Corporate Culture

'Keep your phone on 24 hours a day': Chinese PR boss apologises after backlash

Author: Editors Desk, Kelly Ng, BBC News Source: BBC News:
May 9, 2024 at 16:45
China's big technology firms are notorious for their work-till-you-drop culture. Getty Images
China's big technology firms are notorious for their work-till-you-drop culture. Getty Images

The head of public relations at China's biggest search engine Baidu has apologised after her comments glorifying a work-till-you-drop culture sparked public outcry.

In a series of videos posted on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, Qu Jing, said she had no responsibility for employees' well-being "as I'm not your mother".

She also threatened retaliation against subordinates who complained about her management. "I can make it impossible for you to find a job in this industry with just a short essay," she wrote.

On Wednesday, Ms Qu acknowledged that her posts - which have since been taken down - drew "very pertinent" criticism.

"I deeply reflect on and humbly accept them,” she wrote on WeChat.

The furore stirred by Ms Qu highlights the notoriously poor work-life balance in China's tech workplaces.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma had famously called it a "blessing" for anyone to be part of the "996 work culture", where people work 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

In one of her earlier videos, Ms Qu claimed to be so caught up in her work that she does not know which grade her son is in.

In another video, she said: "If you work in public relations, don't expect weekends off".

"Keep your phone on 24 hours a day, always ready to respond," she said.

Baidu has not commented on the matter.

In her apology, Ms Qu said her videos did not represent Baidu's stance and that she had not sought the company's consent before posting them.

"I apologise that the inappropriate videos led to the public's misunderstanding of my company's values and corporate culture.

"I will learn from my mistakes and improve the way I communicate, and care more for my colleagues," she wrote.

Chinese social media platform Weibo has seen heated discussion over the incident in the past few days.

"As the company's vice-president, [Ms Qu] should have known that her comments and attitude would disgust her subordinates, yet she went ahead to make them public. This speaks of how out-of-touch she is," one user wrote.

"She is supposed to lead Baidu's public relations department, yet she herself is deeply involved in a public relations crisis. Talk about a lack of professionalism," wrote another.

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