Just days after The New York Times exposed stunning business practices at the online journalism outfit Ozy, the company said Friday it was shutting its doors. That no doubt came as no surprise to some of its employees, who since 2015 have been excoriating the firm on the jobs website Glassdoor, citing its “toxic” culture, “bipolar management style” and conflicts of interest.
For years, I’ve used Glassdoor to get a reading on the culture at companies I’m writing about. Employees submit reviews of their employers anonymously, but when multiple employees write about similar problems, it raises red flags that I follow up on.
I’ve combed through a lot of awful Glassdoor reviews of awful companies. But I’ve rarely seen the level of employee condemnation aimed at Ozy.
There are positive reviews, too, of course. But the criticisms are serious and paint a picture of a risky culture. Here’s a chronological sampling of anonymous comments:
– In 2015, employees posted reviews that asserted that reporters didn’t do any reporting and that employees who stuck with Ozy might be subject to “Stockholm Syndrome.”
– Still another in 2015 laid out a summary that presaged the Ozy we learned so much about this week: The writer described one of the co-founders as a “bipolar” person who “throws tantrums” adding that bills are not paid on time. “This company is not going to succeed,” the person wrote.
– Two years after that, an employee said management was “sick and abusive” and that journalism ethics didn’t exist in the newsroom. Another wrote that “the Ozy experiment is doomed to fail” and said the company had “inflated numbers and website analytics.” Another take on Ozy: that the company was engaged in a “smoke and mirrors game of faux success.”
– Questions persisted in 2018. “I feel like something is going on, but management isn’t talking about it,” one person wrote. “Be transparent – how are you really making money?” That year, other employees questioned Ozy’s performance statistics, its “culture of playing loosey goosey with the rules,” its “lack of transparency” about finances and its “culture of making bold outlandish claims” with no evidence to back them up.
– There is more. Last year, an employee called co-founder Carlos Watson “a bully” who set a tone for overpromising and underdelivering. By this year, another worker was saying that the people running Ozy were “reckless” and that management shifted expectations based Watson’s mood. Ozy, wrote another employee in June, “is not a real business.” Four months after that posting on June 7, the company closed.