Newly leaked documents reveal that Away has barred employees from discussing The Verge’s investigation into workplace conditions on either their personal or professional social media channels. “Please do not share the article,” managers told their direct reports. “Please do not fave/like/comment or interact with any commentary (negative or positive) through either your personal or professional accounts.”
Employees were also alerted to the fact that The Verge will be speaking about the story live on CNBC this afternoon. “The reporter from the article is apparently slated to appear on CNBC,” a manager said. “The direction we’re getting is to continue with the protocol of not responding to inbounds relating to the article.”
The news comes hours after CEO Steph Korey apologized for her intimidating and manipulative behavior, which was revealed in numerous leaked Slack logs published by The Verge yesterday. “I can imagine how people felt reading those messages from the past, because I was appalled to read them myself,” she said.
The investigation from The Verge revealed how Korey has used Away’s core company values to push employees nearly to the breaking point. Last year, she told a group of customer experience managers that she was taking away their paid time off in order to support their career development. “In an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability. To hold you accountable...no more [paid time off] or [work from home] requests will be considered from the 6 of you,” she said (emphasis hers). “I hope everyone in this group appreciates the thoughtfulness I’ve put into creating this career development opportunity and that you’re all excited to operate consistently with our core values.”
Korey and her co-founder Jen Rubio do not allow employees to email each other and ask that direct messaging in Slack be kept to a minimum. The result is that almost all conversations at Away take place in public Slack channels. Many former Away employees noted that while these rules were supposed to create more transparency, in practice, they actually fostered a culture of fear. Korey was known to rip into people for making even minor mistakes. “You could hear her typing and you knew something bad was going to happen,” a customer experience says in the article.
On Friday, CNBC received a statement from Korey, which the network’s SF bureau chief Sally Shin tweeted. “I am sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it,” it read. “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.”
Some former Away employees said they are unsatisfied with her response. “It’s not like this was the first time she’s needed reprimanding for her management and conduct,” one former worker told The Verge. “She knows exactly who she’s hurt, and to just issue a ho-hum blanket apology now to the public, feels like it was done just to save face and slow down order returns that are coming in. It’s not right.”
Another former employee told The Verge, “While it’s nice to see they are taking steps to better the environment, from my personal interactions with current employees, I know they are far from fixing the toxic environment they have already created. And while it’s also nice newer employees can benefit from some of these steps, it doesn’t correct the pain she caused me or any of the other former employees — either on a personal, emotional or financial level.” The former employee says they were let go without any severance. “From my [point of view], she isn’t looking back at those messages thinking, ‘Oh my impact didn’t match my intention.’ Her intention was clear to always tear people down.”
Just before 4PM ET on Friday, Korey posted an additional message to her personal Twitter account expressing “mistakes as we’ve built Away,” in which she goes on to say, “What you read in the article doesn’t reflect the company we want to be,; and we will continue to work and improve. I want to be clear that the Away I am committed to is one where we set the highest standards for how we treat our people and help them grow.”
Update December 6th, 2:23PM ET: This article has been updated and expanded to include newly leaked memos reflecting Away’s instructions to employees.
Update December 6th, 3:57PM ET: Added additional public comment from Away CEO Steph Korey, released on Twitter this afternoon, and further context regarding former employees’ reaction to Korey’s statements.