Refinery29 Reviews | Glassdoor

Refinery29 Reviews

Updated December 6, 2018
135 reviews

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2.7
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Philippe von Borries
77 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • "Nice work environment, people are mostly kind to you" (in 8 reviews)

  • "Hands on experience, plenty of responsibility, learn on the fly, company culture and overall atmosphere, perks" (in 7 reviews)

Cons
  • "I would also argue that the people who have complained about work/life balance do not understand what a high-growth digital environment is really like" (in 22 reviews)

  • "No work/life balance and no appreciation provided for hard work put in" (in 8 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (2)

    "Great company"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    great colleagues, good opportunity, good perks

    Cons

    senior management is not transparent and layoffs happen frequently


  2. Helpful (4)

    "Avoid avoid avoid"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Industry recognition, decent salary depending on what team you are on

    Cons

    Continual lies from mgmt and C-level staff on health of company; horrible morale attempted to be corrected by cheesy brand sponsored events with free stuff, lack of real strategies to be a solid business. Letting go of real talent to produce videos hardly anyone watches.

    Is R29 really about empowering women or just a cheap outlet to read about the Kardashians?

    Zero job security

    Advice to Management

    None will ever be taken....

  3. Helpful (4)

    "Turn the Ship Around by Losing the Dead Weight"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    Refinery29 is still one of the media elite. At its core there are people who truly care about the company, and that definitely goes for upper management. Employees pour their heart and soul into the content we create here, and no idea is laughed at. No intern is ignored.

    Cons

    The industry is in a constant state of turbulence and Refinery29 has managed to diversify its product through major wins like 29Rooms, Originals, and continued activism leadership; however, as great as the content is the ship will not stay afloat without proper revenue strategy. The revenue team has undergone so many leadership changes over the past few years and there is no one proactively making smart decisions in tandem with the content team. The sellers are painfully underqualified, mismanaged, and unable to lock even the simplest of deals to monetize the content team's ongoing efforts.

    Advice to Management

    You're not done gutting yet. There is still a topdown favoritism in some departments that will be the downfall of the company if they are not addressed. If you are one of these granfathered OGs- please step up as a leader or do the right thing and let executives hire new, qualified energy who can create momentum and cross company direction.


  4. Helpful (8)

    "Fun Brand, But Stuggling Company"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    Major opportunity to build relationships

    Cons

    Lack of accountability. Ineptitude goes far if dressed with a smile. Unqualified management - mid and senior. No training or development processes, so cycle of talent gaps perpetuate. Inauthentic message of empowerment that doesn’t translate to business decisions.


  5. Helpful (21)

    "Do not expect ANY job security or pay increases."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Health benefits are expensive, but good.
    Very cute office dogs.
    Some fun events from time to time.
    The non for profits they support are pretty great, you’ll have opportunities to support good causes and get your feet wet with actual activism (although some of their activism efforts are admittedly a tad tone deaf).

    Cons

    Okay. So. Prepare for layoffs. Every year, they gut departments. Every.single.year. The fear is real when October rolls around. When budgets stop, lunches are cancelled, education budgets squashed, you KNOW that layoffs are coming. Doesn’t matter if they just opened yet another office in another city. Winter is coming. There is NO job security and while they tell you every four years you’ll get a month paid sabbatical, know that you probably won’t last long enough to see that sabbatical.

    Favorites are promoted to manager positions with NO experience or mentorship. Therefore many managers are stunningly inept, but there’s no one to guide them to help them do better so it’s not even their fault. Upper bosses come and go so often you’ll never have the chance to build a good working relationship with any of them. Departments are re-organized on the regular, leading to confusion. Meanwhile other workers who deserve upward mobility are never promoted due to favoritism running the show. Positions change willy nilly.

    Example: I was hired to be a manager, then when the manager I was going to replace quit (all part of the plan), the position was suddenly axed. I then was required to prove to junior level people why I deserve to have a senior title by still doing manager duties despite having no managerial authority (who wants to feel bossed around by a non boss, thanks for creating an awkward and frustrating work environment for no reason!) and that title NEVER CAME. Months rolled into a couple of years, no title DESPITE having twenty years of experience. I put up with it because the mismanagement was not actually in my immediate coworker’s control, and their hard working, kind attitudes made up for a lot of the problems. In short, we all made it work because at the end of the day we cared about the actual product. Otherwise, why even show up every day? But that added stress was idiotic and unnecessary and just more proof of inept managers.

    There’s also a reason why there are so few people here over the age of 35. In the entire company. Ageism is rampant here. The focus on millennials is almost pathological. Upper mgmt either does not understand they need senior people (because most of them aren’t actually senior either, pro-tip a handful of years of experience shouldn’t make someone a dept head or a director FACE PALM) or they just don’t want to pay the salaries for experienced staff. Maybe both. Managers now have no idea they’re making huge blunders because there’s no one with the experience to actually tell them they’re messing up. So how in the world can other junior staff expect to be better when their own managers are clueless and left that way? People in their 30s, 40s, & beyond aren’t a disease. We have insight & experience and know how to mentor junior staff. It’s like upper mgmt is playing house and this is just a silly game. Yet another round of layoffs decimating the technology department is a prime example of “we don’t know what we’re doing.” Young people playing at manager roles hired their own executioner, completely unawares. Expect more layoffs. That ticket has been punched. And expect managers to save their friend’s jobs over yours for no other reason than they like their friend.

    R29 is a snake eating its own tail. They don’t follow their own inclusive spin with the lack of POC upper managers and the lack of older women. If R29 cares so much about women they why don’t they hire more POC managers & older women and then pay their staff accordingly? Stop the high turnover. Treat people better.

    So if you ultimately decide to work here, use R29 for the experience, make connections with the good people here (there are stand up people here, despite the toxicity) and then get out. Use R29 the way it uses their empoyees, suck it dry for knowledge and leave, before they suck you dry. Do NOT work here for the pay or job security. Know what you’re getting in to, and do not wear the R29 cheerleader blinders or you WILL get blindsided.

    Advice to Management

    Oh lord, why even bother. You’re so myopic in your vision you can’t even see what you’re actually doing. You all didn’t think to have an actual HR rep at our firings. If you don’t even know to do that when you lay people off every single year, then there’s nothing I can say to you that will actually matter.


  6. "Great Place To Work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    Extremely inclusive environment, excellent benefits and office culture.

    Cons

    Not a ton of critical feedback, occasional overload of tasks.


  7. Helpful (18)

    "Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Video in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Video in New York, NY
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    My paychecks didn't bounce. Sometimes there was free alcohol.

    Cons

    First, and most importantly: I think this company may actually be going bankrupt. Refinery29 has been bleeding workers for two years and departments that are essential to basic company functions haven't been solvent since January. They have been treading water with illegal hiring practices and shady dealings with vendors, but they can't go on like this forever. I've seen companies die before and I recognize the signs. If you're in, get out. If think you want in-- you don't.

    Other cons:
    - There are only 5 people on Video who earn a salary. Everyone else is a permanent freelancer. If you are hired as a freelancer, you will remain a freelancer until you get laid off. Forget what they told you at your interview. They were lying.

    - Morale is horrible. After the last round of engagement surveys, management held a department meeting to talk about it-- and only invited salaried employees. All 5 of them.

    After layoffs last year, morale in the video department was so bad that the upper management offered everyone a paid week off for Christmas. Everyone except the hourly workers. Which was almost all of us. Merry Christmas!

    - The software I depended on for my daily work was buggy and many parts of it were broken. This has gone on for two years (check out the reviews from software developers who worked here in 2016 if you'd like to know more). Product team liked to hold meetings to discuss what changes we needed, but whenever I suggested fixing the broken stuff, they shouted me down. They only wanted to hear suggestions on how to rearrange things on the display. Gotta look busy so nobody knows you're incompetent, right?

    Product would often change parts of the software, ineptly, without telling me, so I would often sit down to work and find another aspect of the software was broken. Usually this was just annoying. Sometimes it meant I couldn't do my job until it was fixed.

    - If you are paid by the hour, you will be expected to work like a salaried employee (without the holidays, of course). You will be expected to answer emails all hours of the day and night. If you ask people to respect the fact that you are not awake at 2am, you are "hard to work with."

    - Everyone who earns salary is a diva. They will scream at you in front of everyone in your department if they feel you haven't met their insane demands with a big enough smile on your face.

    - There are more managers than employees at this company. I reported to three people by the time I got laid off. One of them was not technically my boss, but thought she was and decided to act like it, and nobody told her to knock it off. None of my managers (or "managers") seemed to have any idea what I did, and all of them kept their jobs through the recent round of layoffs.

    - This company pays lip service to diversity and inclusion, but they don't mean it. If you are a Black woman, the video content you produce will get sent directly to snapchat where it won't be seen and can't be monetized, and if you complain, the management will say, "gosh sweetie we'd love to promote your content but it's just not monetizable."

    Same goes for lgbt people. If you are actually a lesbian and look like one, good luck getting any of your bosses to make eye contact with you.

    - This company is long overdue for its #metoo moment. Everyone knows this and nobody will talk about it. The victims get fired and the perpetrators kewp their jobs.

    - The management will make no effort to develop you as an employee. Did they promise you'd get to move up to a producer role? You won't. Did they say you'd be managing a team by the end of the year? You won't.

    You will stay in your starting role with the same pay. Without warning, your supervisor will suddenly decide she doesn't like you and start ignoring you, refusing to help you when you ask questions, and moving your seat around to isolate you from the rest of the department. You will not be told why.

    Then they will hire your replacement, an imbecile of mediocre talent who you will be expected to train, and they try to will pit you two against each other by giving you unclear and overlapping roles. She will gouge your eyes out for the chance to work twice as hard for a few dollars less because she truly believes she has a shot at a producer role. You will try to warn her that freelancers don't move up. She will become hostile and stop speaking to you.

    Advice to Management

    Before you write me off as a disgruntled former employee, read the other reviews here. All of them, from the 1-star reviews to the 5-star reviews, dating back to 2014, say the same things. The workload is insane. The higher ups don't listen. The culture is toxic. The company has "growing pains."

    Listen, if you've had "growing pains" for four years, that ain't growing pains. You're incompetent.

    Take another look at those 5-star reviews you guys have been submitting to drag your Glassdoor ranking out of the sewer. "Millennials are entitled." "This is just how digital media works." "Stop whining." This is an accurate reflection of how you guys think, and honestly, why would anyone want to work for you? Would YOU want to work for you?

    You've had more than enough time to address the issues that we've been bringing up, through Glassdoor, through engagement surveys, through meetings, through exit interviews, etc etc etc. Now your company is going under and nobody feels sorry for you. Have fun going down with this sinking ship.

  8. Helpful (1)

    "The good and the bad..."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    Well known media brand. Company know's it's lane well. Highly creative team.

    Cons

    As a company on several rounds of financing already, the bottom line is being profitable. The tail wags the dog here. The team in place straddles the line between creative and $$$ really well. You will not make money here but you will get an education on digital media.

    Advice to Management

    Listen to the minions. You demo is all around you. Your company is not big enough for the upper management not to be engaged with them.


  9. "Sink or swim"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    Beautiful space. Free bagels. Cool coworkers.

    Cons

    SO many meetings. The pace was crazy. There was little conversation with top level management.


  10. Helpful (43)

    "Confusing, Directionless Content Factory Run By Faux Feminists"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    -Has all the cute things you imagine when you think of a female-focused start-up vibe: Instagrammable couches, cool wall art, succulents, rosé happy hours, lots of free books, stylish coworkers
    -The people at the mid and senior level are really smart, creative, eager, and bring great ideas to the table...they see the vision of this place and want so badly to make it a reality, but their ideas are blocked at every turn by directors and exec
    -29Rooms
    -Depending on how well you negotiate going in, you can end up with a really good salary here. Bonuses are generous for media companies, and there are nice perks in terms of discounted gym memberships, etc
    -It's sink or swim environment, which is a pro in that if you swim, you'll leave knowing you can handle a crazy pace, insurmountable workload, and you'll get experience in all facets of the company, from editorial to branded to SEO to sales to creative, because your job responsibilities are constantly evolving to include things that really make little sense for you to have your hand in
    -Brands are obsessed with R29 and you'll get access to a lot of trips and coverage that you wouldn't at other companies. To many on the outside, R29 still looks like it's unstoppable and to the NYC media circle, it's impressive to say you work there. Inside, everyone knows it's in turmoil.

    Cons

    The smaller things:
    -No flexibility when it comes to working from home.
    -SO MANY MEETINGS. This company loves nothing more than a meeting for everything that could be an email. You're forced to waste an hour and a half of time listening to the tech team talk about the latest fix they're making to the system, then when you get back to your desk and haven't finished your work, they're on you for it all day.
    -Don't ever expect to take a lunch break or leave before 7.

    The real problem with this place, though, is that it sucks you in with its perfectly packaged, millennial pink brand image and message of badass female empowerment and by the time you realize it's a farce and all the founders care about is traffic and money and celebrity and you'll never actually get to accomplish anything you were supposedly hired for, it's too late. There are a dozen or so "stars" of this company—people that get their own YouTube show, are given the time and funds to work on their one big dream project, get to travel the world for exposés and mini video series, or get to focus on reporting a couple of big feature stories per month. A few of these people are genuinely talented, most are pets of the founders with rich dads. The rest of us slog away at our desks and are given insane traffic and story count goals that mean we have to write and edit the most banal of posts while being told over and over and over again that we can have the space and time to work on our passion projects. Know this: You will NEVER get the time.

    You'll be told you can write about whatever you want, sky's the limit, but it turns out, you can only have opinions if they align with the top-level opinions, you can't risk offending anyone (R29 is PC culture on crack, which, BTW, you wouldn't be able to say because some people abuse crack), you can't be angry ("people come to us for positivity"), and you probably don't need to tell whatever your story is if you're white and straight and a size 0-8 and able-bodied because your voice has been heard enough, thank you very much.

    If you're black/latinx/asian, overweight, have some sort of physical handicap, or are LGBTQ+, on the other hand, you're hired because this company loves a token it can trot out when needed to show just how diverse and inclusive they are. You'd think if they cared so much about diversity, there'd be some at the top, but privileged white men and women run the show here. It's comical to watch the thin, pretty, faux PC white girls pitch stories about the kind of cultural appropriation they were guilty of back in their sorority days and discuss hijabs and black curl patterns and plus-size body types with smug authority.

    But if you ignore all the issues and work hard overtime and produce great work that does well and get along with everyone, you should be safe, right? Wrong. The most loyal, longstanding, talented employees get laid off and let go without warning, which then makes everyone constantly fearful for their job safety and on edge any time the company calls a mysterious emergency meeting. It's a place run by fear and managers with zero training and top brass loyal only to their instagram follower count. But it looks good on a resume.

    Advice to Management

    Practice what you preach, don't give inexperienced 26 year olds "director" titles, realize that if you let people do what they're passionate about, the quality of the work will skyrocket.