Workplace

Meet the TikTokers shedding light on all the biggest workplace issues

Creators who work in corporate roles said their TikToks have allowed them to highlight issues that otherwise wouldn’t be discussed.

TikToks on four phone screens.

Several creators have emerged on TikTok over the past couple of years to show the realities of the working world, from anxiety as a young employee to awkward interactions over Zoom.

Image: TikTok; Protocol

You remember two years ago, right? For a while it seemed that everyone working from home was gliding through their workday while either baking bread, meditating or baking bread while meditating. But Corporate Natalie knew this was never the reality for most.

So Natalie decided to show TikTok her day working from home: She rolls out of bed, throws on a sweater, eats a slice of cheese for breakfast, then brushes her teeth just before her first meeting begins. “During this time I’ll pretend to be engaged with people on Zoom, respond to emails saying ‘please fix,’ and contemplate my overall purpose in life,” she said in the video.

The video is a slight exaggeration of what it’s like to work from home, but it resonated with her followers. It was one of the first to go viral on Natalie’s platform, which over 370,000 people now follow. She’s not necessarily catering to a more niche audience of HR professionals and new workers, and she’s not creating for everyone like Charli D’Amelio, but her sizable following makes her what the influencer biz calls a “macro-influencer.”

Natalie, who doesn’t reveal her last name or the company she works for on social media, told Protocol “I think that was a very realistic depiction of, ‘We're all going through this really terrifying cycle — and then we do it all over again,” she said.

Corporate Natalie is one of several creators who have emerged on TikTok over the past couple of years to show the realities of the working world, from anxiety as a young employee to awkward interactions over Zoom. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, creators said the videos gave people content to bond over. But they’ve since evolved as a way to explain how the workplace has changed since the onset of remote work and bring up workplace topics seldom discussed at work, like microaggressions and mental health.

“I was in a super traditional work setting before my current job," Natalie said. "And I'm trying to hold on to elements of that. I think what really plays is the super uptight coworker who was utterly unprepared when thrown into this new work-from-home world.”

Ekow Sanni-Thomas runs the TikTok account for the company he founded, inside voices, an online platform that helps job seekers understand how companies treat people of color. Sanni-Thomas started the account a few months ago to make people aware of inside voices, but it’s grown into a platform where he can help workers of color understand that their experiences with discrimination or bias at work aren’t uncommon. Sanni-Thomas said users also take to the comment sections of his videos to educate themselves on racism at work.

“It's really common for professionals of color to stray away from discussing anything to do with race,” he told Protocol. “Sensitive issues are pretty hard to bring up in the workplace as it is — race is obviously a really difficult one — and when it comes to microaggressions, I think people are often surprised to see some of the things in my videos that speak so closely to their experience.”


Sanni-Thomas said TikTok lends itself to these conversations in a way platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can’t because users can use comical trends to speak to nuanced topics. He pointed to one video about his reaction to companies hiring a white head of diversity. He mouthed the viral sound, “That’ll do it. You don’t have to worry about me, you do not have to worry about me.” Sanni-Thomas picked up his briefcase and walked away from his desk in the TikTok.

“That was a very on-the-nose way to describe my reaction to that without having to go into the multilayered explanation of why I feel that way,” he said. “If I were to tweet randomly, if the company announced the white head of diversity, it would feel like an attack. But in the form of this comical trend, it's palatable and it's acceptable.”

Creator Jazmyn W. agreed that TikTok is a more comfortable medium to express frustrations in the workplace around racism. While her platform is not solely based on workplace issues, she creates videos around her previous experience as a Black woman working in HR. She’s created a whole series around “things white women say that just don’t make sense,” which has prompted conversations in the comment section of those videos.

“Black women are like, ‘Yes, I've had this said to me.’ Then women of color are like ‘Absolutely,’” she said. “Then white women who follow me are like, ‘I've said this, I didn't even know I shouldn't say this.’ And then the rest of the white women are like, ‘I didn't even know I shouldn't say that.’”

@jazmynjw This is based on a TRUE STORY & she probably gonna see this 😂 #blackatwork #corporatelife #tech #fyp ♬ original sound - Jazmyn W

Jazmyn, who does not share her last name anywhere on social media, added that companies like Google have reached out in response to her videos to talk about her experiences while working a corporate job. “I talk about my experience and I do it in a funny way,” she said. “And then employees ask questions about my experience.”

DeAndre Brown, who refers to himself as “The Corporate Baddie” on TikTok, taps into Gen Z humor to explain what it’s like to work in a corporate job through his TikTok account. Over 240,000 people now follow Brown’s account, which includes a mix of advice and humor about the working world.

Brown said his videos are a slight exaggeration of what it’s like to work as a member of Gen Z. Younger workers aren’t necessarily emailing HR in an instant when a co-worker breaks a boundary, and they’re not always asking for more money the minute someone asks them to take on a new project. But Brown said younger workers are starting to discuss setting boundaries and ensuring they’re paid fairly, and his videos are a reflection of that.

“It's a joke, but honestly, it's also serious,” Brown said.

Climate

The minerals we need to save the planet are getting way too expensive

Supply chain problems and rising demand have sent prices spiraling upward for the minerals and metals essential for the clean energy transition.

Critical mineral prices have exploded over the past year.

Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The newest source of the alarm bells echoing throughout the renewables industry? Spiking critical mineral and metal prices.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, a maelstrom of rising demand and tattered supply chains have caused prices for the materials needed for clean energy technologies to soar in the last year. And this increase has only accelerated since 2022 began.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Enterprise

The 911 system is outdated. Updating it to the cloud is risky.

Unlike tech companies, emergency services departments can’t afford to make mistakes when migrating to the cloud. Integrating new software in an industry where there’s no margin for error is risky, and sometimes deadly.

In an industry where seconds can mean the difference between life and death, many public safety departments are hesitant to take risks on new cloud-based technologies.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Dialing 911 could be the most important phone call you will ever make. But what happens when the software that’s supposed to deliver that call fails you? It may seem simple, but the technology behind a call for help is complicated, and when it fails, deadly.

The infrastructure supporting emergency contact centers is one of the most critical assets for any city, town or local government. But just as the pandemic exposed the creaky tech infrastructure that runs local governments, in many cases the technology in those call centers is outdated and hasn’t been touched for decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Entertainment

'The Wilds' is a must-watch guilty pleasure and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Our favorite things this week.

Illustration: Protocol

The East Coast is getting a little preview of summer this weekend. If you want to stay indoors and beat the heat, we have a few suggestions this week to keep you entertained, like a new season of Amazon Prime’s guilty-pleasure show, “The Wilds,” a new game from Horizon Worlds that’s fun for everyone and a sneak peek from Adam Mosseri into what Instagram is thinking about Web3.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Workplace

Work expands to fill the time – but only if you let it

The former Todoist productivity expert drops time-blocking tips, lofi beats playlists for concentrating and other knowledge bombs.

“I do hope the productivity space as a whole is more intentional about pushing narratives that are about life versus just work.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fadeke Adegbuyi

Fadeke Adegbuyi knows how to dole out productivity advice. When she was a marketing manager at Doist, she taught users via blogs and newsletters about how to better organize their lives. Doist, the company behind to-do-list app Todoist and messaging app Twist, has pushed remote and asynchronous work for years. Adegbuyi’s job was to translate these ideas to the masses.

“We were thinking about asynchronous communication from a work point of view, of like: What is most effective for doing ambitious and awesome work, and also, what is most advantageous for living a life that feels balanced?” Adegbuyi said.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins