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May 14, 2022


As other people have written, the saving grace of Animalz is getting to work with writers and editors (and some team leads) who care deeply about doing good work and supporting each other. The high degree of editorial oversight means that even if you learn nothing else, you will walk away from the company as a better writer. Unfortunately, making genuine connections with the people you work with is extremely difficult, because everyone is overwhelmed and afraid to speak openly about any issues because of an entrenched culture of toxic positivity. It is still possible to have a good experience at Animalz if: -You have a natural ability to produce huge amounts of content every week, while managing customers, coming up with content ideas, reporting on performance, and other duties -You happen to be paired with a team lead who takes an interest in you and isn’t so completely overwhelmed that they can’t help you at all -You happen to be assigned to customers with an approach to content that makes sense, and who have reasonable expectations of you. (Because if they don’t, you should not expect support from the company in pushing back on them.) -You are capable of focusing only on your own work, and ignoring the people burning out and quitting all around you, the nonsensical proclamations from management, and the company’s increasingly dire financial straits


Animalz is in a death spiral. And even if you don’t care about the fate of the company as a whole, and you check every box in the “pros” section, you will inevitably be harmed by the experience of working at a company this grotesquely mismanaged. The company's issues with burnout, churn, and work quality have already been covered by my former colleagues eloquently and at length. So I want to focus on talking about the two things that really messed me up at Animalz: toxic positivity and gaslighting. I’m aware both of those terms have been overused and robbed of their original meanings, but we can restore them to usefulness if we simply use Animalz as the universal benchmark to which all other examples can be compared. Because seriously: the place is the dictionary definition of each. I personally mark the beginning of Animalz' descent into toxicity as the day when a member of leadership imposed the “no venting “rule. This created a company culture in which it is forbidden to acknowledge problems, or publicly admit to unhappiness or stress. The enforced and false positivity has made the experience of working at Animalz deeply isolating for people, who assume that any issues with burnout and overwhelming workloads are their personal problems and not evidence of systemic failures. On top of that, Animalz explicitly rewards people for taking on duties that are *not their jobs* without compensating them for it. Your reward will come in the form of public praise for being such a "rock star," and your peers will echo this praise out of a sense of obligation, thus endlessly perpetuating the culture dominated by fake smiles and the constant repetition that "everything is fine." Which brings us to the gaslighting. As I said before, things are not going well at Animalz. But rather than acknowledge or meaningfully address that, leadership constantly tries to paper over it, and convince you that what looks like chaos is actually growth. When four members of senior leadership departed the company in three months, the CEO addressed this in an all-hands by saying that retention isn't a priority. In the face of mounting customer churn, leadership will simply change metrics to ones that it finds more favorable, rather than address the bad numbers. Every few months, leadership announces some grand new initiative or direction for the company, but these ideas are never fully thought out before they are presented, and no one can answer any questions about *how they will work*. The company is now undergoing its second major re-organization in under a year, but there's no sense of why or what it will mean on a day-to-day basis. Concerns about slipping standards and unhappy customers have led to an announcement that we now prioritize "outcomes over articles." (This would doubtlessly come as a shock to our customers, since articles are the thing they pay us for.) Oh and we're adding new products! Including video! How, you ask? No one can tell you. But the experience of having to pretend that any of the above makes sense is exhausting and demoralizing. Prolonged exposure to that kind of dishonesty is bad for your health, and I mean that very literally, since issues with sleep, substances, and anxiety are quietly rampant among the team.

Advice to Management

This advice is not directed to senior leadership, because I don't believe they are capable of accepting advice that requires real change. My feedback is directed at the leaders in the middle, who are trying to keep their own careers intact, but in doing so, are enabling a toxic culture that is doing real damage to people's lives. To you I say: you have more power than you think. You do not have to nod along with every ridiculous proclamation from leadership, or carry out their paranoid campaigns against anything with the slightest whiff of organizing. You can band together and stand up, or you can leave. If this company is going to be saved, it will only be by people like you, blowing on the dying embers of what originally made it a success: undeniably brilliant work from people who truly believed in what we were doing. Any attempts to circumvent that through new products or cost cutting will inevitably fail. It’s already failing. And the result is not just the wreckage of a company, but the wreckage of people's careers, mental health, and perceptions of you.

Prolonged exposure to that kind of dishonesty is bad for your health, and I mean that very literally, since issues with sleep, substances, and anxiety are quietly rampant among the team. Read More

May 14, 2022

Reviewed by: Anonymous (Anonymous Employee)

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