Viral Social Media Post Sheds Light on Company Culture at Top Chinese E-Retailer

April 9, 2019 Updated: April 9, 2019

An internal email from the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com was recently leaked online, drawing public shock at what it revealed about the ruthless, competitive company culture.

Three Types of Employees

Since April 8, one of the most popular trending topics on Weibo, a social media platform similar to Twitter is, “JD.com responding to its plan to eliminate three types of employees.”

The social media post that started the uproar was an email message posted on Maimai.cn, a Chinese social media platform similar to LinkedIn where career professionals share news and experiences. A user who is also a verified JD.com employee (Maimai requests users to verify one’s identity with workplace information) shared a company email sent several days ago, where it explains that JD.com will “get rid of” three types of employees soon. Although the post was soon deleted, netizens who saved screenshots of the email spread it to other social media.

From the screenshot, it defined the three types as: “1. Those who can’t work as hard as a fighter. No matter if one’s performance is good or bad, no matter the position, no matter how long he/she has worked at JD.com, and no matter if there are personal health or family reasons [for not working as hard], those employees must be eliminated or fired;

2. Those who are not capable and whose performance is bad;

3. Those with low price-performance ratio, including: employees who were promoted continually with an increasing salary, or those who were transferred to a new position, losing their cost-effectiveness. These employees must give up their positions to younger and lower cost employees. Or they should [voluntarily] lower their positions and salaries.”

According to its 2018 annual report, JD.com has more than 178,000 full-time employees as of Dec. 31, 2018. More than half of them work at JD Logistics, the parcel delivery department of JD.com. In other words, most JD.com employees are couriers.

On April 3, several verified JD.com employees shared via Maimai that JD.com had terminated couriers’ basic salaries, so their monthly income would only come from commissions made on their deliveries. JD.com determines how many deliveries a staffer would receive in a day. This new policy has prompted those who do not have enough delivery assignments to resign.

JD.com Response

On April 8, JD.com responded to the viral post via its official account on Maimai, saying that the post was a one-sided interpretation that distorted the meaning of the whole email.

The company also sought to explain the rationale behind eliminating salaries for couriers: “Now that JD logistics is a separate entity, and serves not only JD.com orders, but also a large amount of orders from external companies, big clients, and the personal parcel delivery service, the old salary structure is no longer suitable for the current situation.”

This response angered some JD.com employees, who posted on Maimai again and revealed that the company email was actually sent by JD.com founder Richard Liu.

A man picks up a package from driverless delivery vehicle for Chinese e-commerce company JD.com during a test operation at the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City in Tianjin on Jan. 18, 2018. The vehicles fully charged can run up to 18 miles and can carry loads up to 330 lbs. in weight. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

Many were shocked at how JD.com evaluated its employees by their “price-performance ratio.”

The state-run Beijing Evening News noted in an April 8 report: “Price-performance ratio is used on products. It is a big ‘innovation’ to use it on people. But this ‘innovation’ is against humanity because it turns human beings into objects and tools.”

State-run financial newspaper China Fund quoted netizens on April 8: “Eliminating employees who can’t spend all their energy on working because of a family or physical health situation… [JD.com’s] image will be completely destroyed.”

Since Liu was arrested in the United States on rape charges in September 2018, JD.com’s reputation has taken a dive, despite Liu being released and prosecutors deciding not to press charges.

Earlier in February, state-run magazine China Entrepreneur reported that JD.com had confirmed it would lay off 10 percent of its vice president or higher level managers, a pool of 80 to 100 staffers.

Since then, Zhang Chen, JD.com’s Chief Technology Officer, Rain Long, Chief Legal Officer, and Lan Ye, Chief Public Affairs Officer, have resigned. They all cited personal or family reasons for leaving the company.

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