“The post-80s generation are brown-nosers, the post-90s generation are lazy and the post-00s generation are rectifying the workplace.”
This saying has been making the rounds on Chinese social media recently. It seeks to distinguish the post-00s generation from their seniors at the workplace and highlight their fierce determination.
The first batch of youths born in the 2000s is starting to enter the workforce, and some of these whippersnappers are already showing the world what they are capable of: rebuking their superiors, refusing to work overtime, making unorthodox resignations… Moreover, some post-00s youths have become serial job hoppers, while others have even sued their employers.
Bold words and legal action
Post-00s generation youth have no qualms about speaking out against undesirable workplace norms and cultures. While it remains to be seen if their efforts to “rectify” the workplace will bear fruit, they have already impressed their older colleagues with their bold attitude and behaviour.
These youths are often challenging the unwritten workplace norms, such as working overtime without pay, attending team-building activities after work, and not leaving the office earlier than the boss.
Du Xuan, a post-00s youth, shared with WeChat official account Bao Bian (豹变), “The bosses at the company I used to work for always said they did not encourage people to work late. But somehow they always asked us to stay behind to work on some tasks, and either directly or indirectly chided us for leaving the office before them. I couldn't stand this type of work culture so I tendered my resignation right away.”
The post-00s generation is extremely dissatisfied with what they deem to be unfair and unreasonable demands. They want to “rectify” the workplace by not staying silent and by expressing their dissatisfaction loudly and bluntly.
... netizens have dubbed the post-00s generation of workers as “litigation warriors”.
Screenshots of heated conversations between post-00s youths and their superiors or HR managers were widely circulated, with some even sharing their personal experiences on social media, and spurring others on as they shared tips on how best to fight back against the company.
When faced with matters of principle such as the late payment of salary or wrongful dismissal, post-00s youths are adamant about protecting their rights, with several of them taking the company to court.
A post-00s youth even claimed to have “taken legal action against four companies, with two left bankrupt” within a year of working. Because of this, netizens have dubbed the post-00s generation of workers as “litigation warriors”.
Some workplace veterans applauded these post-00s youths on the internet, praised them for their courage and thanked them for helping to “rectify” the workplace and speaking up for people who did not dare to voice their displeasure.
Fight against 'involution'
Du shared that the post-00s generation dislikes meaningless "involution", such as working overtime unnecessarily just to gain the favour of their bosses. In an environment where everybody is working overtime, it is awkward to be the odd one out that leaves on time.
Instead of “lying flat” (躺平) in protest of involution, the post-00s generation rebut or even chastise their bosses. They vent their grievances without mincing their words. They view authority on an equal footing and may even treat them with contempt.
“If anything, it would be that we no longer see our company as an authority. They can choose us as employees, but we can also reject them as employers.” - Post-00s youth Xu Ling
Post-00s youth Xu Ling does not think this vocal generation deserve a special mention, “If anything, it would be that we no longer see our company as an authority. They can choose us as employees, but we can also reject them as employers.”
While there is nothing wrong with safeguarding individual rights and both sides exercising their options, if the screenshots of the conversations and anecdotes of how these youths are going about “rectifying” the workplace are true, the choice of words used by some post-00s youths is rather extreme.
Cursing, ridiculing and berating one’s superior probably reflects a person’s lack of manners and self-restraint and should not be encouraged in or outside of the workplace. By supporting the spewing of insults at one’s superior, netizens are encouraging disrespectful behaviour.
Since there is always another company that will hire them, they have the guts to rebuke their superiors.
Prerequisite for ‘rectifying’ the workplace
On what basis is the post-00s generation “rectifying” the workplace?
Some media platforms analysed that amid the proliferation of social media, youths of the post-00s generation are adept at getting more timely information from diverse channels, which translates to having more choices. They can opt for flexible employment and make frequent job switches. Since there is always another company that will hire them, they have the guts to rebuke their superiors.
Also, the post-00s generation grew up in a more privileged environment during a period in which China experienced rapid economic growth. Their families are more affluent as most of their parents are from the post-70s generation. In other words, the post-00s generation can afford to be so defiant because they don't need to keep their jobs and can rely on their rich parents if they need to.
Another related factor is that the post-00s are entering the workforce without financial burdens or family obligations since most of them are still single. This is clearly spelt out in the resignation letter of a post-00s youth: “I’m not like those people who have a family to feed and a home loan to repay. Life pressures have made them brown-nosers walking a tightrope. I don’t have a wife or children and am only concerned about the well-being of my parents. You say that I am young and reckless, but I think that you work like a robot. Sorry, but I quit.”
“Every batch of graduates are bold and daring when they just enter the workforce. But many of them become ‘subservient’ after learning painful lessons along the way..." - Yu Miao, HR manager
Yu Miao, a HR manager at a large Chinese company said, “Every batch of graduates are bold and daring when they just enter the workforce. But many of them become ‘subservient’ after learning painful lessons along the way and having to shoulder car and home loans. The real test is whether they can persevere with their fierce attitude in the future.”
A detriment to their careers
While some post-00s pride themselves on “firing” their bosses and switching jobs three to four times a year, they are in fact doing this at the expense of accumulating useful skills and connections, which is detrimental to their future development. Besides, there may be fewer opportunities for frequent job hopping in the future.
Official statistics show that a record high of 10.76 million people — mostly those born at the turn of the millennium — are graduating this year, exceeding the 10 million mark for the first time. Amid China’s economic slowdown and a bleak job market, the post-00s generation are facing more difficult times in finding a job.
While the number of graduates is skyrocketing, major internet companies are increasingly downsizing and laying off workers. China’s unemployment rate for workers aged between 16 and 24 hit a record high of 18.2% in April. Ifeng.com (凤凰网) reported on 9 June that even postgraduates from Project 985 and Project 211 universities (top Chinese universities) found it challenging to find a job and had to settle for a grassroots job in a small county.
According to Zhaopin’s (智联招聘) research report on the employability of graduates in 2022 (《2022大学生就业力调研报告》), as of mid-April, just 46.7% of recent graduates have received job offers.
Perhaps only a minority of the post-00s are boldly striving to “rectify” the workplace while the silent majority are just ordinary workers plodding along with those born in the 1980s and 1990s. But these confident post-00s who have their affluent parents to fall back on have indirectly affected the job opportunities of their peers.
Some enterprises already have a bad impression of the post-00s generation and are refusing to hire them. They are worried that these youths will be difficult to manage and show their superiors no respect.
Each generation has its own challenges and mission. Perhaps as the post-00s shoulder more responsibilities, this “rectification of the workplace” phenomenon may disappear and take on another form in the next generation.
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