Shopee responds to allegations of toxic workplace practices

Singapore-based e-commerce platform Shopee has said it is investigating the allegations about the toxic and discriminatory workplace practices in the company.

This comes at a challenging time for the Shopee brand, as it is in the midst of the year-end holiday season with sales like Singles' Day and Black Friday, traditionally the most important time of the year for e-commerce platforms.

The allegations emerged after an Instagram account with the handle @wakeupsingapore put together a series of reviews about working in the company from former, prospective, and current employees from Glassdoor, screenshots, and social media comments.

These allegations include insensitive questions on race and gender, as well as a “Chinese-first culture” because Shopee’s management, which is majority Chinese, allegedly preferred Chinese-speaking individuals and conducted meetings in their preferred language.

There was also reference to the “996 culture” which is prevalent in Chinese tech giants like Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and Pinduoduo. This resulted in a lack of work-life balance in the company, according to the reviews.

In a statement on Facebook, Shopee said: "We are aware of the recent allegations that have surfaced. Shopee Singapore takes these allegations very seriously. We have zero-tolerance for discrimination or any form of workplace harassment and are conducting a thorough investigation of the situation. We are committed to providing a safe workplace for all our employees."

In early February 2021, a 22-year-old employee of Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo collapsed and died due to exhaustion. Soon after, a young Pinduoduo worker died by suicide; the next day, a third employee was reportedly fired after criticizing Pinduoduo’s work culture.

The company has since said it will offer employees psychological counselling.

Another Singapore-based company, Night Owl Cinematics (NOC) was also previously accused of workplace harassment. This saw brands including Colgate and Nestlé ending their partnerships with Singaporean influencer and co-founder of NOC, Sylvia Chan