“Group building” highlights the deep-seated contradictions of employment relations in Chinese society

After the words “996”, “lie flat” and “in-roll” made waves in the Chinese Internet, the word “group building” has also become a hot topic of discussion. The microblogging topic of “Is group building equal to overtime in disguise” has received about 200 million views on the Internet and has generated more than 14,000 related discussions. Many people in the workplace, especially young people, increasingly dislike the “group building” activities of some companies, reflecting the helplessness of Chinese employees who “cannot help themselves in the workplace”, and exposing the unequal employment relationship and low welfare of Chinese society.

What is the purpose of organizing group building?

According to Wikipedia, team building is an umbrella term for various types of activities used to enhance social relationships and define roles in a team, often involving collaborative tasks. It differs from team training, which is designed to improve efficiency, in that many team building activities are designed to expose and resolve interpersonal issues within the team. Some of the more popular forms of team building in China today include potlucks, KTV singing, travel, and some outdoor development activities.

A staff member in the HR department of a private company in Shanghai told Voice of America that the company organizes team-building activities “out of the work environment” and in a variety of formats, sometimes as trips, sometimes as training, and also “for employee input. Sometimes the team building activities will be carried out on weekdays, and sometimes on weekends.

She also said that in addition to improving the relationship between employees, the activities can also change the pace of everyone. She said, “We are very busy at work every day, and if we are always in such a state, people will feel tired, then group building will sometimes break this rhythm, which is quite good.”

He Jiangbing, a Chinese finance scholar, has participated in boring and exhausting mountain climbing and cross-country group building activities in the mountains. He told Voice of America that some private company owners organize group building activities mainly for corporate publicity, to serve as a recruitment function externally and to send a circle of friends internally to promote team harmony.

He also believes that some companies are competing to organize group building is a sign of “internalization,” he said: “I think the bosses do not always want to do group building, but when they see their entrepreneur friends are doing it, he also wants to do it. The company culture, as part of the company, (if not) compared to others, is a cut off. This is the inner volume of the boss.” The word “in-volume” was originally used to describe the repetition of social and cultural work and sluggish development, but nowadays in China, the word “in-volume” is used to refer to internal vicious competition.

Hearing about building is frightening, talking about building

The group building itself, which is often packaged as a company benefit, does not seem offensive, but in contemporary China, the reason why young people reject it or even hate it is because many companies’ group building activities have become “tasteless. “Scheduled on a day off” and “punitive mandatory participation” have become the labels of contemporary Chinese group building. An article on Zhihu, a Chinese Internet question-and-answer community and original content platform, said, “Team building has become a complete mess, and has even become a Rashomon where employees and bosses say their own things.”

DT Finance, a data content and community platform owned by China Business News, analyzed “the features and contents of team building that are most offensive to young people,” and as of June 20, the top five keywords in the comments were: occupying (weekend), climbing mountains, drinking, leadership and self-funding.

Many microbloggers who participated in the discussion of the topic of group building believe that some companies organize group building activities will be carried out during off hours or on weekends, and some even have to pay out of pocket, which is actually overtime in disguise. A netizen said: “Originally work time with a group of people who do not like to spend time together has been tired enough, usually outside the company door to see a group of partners have to get together to accept the torture, the beautiful name is group building.”

Another workplace blogger posted: “There is no doubt that most of the group building activities, is in overtime. Paying out of your own pocket, on a day when you should be off, with a group of people who don’t really want to make friends, to do something that you don’t mean.”

Xiao Zhao (a pseudonym), who works for an Internet startup in China, says he is paying for his own group building, “We usually have a weekend, or Friday night group building, singing, eating, generally more people in the group building, and then it’s just a little AA for each person.”

“If some colleagues are not very familiar, and not very want to get together with them, get together does not have much effect,” said Xiao Zhao, “these people would have gone to work is to raise the head to see, after work is not very want to see these people. “

Kamila Zhang, who works in the financial industry in Shanghai, said that although the group activities organized by her company do not require employees to pay out of their own pockets, they still take up weekend time, and the form of the group is also very “speechless”.

She said: “Our company likes to organize fun games on weekends, such as a bunch of people jumping rope together, and the game of stepping on A4 paper, a few people divided into groups, each group will have a piece of A4 paper, each round of paper to be folded once, to see which group of paper folded the smallest and the whole team can still stand on it… …this game is very boring, and the paper stepping game to the end of the inevitable physical contact, and some colleagues are not so familiar, so people are a little uncomfortable.”

But an HR staff of a private company in Shanghai said, “In fact, some employees want to have group building activities, they feel that this can integrate into the collective, help everyone understand each other, feel closer and have a closer relationship.”

Employees are the property of the company?

Lee, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Hong Kong who studies labor issues in the technology industry, told Voice of America that many reunion activities are conducted during what people understand to be non-working hours, which can take away young people’s rest time, and the essential question behind this is “why they don’t want to spend time with their colleagues after work.

He said: “Like the old system of units, the whole circle of life of employees is the unit, the whole circle of life is colleagues, so there is no such problem as group building, your life is your unit to take charge. And now, people envision a state where work and life are completely separated. The Internet company, for example, wants to create an atmosphere similar to that of a unit. It wants to take care of your life, it gives you three meals a day, it lets you live close to the company, and then it gives you a lot of company-organized recreational activities as well as group building, and it wants your workplace to take care of all your life. In other words, it wants to keep all your time under control.”

This Lee also said, “Imagine if you don’t have weekends for a year, you probably don’t have friends either, your social ties are cut off. Almost all social relationships get closer the more you accumulate them, and the less you interact with each other the worse your relationship gets. Companies want to monopolize the way you allocate your time, when you play, when you socialize, and when you exercise, so that work will be better organized. There is such a hope in business.”

Geoff Crothall, media director for China Labor Bulletin (CLB), a non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the Chinese workers’ movement, told Voice of America that group work “seems to be another attempt by companies to try to control the lives of their employees as much as possible. It is similar to ‘996’ in that it requires excessive overtime without compensation and severely disrupts employees’ personal lives. It creates the perception that employees are somehow responsible to their employers and in essence they become the property of the company.”

The inequality of employment relationships and low social welfare behind the body of work

Some employees do not like group building but have to participate in various activities in order to keep their jobs. A microblogger also mentioned that in a Beijing institution, the group had to perform its own show, and a young colleague was fired the following year for not wearing the costume set by the leader, and was given a hard time for not being active in the group as a work attitude problem.

He Jiangbing said, as a general staff, it is now quite difficult to find a job, even if they do not like this type of activity, they do not dare to show, do not dare to raise objections, afraid of being fired.

Li believes that behind this is a reflection of the micro reality of the unequal employment relationship in China. There is no cost for a company to go and fire someone, and if an employee doesn’t go to the group, it may also force you to leave by reducing your job offer, benefits, etc. This situation exists in any society, but in China the cost of firing a person is extraordinarily low. China’s labor law states that it costs companies to fire someone, but in reality this is not the case.

He said, “Behind the micro inequality is actually a macro contrast of labor power, which depends on which side the elephant in the room is on, and in China, the elephant is on the side of the employer.”

The Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China has very clear provisions on overtime work, including “if a worker is arranged to work longer hours, he or she shall be paid not less than one hundred and fifty percent of his or her wages”; “if a worker is arranged to work on a rest day and no compensatory rest can be arranged, he or she shall be paid not less than However, Krotar said that China’s enforcement of labor laws is very lax. For years, employers and government officials have been looking for ways to encourage flexible employment,” he wrote in an email. This is often seen as beneficial to both employees and employers, but the reality is that it only gives employers more power to set employees’ hours and compensation, regardless of the law.”

In addition to reflecting an unequal employment relationship, there seems to be a deeper reason behind the low welfare of Chinese society behind the forced participation of employees in group building. Some young people fear that not going to group building activities may affect their career development, and if they are fired as a result, they may also face a host of problems such as not being able to pay their rent and having their social security payments cut off.

Krottar mentioned that China’s social welfare system is currently very fragile, and many young workers fear that when they retire, there will be little left in the state pension or health insurance fund. As a result, they are now under more pressure to earn enough money on their own to secure their future.