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Chinese Employees Selling Their Bosses Online: A Rising Trend?

Jul 8, 2024

Disgruntled workers

In a bizarre news reported by South China Morning Post on 5 Jul, 2024, some Chinese workers have listed their bosses on sale on Alibaba’s Xianyu, a second hand e-commerce site.

This has been one of the most peculiar trends to emerge from China is employees purportedly selling their bosses online. While this may sound like a bizarre urban legend, there is a kernel of truth behind these sensational headlines.

In this article we aim to delve deeper into this weird phenomenon. We will also aim to explore the origins of this trend, motivation and implications for China’s work culture.

Origins of the Trend

The idea of “selling” a boss online likely originated as a form of protest or satire among disgruntled employees. In a culture where direct confrontation with superiors is often discouraged, workers have found creative ways to express their dissatisfaction. The online sales are typically conducted through e-commerce platforms or social media sites, where employees list their bosses for sale as a form of venting their frustrations.

This phenomenon gained significant attention in China around 2018, when several listings appeared on popular e-commerce platforms such as Taobao. These listings often featured detailed descriptions of the bosses, highlighting their perceived flaws and undesirable traits. While most of these listings were quickly removed by the platforms, they captured the public’s imagination and sparked widespread discussion about workplace dynamics in China.

The more recent happenings was reported on Jul 8, 2024; when South China post reported that Chinese workers are humorously putting up their bosses on sale on Alibaba’s second hand e-commerce site Xiyanu.

According to the post, the listing included ‘annoying bosses’, ‘terrible bosses’, priced between Rs. 4 lakh- Rs. 9 lakh.

Motivation behind the listings:

Several factors drive employees to take the drastic step of “selling” their bosses online. Understanding these motivations requires a closer look at the unique pressures and challenges faced by Chinese workers.

1. High work stress:

China’s rapid economic growth has come with a high price for its workforce. Long working hours, intense competition, and high expectations create a stressful environment for many employees. The 996 work culture, which refers to working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, is particularly notorious. This relentless pace leaves workers feeling exhausted and undervalued, fueling resentment towards their bosses.

2. Limited avenues for complaint

Chinese corporate culture often emphasizes hierarchy and respect for authority. This makes it difficult for employees to voice their grievances directly. Formal channels for complaint and conflict resolution are either ineffective or absent in many companies. As a result, employees resort to alternative methods to express their dissatisfaction, such as online listings.

3. Digital Empowerment:

The widespread use of smartphones and social media in China has empowered individuals to share their experiences and opinions more freely than ever before. Platforms like WeChat and Weibo allow users to reach large audiences quickly, providing a perfect outlet for disgruntled employees to vent their frustrations. The anonymity of the internet also encourages more candid and bold expressions of discontent.

Broader implications

The phenomenon of selling bosses online is more than just a quirky internet trend; it reflects deeper issues within Chinese work culture and society. The following are some broader implications of this trend.

Highlighting workplace discontent

The online sale of bosses shines a spotlight on the widespread dissatisfaction among Chinese employees. It serves as a stark reminder that beneath the facade of economic progress, there are underlying issues of worker exploitation and mistreatment. This trend has prompted discussions about the need for better labor rights and more humane working conditions.

Changing Employer-Employee Dynamics

The fact that employees feel compelled to take such drastic measures to express their grievances suggests a breakdown in communication and trust between employers and employees. Companies may need to rethink their management practices and foster a more open and supportive work environment to address these issues.

Legal and Ethical Concerns

The listings of bosses online raise several legal and ethical questions. While most of these listings are meant to be humorous or symbolic, they can still be seen as defamatory and harmful. Companies and legal authorities need to address these concerns to ensure that employees can voice their complaints without resorting to potentially damaging actions.

Counterintuitive event

However, there are also reports of some companies putting employees welfare on top of their priority list.

For example: Yu Donglai, the president of the Pang Dong Lai chain, announced that his company was going to offer its 7,000 employees 10-days of so-called unhappy leave, and let them freely decide when they want to rest.

The special leave has been given in addition to 30 days annual leave and five-day Spring Festival break, which is rare for a Chinese company.

This act has dubbed Donghai as ‘ China’s silliest boss’. But his act has reaped him high rewards. According to him, only less than five percent of his employees leave the company each year.


The trend of Chinese employees selling their bosses online is a fascinating and somewhat disturbing reflection of the challenges faced by workers in modern China.

The corporate culture and employer-employee relations needs a fix. There are companies and leaders taking this seriously and are also setting an example.

Depending on how such listings get handled professionally and legally, it might serve as a benchmark or rather case study for the working population worldwide.

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