Exec's Videos on Work Culture Cause Uproar in China

Baidu exec accused of glorifying overwork, showing no empathy for colleagues
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2024 12:57 PM CDT
China PR Exec Causes PR Crisis by Glorifying Overwork
Baidu, China's leading search engine, also operates the Ernie Bot artificial intelligence service.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

The head of public relations at China's biggest search engine may be out of a job after posting a series of videos that were seen as glorifying overwork and the harsh treatment of subordinates. Baidu exec Qu Jing caused a PR crisis for the company with the videos posted last weekend on Douyin, TikTok's Chinese counterpart, the Guardian reports. "If you work in public relations, don't expect weekends off," she said in one video. "Keep your phone on 24 hours a day, always ready to respond." In another, she said she was so busy that she forgot her older son's birthday and what grade her other son was in at school—but she didn't regret it because she "chose to be a career woman,' reports CNN.

  • 'I'm not your mother.' In other videos, Qu boasted that she had the power to make sure anyone who complained about her "won't find another job in the industry." She criticized one employee for refusing to go on a 50-day work trip during the pandemic, the South China Morning Post reports. "Why would I take the employee's family into consideration? I am not her mother-in-law," she said. "I'm not your mother, either. I only care about results."

  • Apology. After a backlash online, Qu posted an apology on WeChat Thursday, saying her videos did not reflect Baidu policy and she didn't have the company's permission to post them. "Many of the criticisms are very pertinent; I am reflecting deeply and humbly accept them," she said, per the AP. Qu apologized for causing "misunderstandings" about the company's culture and values.
  • Too little, too late? Qu promised to care more for her colleagues, but the apology may not have been enough to save her job. Sources told outlets including the South China Morning Post Friday that internal systems at Baidu show that she has left the company.
  • 996. Qu's videos caused an uproar amid a wider backlash against China's "work-til-you-drop" culture, the Guardian reports. The country's tech companies have a notorious "996" system, in which employees are expected to work from 9am until 9pm, six days a week.
  • Why she 'struck a nerve.' China tech analyst Ivy Yang tells CNN that Qu displayed a "deep indifference to and lack of empathy for the common plight of her colleagues." Yang adds: "A lot of what she said really struck a nerve, because people feel that in their own workplaces very often. The fact that she said it in a way that's so direct and in your face, it just generated this kind of emotional response."
  • A failed PR push? A source tells CNN that Qu recorded the videos as part of a push to make Baidu more visible on Douyin. The source says Qu asked all members of the PR team to create accounts on the platform, and she "chose to speak about her personal experience."
(More Baidu stories.)

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