The CEO of Away Stepped Down After Being Accused of Fostering a Toxic Work Environment
"I'm not proud of my behavior," Stephanie Korey said.
The CEO of the incredibly popular luggage brand Away is stepping down after being accused of fostering a toxic work environment.
Last week, The Verge published a report documenting Stephanie Korey’s harsh treatment toward Away employees in 2018.
In the article, Away employees complained of the company’s clique-like nature, being forced to work “exceedingly” long hours and being severely scrutinized for making mistakes — despite the brand’s mission of inclusivity and togetherness.
Away staff members alleged they were also instructed to only communicate via Slack — an instant messaging platform — and were prohibited from emailing each other.
Email was only used to discuss small matters, like asking someone where they wanted to eat lunch, according to The Verge’s report. Slack was where most business matters were discussed — and also the root of some of Away’s issues.
Screengrabs shared in The Verge’s report show Korey slamming an employee as being “brain dead” for not correctly monogramming a customer’s luggage.
Away employees explained in the report that Korey’s critical feedback was often done in Slack channels with other employees, making the occurrences all the more humiliating.
According to the report, Korey also temporarily took away paid time off and work from home privileges from Away’s customer experience team saying it’ll help their “career development.”
“I know this group is hungry for career development opportunities, and in an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability,” Korey wrote in a Slack message that was shared in The Verge’s report.
She went on to explain that no new paid time off or work from home requests would be approved “until we reach 5 consecutive days of all our attempts to reach cx on live platforms being successful.”
“I hope everyone in this group appreciates the thoughtfulness I’ve put into creating this career development opportunity,” Korey concluded the Slack memo, according to the screenshot.
Other employees expressed in The Verge’s report the ever-present fear of saying “no” and being constantly overwhelmed. Korey would often Slack Away employees multiple times if they did not answer or at odd hours of the night, according to screenshots.
In addition to Korey’s intimidating online presence, employees claimed she was also frightening in person.
“You could hear her typing and you knew something bad was going to happen,” one employee told The Verge.
One day after The Verge report was published, Korey released a statement, saying she was “appalled” by her own behavior.
“Starting and growing a company is incredibly hard, and I’ve made mistakes as we’ve built Away,” Korey began in a statement on Twitter.
“At times, I expressed myself in ways that hurt the team. I can imagine how people felt reading those messages; I was appalled and embarrassed reading them myself. I’m not proud of my behavior in those moments, and I’m sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it. It was wrong, plain and simple,” she continued.
“Since last year’s incidents, I’ve worked hard to improve as a leader, working closely with an executive coach and building a leadership team I can lean on and learn from. It’s my responsibility to examine my own actions and not just the standards for our work, but the standards for our behavior toward each other and the tone for the culture we want — one that is in line with the brand we convey. I know I have more work to do, and I will do better for the team.”
“On a company level, 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, 360 reviews and establishing employee resource groups. We’ve evolved our policies to better support our team in work-life integration.”
Korey revealed Away has revamped their PTO policy, now allowing employees to have 33 days of paid time off and more “flexible remote work policies, improvements in our parental leave program, and providing mental wellness support.”
“We’ve also added more than 100 new team members to better divide workloads and are working to improve clarity on our internal communications system to allow employees to use what works best for them.”
Korey shared that she encourages employees to “share any concerns they have with our senior leadership and HR teams, and when matters arise, we will continue taking them seriously.”
“When an employee reports misconduct, particularly on the grounds of harassment or discrimination, we conduct a thorough investigation using outside counsel and address it accordingly, as we always have.”
Korey concluded her statement, saying, “What you read in the article doesn’t reflect the company we want to be; and we will continue to work to improve.”
“I want to be clear that the Away I am committed to is the one where we set the highest standards for how we treat our people and help them grow. I want all of our employees to hold me, and the entire leadership, accountable to that.”
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Despite her efforts, it was revealed on Monday that Korey would be replaced by former Lululemon executive Stuart Haselden, according to The Verge. Korey will remain executive chairman.
A spokesperson for Away did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Korey cofounded Away with Jennifer Rubio in 2015. The brand, which boasts sleek hard-shell luggage, has become a celebrity favorite (Meghan Markle gave her baby shower guests a bag each and the luggage has been toted by Jessica Alba and more) and reached a valuation of $1.4 billion in May, according to Forbes.
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This Story Originally Appeared On People