When Steph Korey, the co-founder of the luggage startup Away, revealed in a New York Times story Monday morning that he had reversed his decision to resign as CEO, he surprised a world of startups that was just beginning to stop working. drama that had enveloped the company a month before.
But within Away, more important changes were happening: Erin Grau, the company’s vice president of people and culture, told his bosses on Monday Recode learned that he planned to quit smoking. She will leave the company in the next month or two. In addition to human resources, Grau also supervised internal communications and recruitment for the company.
The timing of the resignation raises questions about whether Grau disagreed with Korey’s decision to claim the title of CEO and / or if his planned departure is related to the disclosure that Away was considering a lawsuit for the article that led to Korey’s initial resignation, published by Recode sister publication The Verge. Before joining Away in 2018, Grau was a media executive, having worked for seven years in the New York Times, where she was recently vice president of transformation.
An Away spokesman declined to comment on whether Grau’s resignation was related to the announcement by Korey’s CEO or the threat of legal action against Vox Media, owner of The Verge and Recode. Grau did not immediately respond to a message from Recode seeking comment.
“In the last two years that I have been at Away, the company grew from less than 100 people to more than 500, the People & Culture team from a few people to several dozen, and we implemented countless systems and processes to improve our culture and working lives, “Grau said in a statement provided by an Away spokesman.” I am proud of the impact we have had, the progress we have made and I have maximum confidence in our leadership. I know that my work will have a lasting impact on Away. “
The Verge’s original investigation described Korey as an executive director who openly criticized employees publicly in Slack messages and micro-managed the company’s customer service personnel, which contributed to what employees interviewed by The Verge said that It was a toxic work environment.
“I know that this group is hungry for professional development opportunities, and in an effort to support you in developing your skills, I will help you learn the professional skill of responsibility“Korey wrote in a series of Slack messages in the middle of the night to his customer service staff (his emphasis).” To hold you accountable … no more [paid time off] or [work from home] the requests will be considered by the 6 of you … I hope that everyone in this group appreciates the consideration I have put into creating this professional development opportunity and that they are excited to operate in a manner consistent with our core values. “
A day after the publication of The Verge’s story, Korey said in a statement posted on Twitter that she was “horrified and embarrassed” by Slack’s messages posted in the article. “I am sincerely mistaken for what I said and how I said it. It was a simple mistake.”
Only a few days later, Away announced that Korey would cease to be CEO in the new year and become executive president. Instead, the company announced the hiring of Lululemon’s chief operating officer, Stuart Haselden, as the new CEO.
Later, Recode reported that Away’s original plan was for Haselden to join as Korey’s No. 2 executive and move on to the post of CEO later in 2020. But some Away investors were in favor of cheating the band-aid and making the change immediately. after. from Verge’s investigation, Recode reported earlier. Subsequently, Korey said the decision to depart was his.
But in the Times interview this week, Korey said he always intended to remain in an active leadership rule, even under the new title of executive president, but that the title of president led to confusion both internally and externally. So Korey decided that he should not give up the title of CEO after all and would now be co-CEO with Haselden, who will take the same title.
So, although Away now has two executive directors, he needs a new head of human resources.