Refinery29 Reviews | Glassdoor

Refinery29 Reviews

Updated August 6, 2018
128 reviews

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2.7
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Philippe von Borries
72 Ratings

128 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • "Young, fun, and exciting company culture" (in 7 reviews)

  • "Great themed monthly birthday celebrations, snack-filled kitchens, frequent happy hours" (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. "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 (22)

    "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.

  3. Helpful (2)

    "Management is terrible. Fake feminism and passive-aggressive workplace culture."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Occasionally get to contribute with interesting content.

    Cons

    Management is slow, unresponsive, and hypocritical. Promotions never happen but layoffs do. Generally, employees are lied to.

    Advice to Management

    TRANSPARENCY


  4. Helpful (2)

    "Slaves to current ‘work culture’"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Revenue in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Revenue in New York, NY
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Refinery29 is one of the only authentic, genuine, mission-drive brands in the space. From founders who don’t have an ounce of entitlement to teams that pour everything they have into bringing inclusivity, positivity and a sense of belonging to every piece of content published, both online and offline. One of the only financially sound and successful digital brands in the marketplace today.

    Cons

    Slaves to entitled work culture of the ‘new era’. Many employees have yet to work at other companies and lack an overall appreciation for 1) pay, which is in most cases more than competitors offer 2) work life balance (where else can you come and go freely, receive tools that allow you to work from virtually anywhere while no one questions where you are and only champions you and your work) and 3) opportunity to work with the smartest and most talented people in the industry (people actually come to Refinery29 from large heritage publishing houses with the sole purpose of learning and understanding digital media)

    Advice to Management

    Keep doing what your doing. Stop letting entitled culture of this new generational era trip you up. Let go of toxic people and appreciate the ones who love the brand as you do (there is no shortage of resumes and people who consider the opportunity to work at Refinery29 a dream). Pat yourselves on the back and keep up the amazing job.


  5. Helpful (2)

    "Director"

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

    I worked at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    Growth, Flexibility and mission that company stands for is powerful, especially for a female environment

    Cons

    Hostile culture and work environment and inability to understand long term goals

    Advice to Management

    Get to know employees better and listen to their feedback.


  6. Helpful (5)

    "Eh"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Most of the people are okay

    Cons

    For a company that promotes equal pay, there is a discrepancy between how people are paid. Basically making very low money unless you’re super high up or in sales


  7. Helpful (38)

    "Neon-Soaked Hypocrisy, Entitlement and Misguided Cultural Appropriation"

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

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Bagels. You get a bagel every Friday. Which is great, unless you're gluten intolerant, watching your carbs or simply TIRED OF BAGELS.

    Cons

    Maybe sometime in the not-too-distant past, Refinery29 was truly a place of empathy, integrity and progressive thought. Sadly, I have not been exposed to a single of these virtues in my tenure under the neon glow.

    I'll begin with a bit of my own experience, and then dovetail that with what I find to be some of the more troubling Big Picture issues currently rocketing the company into imminent oblivion.

    When I was invited to interview for my current position, I was under the impression the job for which I was applying was to be a full time staff position, replete with the benefits that would illustrate a company's investment in my expertise, work ethic and consummate positive (then) demeanor. Unfortunately, midway through the interview process, I was informed the position was actually freelance—or, flimsily, "permalance"—and that, because the position I was to fill was new, there would have to be a trial period before the role would be considered relevant. Although this news disappointed me, I was desperate for a change of scenery, an exposure to what appeared to be a rising star in publishing, in progression: The idea of helping spark social change for the betterment of humankind appealed to me, and the Powers that Be exploited my wide eyes, just as they had many before me, and presumably many after.

    For more than sixth months, I did my very best to completely immerse myself in the company, to learn its standard operating procedures, workflows, strengths and shortcomings. I worked to develop a system that would improve the overall quality of the video production arm of R29, and, according to my boss, I did just that. To quote the handwritten card I received just before the holidays (and just before the company laid off 8 percent of its workforce): "In the short amount of time you have been here, you have streamlined a process that used to be a nightmare here at R29. For this I am extremely grateful! I appreciate the work that you are doing, and that you do it with a smile on your face and while cracking a few jokes along the way. Try to get some much deserved R&R over the holidays..." (Oh, by the way, I had to work multiple days over "the holidays," working from my childhood home, another timezone away) "...so that we can do it all over again 2018."

    All over again in 2018, huh? Well, not exactly. My workload nearly tripled, shortly after the year began. My resources largely remained the same. But what really made the quality of my work life deteriorate was the sheer lack of management I received in this new "transition period." When I finally confronted my bosses with my concerns, and with my chest-tightening feelings of being undervalued, and that I wanted to finally reopen the discussion about becoming a staff member, I was told my efforts weren't up to par, that what they wanted hadn't been actualized in their eyes yet. Hmm. Doesn't exactly line up with what—again—is literally written out and displayed (proudly, once) at my desk. Were my concerns validated? Barely, at best. I was granted a weekly meeting to "go over workflow," to "develop a system that works for the time being." Nowhere in the job listing was there mention of having to—no, not RE-invent the wheel, but—invent it in the first place. So, to recap: I was mislead about the type of position I was to fill, I was scarcely trained, barely managed, then TOLD I WAS DOING A GOOD JOB...but then told I was NOT doing a good ENOUGH job, and then told to basically "keep on keepin' on" with respect to becoming staff, with no timeline even estimated for an eventual bump. I'm not a production assistant; my job is integral to video production and will never NOT be needed as the company grows. But I was treated as though I'm just some run-of-the-mill cog, peon, sheep, non-essential worker. No blauschein for me. And, along those lines...

    Freelance workers are treated like farm animals at Refinery. They're fed just enough to stay alive (speaking of...if you really think SNACKS can be considered a "perk," then you're remarkably inconsiderate, or at the very least grossly aloof), and when we hope to go into the barn for warmth, we're told the barn's reserved for worthier creatures who are more deserving of basic consideration and kindness. Allow me to recall an event I'll simply call The Denim Jacket Fiasco:

    The entire company received a bubbly email, apropos of nothing, late one evening, early in 2018. The subject line read, "YOU get a jacket, YOU get a jacket, YOU ALL get a jacket!!!" Oh, and here's a line from the body of the email:

    ASOS IS HOOKING EVERY R29ER UP WITH AN EXCLUSIVE DENIM JACKET

    EVERY R29er? How cool! What fun!

    But hold on. Wait a second.

    When the first freelancer entered The Refinery, a common space, to pick up her jacket, she was turned away, told the jackets were only for "full time" employees. Oh really? Then why did freelancers receive the email? Since when do "ALL" and "every R29er" not really mean ALL/every R29er? You know which email did NOT get sent to freelancers? THE ONE THAT WARNED EVERYONE THEIR JOBS WERE AT RISK, DUE TO LAYOFFS. Some of my dear work friends were laid off, but they didn't know there were going to be ANY layoffs until seconds before the guillotine's blade dropped.

    But back to the jackets: Yada, yada, yada, the entire freelance body (which makes up a very large part of the company) was left distraught, faced with the very palpable notion that they're LESS THAN, that what's accessible to staff shall only remain the stuff of pipe dreams for freelancers. There's a minor uproar. And THEN the freelancers get offered the jacket scraps. Do the Powers that Be apologize for their awful snafu? NO. Instead, they send a PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE email, mocking the freelancers in telling them they're NOW allowed to go get jackets. At the end of the day, it's a privilege to get a jacket, no matter the circumstances. But, acknowledging basic principles of ethics, the company's leaders screwed up, alienating a huge part of their workforce, and then didn't do anything but make said part of the workforce feel even smaller, like they're some band of whiners who don't know when to check their privilege. Woof.

    Let me for a moment get into the unmistakable difference between what it means to be staff vs. what it means to be freelance. I'll start by stating that my boss' boss dangled a massive carrot in front of my face when she decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and send me a .pdf of the benefits package that's offered to staff members when they're hired. Why did she do this? To help me determine whether pining for staff status was even worth my while, whether staff life was actually much better than that which I already had as a freelancer. Well. Are the staff and freelance lives similar? NO. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Staff members receive markedly better healthcare options, paid time off, discounts on gyms, 401Ks (with matching), pre-tax this/pre-tax that, among many other privileges. Obviously, this is no surprise. But freelance? Well, we HAD 401Ks. We HAD pre-tax metro cards. We HAD decent healthcare. But then, as though conned by a thief in the night, we were stripped of our 401Ks, stripped of our metro cards. The new healthcare plans? Worse. AND all the progress we'd made towards our previous healthcare deductibles/HSAs suddenly became moot. Why did all of this happen? Because management decided to switch to a payroll/benefits company that made THEIR lives easier. They literally took money out of our pockets to save themselves a few mouse clicks per day. Good. Grief.

    Back to the company on the whole:

    The Message, whatever it was, or was supposed to be, has been lost. It's gone. What I see now, across the board, is a desperate attempt to get viewers, subscribers, via shallow content (a lot of which, I might add, is borrowed and unlicensed, taken from more creative companies that actually put the work into reporting, researching, etc) and the preservation of False Idols (pick your favorite Kardashian or Jenner).

    But blah, blah, blah. As this review is already Crime and Punishment length, let me just cite one example of a horrific R29 misstep. Recently, hundreds of thousands of people across the country participated in the March For Our Lives demonstrations. To show its support, R29 decided to make stylized posters for the marches, washed in vibrant colors and such DEEP messages, like, "Vote." NEAT. But why did R29 REALLY make these posters? TO GET THEIR BRAND ATTACHED TO AN EVENT WHOSE SUBJECTS ARE LITERALLY THOSE TRYING TO RISE UP AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE. Who in their right minds would think a gun protest is an appropriate time to BLAST a logo out into the ether? What purpose did making these posters really serve? Getting the logo on Instagram, across all social media. LOOK AT ME. ME, ME, ME. I'M AWOKEN AND THOUGHTFUL AND EMPATHETIC BECAUSE—LOOK—I HAVE A POSTER I MADE. A billion likes. Callooh! Callay! What a joke. What irks me to no end is the company's willingness to capitalize on the suffering of others for the sake of brand exposure. When I told my significant other, whose aunt was murdered by a gunman in the 80s, about the posters, she said they were "disgusting," that her still-grieving-to-this-day family would find it appalling, that only if the R29 logos were removed would they be remotely respectable.

    Refinery29 is a hard Would-Not-Recommend, in my book. Maybe you'll be wooed by the fun colors, the salty snacks, the SLAY attitude that's so infectious. But you'll find out the truth soon enough. Spare yourselves.

    Advice to Management

    Learn how to lead people, and look up the word "empathy" in a reputable dictionary (I recommend the OED).

  8. Helpful (4)

    "Anonymous"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time

    Pros

    laid back office atmosphere.

    Cons

    There is no direction to this place- not somewhere you grow. Internal promotions are a one in a million chance. It's very easy to get taken advantage of in terms of the work you do, the title you have, and the amount of money you are compensated.

    Advice to Management

    Value your employees regardless of if they are freelance or staffed. Freelanced full time employees are treated like 2nd class citizens. Take a look at the people in higher level positions- most are unprofessional.


  9. "Innovative Company, Creative Team"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY

    I have been working at Refinery29 full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    An incredibly creative atmosphere with people who will help you create your best work on a daily basis.

    Cons

    You'll encounter the challenges most media companies are facing these days.


  10. "Intern"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Really enjoyed my time interning at R29! A great group of people!

    Cons

    It is what you make of it!


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