not to share my vaccination status with JPMorgan Chase” option, we still expect you to return to the office. You will be strongly encouraged to test for COVID-19 weekly and will also have to continue to wear a mask, complete the Daily Health Check and practice social distancing when in the office in accordance with our current practices.

  IV.        We strongly urge all of our employees to be vaccinated because we think it protects you, your friends and family, your fellow employees, and the community at large. We also believe that the more employees who are vaccinated, the safer our offices will be for everyone. In the future, we may mandate that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination consistent with legal requirements and medical or religious accommodations.

V.        Finally, beginning July 6, we expect all U.S. employees to move to a regular schedule, in your assigned office location, subject to occupancy limits and as directed by your manager. In many cases this may be five days each and every week, and for others it will mean a minimum of 50% of your workdays will be in the office, due to occupancy limits. We are aware that some teams are piloting a hybrid approach that varies by job, such as three days in the office or 50% rotations, but we want each of you back regularly so that we can test the effectiveness of these models as quickly as possible.

Over the past month it has been terrific to see more of you safely returning to our U.S. offices, and we have been pleased to hear from many of you that our workspaces are better than ever. You’ve commented on the health and safety protocols we’ve put in place, the new technology we’ve rolled out and, most importantly, how good it feels to see your colleagues in person.

We look forward to seeing more of you very soon.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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