The Verge: “Emotional Baggage”

Wow, did this article by Zoe Schiffer about the work culture inside Away bring up so many traumatic memories from my first startup job. It’s simultaneously shocking in its details, and yet completely unsurprising in the larger context of tech startup labor exploitation.

This Slack message from co-founder Steph Korey to the customer experience team (denying upcoming PTO requests) is, well, something else:

“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. To hold you accountable…no more [paid time off] or [work from home] requests will be considered from the 6 of you…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.”

I’ve worked in tech for over twenty years. It’s struck me, over and over, how so much of our industry’s “innovation” is often about coercing additional, unhealthy labor out of its workforce. That’s not innovative or groundbreaking at all, it’s just the age-old capitalist playbook — hidden behind better branding and marketing communications.