What Happened: An assistant visual manager at Burberry’s Shanghai office has been accused of workplace bullying and emotional manipulation, according to Henry (his English name), a former in-store visual merchandiser in Beijing. He first posted a complaint via Weibo on October 22, stating that on team night out in September, a Shanghai-based manager who came to Beijing for a business trip, tried to force him to drink an entire bottle of hard liquor. After Henry chose not to participate, he was subsequently removed from the work group chat and was forced to resign.
“I’m bringing this to the public so that he won’t have the power over me,” Henry told Jing Daily. Over a span of almost two weeks, the hashtag #burberryworkplacebullying (#burberry职场霸凌#) has been viewed 545,000 times as Henry has continued updating recordings and screenshots between him and the manager onto the post. “You won’t have a future with managers like this, go work for another brand,” a Weibo user wrote. “I do not care about keeping my job at Burberry, I just want to protect my future career and make sure that [the manager’s] behavior would no longer harm Burberry’s reputation,” Henry stated on yet another Weibo post.
A spokesperson from Burberry told Jing Daily today: “We take allegations of this nature extremely seriously and our thorough investigation into this matter has now concluded. There is no evidence to support the claims that have been made.”
Jing Take: Henry was invited to meet with Burberry’s internal team on October 29, he wrote in another post, and as mentioned, Burberry has concluded that his charges were unfounded. However, the case raises a bigger question for large fashion companies who must set and maintain work culture standards across offices. Whereas single cases and allegations like Henry’s were once able to slide by unseen, the Internet now gives power to these voices.
Workplace bullying and harassment occur in many forms — including personal, sexual and quid-pro-quo. The industry has a responsibility to acknowledge that power dynamics at play favor the corporation and silence the individual. This specific case hit Burberry, but it is not only about Burberry, it’s an industry-wide issue.
Every new case is an opportunity to rewire how we respond to allegations of harassment or bullying. Instead of being quick to deny an allegation or identify the case as “another” organization’s problem, we should consider what we can each do to move forward and pursue transparency.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.