China Millenial Bosses Face Angry Gen Z Push to ‘Rectify’ Workplace

  • China’s Gen Z is out to “rectify” the workplace, and they want their millennial bosses to give in.
  • The Weibo hashtag “The post-2000s generation is rectifying the workplace” is a forum filled with Gen Z rage.
  • Bosses are also using the hashtag to complain about terrible experiences they’ve had with Gen Z.

America’s millennial managers aren’t the only ones terrified of their Gen Z subordinates — their Chinese counterparts are also struggling to contend with a new, unfamiliar breed of workers.

Complaints from China’s Gen Z-ers have crystallized under a hashtag on the social network Weibo, which when translated to English means: “The post-2000s generation is rectifying the workplace.”

As of February 22, the hashtag had been viewed more than 14.8 million times. 

The hashtag describes a schism between two generations of Chinese people — millenials resigned to a life of long hours and inadequate pay, and Gen Z-ers who wants to burn that system down.

The managers are complaining about staff who refuse to work a minute longer than officially required of them. On the flip side, Gen Z-ers are using the hashtag to proudly document tense conversations they’ve had with their managers, in which they’ve pushed back on expectations, and won. 

The hashtag documents Chinese Gen Z rage in all its varied forms

It is unclear exactly how the hashtag started. Lianhe Zaobao, a Singaporean daily newspaper, reported that it may have kicked off from a viral Weibo post from June 2022.

“The post-80s generation is submissive, the post-90s generation pretends to work hard. Only the post-00s generation rectifies the workplace,” read the post from a self-professed member of Gen Z.

“I worked for one year, went into arbitration with four companies, and bankrupted two. I am me. I am different.” 

China defines its youth a bit differently to those in the West. They’re known as the “post-2000 generation,” — demarcating those born in the year 2000 and beyond.

This cohort graduated from college and joined the workforce in 2022. And with that came an onslaught of complaints on social media about their millennial bosses, who are mostly dubbed the “post-90s generation.”

Since then, the hashtag has become a rallying point for some disgruntled Gen Z workers.

On February 21, a Weibo user posted screenshots of a lengthy argument in a post under the hashtag. The conversation between a young man, only identified as Lin, and an unnamed female supervisor appears to start off civilly, and involved her telling him to send a document to her over WeChat. 

“When supervisors talk, just listen. If you’re a young worker, your attitude should be more positive,” the supervisor texted Lin after he agreed to send the file over.

He did not hesitate to fire a series of retorts at her.

“I call you ‘big sister’ because you started working at the company before me, and out of respect. Stop using your old age to bully me,” read Lin’s rebuttal to his supervisor. “Boss and Manager Fen say they can wait until the end of the month for this report. What’s your problem? Are you going to die before the end of the month?” 

Other Gen Z workers have used the hashtag to air their difficulties working with older bosses. 

“When my boss arrives early, I get there on the dot. When my boss is working hard, I sleep. When my boss clocks extra hours, I say I’m tired,” one Weibo user wrote under the hashtag. 

At times, the posts on the Gen Z workers’ threads devolve into rants about their “evil” millennial bosses. 

“I’m not like the post-80s or post-90s generation. Why do you go to work with a dark face every day and deliberately find trouble every day? Should I suffer? You are not my parents, why don’t you take a mirror to look at yourself?” read one post dated February 13.

“Is it early menopause? Forget it. This is just the Internet and I’m just ranting about the evil capitalists. Goodbye. It’s not like I particularly need this job either!” 

The bosses of some Gen Z-ers, too, are using the hashtag to lodge their own complaints. One such post from February featured a conversation that a manager had with his subordinate.

“I only received five packages from you. Where are the other five?” read the man’s message. “Weren’t ten meant to be sent to me?”

“I’ll check,” read the response from the unnamed Gen Z worker. “And now you’ve given me some extra problems to deal with.”

Yun Xi’er, a human resources manager in the city of Zhengzhou, told the Chinese media outlet Sixth Tone that she’s experienced Gen Z’s attempts at “rectifying” the workplace, and isn’t a fan of their tactics. 

“They can often be quite disrespectful to colleagues and management, like talking over them to get their point across,” Yun told Sixth Tone. “We can’t use ‘rectification’ as an excuse for being impolite. Gen Z may feel righteous at the moment, but from my experience, they can do it in a better way.”

China’s Gen Z is done with the “9-9-6” hustle

Staff members work in the office at a vegetable planting base in Chongming District, east China's Shanghai, April 19, 2022.

Staff members work in an office in Shanghai, China.

Li He/Xinhua via Getty Images

One thing is clear from the posts: China’s Gen Z doesn’t want to hustle like their millennial superiors, won’t work overtime without extreme coercion, and are done with mincing words. And Gen Z makes up around 15% of China’s 1.4 billion people, so managers — be they boomers, Gen X-ers, or millennials — are going to have a lot of them to deal with. 

A Gen Z worker, a 22-year-old named Erica from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, told Sixth Tone about her time working for the Chinese tech giant Alibaba, and how she protested against the work culture there.

“They wanted me to work late just because it looks good for the company. There was a culture of ‘if the boss hasn’t gone home yet, neither should you,'” she told Sixth Tone.

She said she didn’t protest rudely, but refused to work the overtime.

“We are expressing our ideas and concepts about what work life should be like,” Erica told Sixth Tone. “If the conditions are adverse, we don’t need to accept them.”

The rumblings from Gen Z, however, stand in stark contrast to narratives about Chinese millennials that have dominated popular culture.

For one, most Chinese millennials know corporate life often involves abiding by a “9-9-6” work culture, which encourages people to work 12 hours a day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

The term “9-9-6” defines China’s “hustle” culture, and was strongly championed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who in 2019 called the 72-hour workweek a “blessing.”

Long shifts are now not only common but “expected” of staff, despite China’s labor policy mandating that employees not work more than eight hours a day.

But millennials, too, are by no means a monolith — some disenchanted Chinese millennials are choosing to “lie flat” rather than work hard. “Lying flat” involves a conscious choice to reject overtime work and conventional desk jobs, or choosing not to get married and start a family.

In more extreme cases, some millennials have adopted the idea of “letting it rot” — a more extreme version of lying flat. 

That method goes beyond just choosing to chill out and do the bare minimum, but actively leans into nihilism and self-indulgence.

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