If we’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s that behind every breezy inspirational lifestyle brand advertising vast sunny horizons lurks a demon tyrant draining the sweat and blood of Millennial urbanites slaving day and night in the miserable dungeons of Slack.
This is to say that it’s been a whirlwind 24 hours since The Verge’s breathtaking exposé on rampant workplace abuse at the Millennial-targeted luggage company Away. The stunning accounts of a megalomaniac CEO working her employees 16-hour days; the CEO’s deep soul-searching mia culpa on Twitter; and, minutes later, proof that they are exactly the tyrannical villains they were reported to be.
The Verge reported on Thursday the higher-ups at Away–a company that aspires to “leave the world better than we found it”–have been verbally abusing employees with mandates to work holidays and into the wee hours of the morning. The main culprit is CEO Steph Korey, who, The Verge reported, even fired employees for discussing workplace insensitivity in a Slack channel for LGBT employees and POC.
As multiple employees told The Verge, they were forced to communicate on Slack; Away prohibited email and asked employees to limit DMs in the interest of “transparency” and “inclusion.” And that policy bit them in the arse today, when employees shared screenshots of Slack messages from managers writing:
Please do not share the article. Please do not fave/like/comment or interact with any commentary (negative or positive) through either your personal or professional accounts.
When I asked Away whether employees would face retaliation for liking/faving/commenting/or interacting with the post, the representative did not respond. They did, however, send a generic apology from CEO Steph Korey:
“I can imagine how people felt reading those messages from the past, because I was appalled to read them myself. I am sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it. It was wrong, plain and simple.
We want Away to be a company that sets the highest standards for how we treat our employees and help them grow. Over the last 12 months we’ve invested in creating a culture that allows our people to thrive, including executive coaching for the senior staff, diversity and inclusion training for everyone at the company, 360 reviews, establishing employee resource groups and adding 100 plus new team members to better divide workloads. I am working to be better every day and I promise to keep at it for the sake of our employees, our customers and our company.”
This is an abridged version of Korey’s afternoon tweet, in which she added: “At times, I expressed myself in ways that hurt the team.”
Those “expressions” refer to what the Verge characterises as “brutal criticism,” calling an employee “brain dead,” raving at employees who didn’t go “above and beyond,” messaging employees at 3AM announcing a thrice-daily random check-in to instil the value of “accountability” as a career skill.
The Verge caught the screenshots just in time for reporter Zoe Schiffer’s CNBC appearance, of which Away managers were also acutely aware:
“The reporter from the article is apparently slated to appear on CNBC this afternoon at 3pm. The direction we’re getting is to continue with the protocol of not responding to inbounds relating to the article.” (Emphasis theirs.)
The leaks were published 23 minutes before the scheduled appearance. You can watch it here. Comeuppance is sweet.