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Some TikTok employees in the US are complaining of sleep deprivation exacerbated by frequent work on weekends and mandatory meetings with Chinese colleagues.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, a strict management style and internal work culture that contrasts with the thriving public image of TikTok has supported the success of this platform.

Employees, many of whom have worked at other big tech companies, say TikTok emphasizes productivity and confidentiality to an unusual extent.

Several former American employees said they worked an average of 85 hours of meetings per week during their time at TikTok’s Los Angeles headquarters, and had to take extra time to complete their regular work.

Another employee said he convinced his boss to relieve him of back-to-back work all night only after he submitted medical lab results showing a potentially life-threatening condition.

Previous employees described weight fluctuations, stress or emotional deterioration so severe that they sought treatment.

One of them said that she felt such pressure to be present during back-to-back meetings on Tik Tok that she was unable to use a sanitary pad during her period.

Several others list challenges, including interpreting internal documents written in Chinese and translated using software that does not always capture the finer details.

And the famous Tik Tok application is owned by “ByteDance”, which is headquartered in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The application recorded the largest number of downloads during the first quarter of 2022, according to the analytics firm Sensor Tower.

In contrast, TikTok said it made a number of adjustments to its practices and work culture to reach its goal of “building and strengthening an empowered team to support our growing global community.”

“We encourage a culture of transparency and are committed to building a fair business and platform that allows our community and our employees to thrive,” he added in a written statement.

“The opposite of what the platform stands for”

Long working hours and tight deadlines are nothing new in fast-growing tech companies like Tik Tok, and sleep disruption is not a rare problem for employees of foreign companies, according to the newspaper.

But TikTok’s workforce in the United States embodies such pressures to an unusual degree, said many people who have worked there and elsewhere in the tech space.

The company practices secrecy over a lot of information and organizational schemes, especially for lower-ranking employees.

Some former employees said that for months, members of the HR and finance teams in the New York office had not known that there were separate teams performing the same tasks in California.

Babel Martinez, who was a global account manager for ad sales at TikTok until February, said TikTok presentations often included blurry or missing numbers, and his managers told him not to share certain data with lower-level employees.

He continued, “The signal I got was: ‘We don’t trust you. There was a level of secrecy in TikTok that was very different from the other tech companies he worked for.

Many TikTok employees tolerate long working hours and a lack of work-life boundaries because they may be awarded compensation in the form of shares if the parent company goes public.

“We want to be on board this rocket vehicle,” Martinez said.

He noted that he left the company after he objected to having to work all weekend despite submitting his project on schedule, to which the response he received from a manager was: “This is not the way we do business here.”

ByteDance suspended its plans to go public about a year ago when Chinese regulators urged it to focus on data security.

At a meeting during April 2021, Dylan Jonke, who has worked on app brand partnerships for more than two years, asked the US chief of human resources why senior leaders had evaded questions about compensation for 50 weeks in a row.

Junki said that if TikTok isn’t planning to provide answers to such questions, it should say so rather than dismiss them.

Soon after, senior leaders emailed Junki for his behavior and HR launched an investigation and discussed whether TikTok could fire Junki, according to a person familiar with the discussions, before the man tendered his resignation two months later.

In the statement, TikTok did not comment on specific employee stories, including Junki’s.

Tik Tok describes itself as home to “fun, entertaining, diverse and unexpected experiences”.

In a note posted internally upon his departure, Junki said that “the way TikTok employees are treated is the exact opposite of what the platform stands for.”