When Tyler Haney launched Outdoor Voices in 2014, she positioned the company as an activewear brand that made women feel good about wearing yoga pants to the farmer’s market–athleisure that could somehow empower women of all colors, shapes, and sizes. But according to the deluge of reporting that’s rolling out, on the heels of Haney’s departure from the company, one specific group of men and women didn’t receive the same level of #girlpower treatment: Haney’s employees.
Former and current employees of Outdoor Voices spoke to Buzzfeed anonymously on their experience working for the company, which is now imploding, in part due to reportedly reckless overspending. Some of that spending went toward maintaining the cool-girl aesthetic of OV’s stores, which reportedly spent “$36,000 a year on Topo Chico water,” a move Haney defended as being a smart environmental investment. Employees also recounted a work environment that was emotionally and psychologically abusive towards a staff of mostly women. “I went to work for Outdoor Voices because it was my dream company and Ty was my dream CEO,” one employee told Buzzfeed. “A young female founder who was so inspiring...The minute I got there, I realized it was all smoke and mirrors.” Employees pointed to the differences between the show of diversity and inclusion in OV’s Instagram marketing and the utter lack of diversity in its offices, “The company was mostly white and had no people of color in leadership positions,” another employee explained.
Staffers detailed complaints about OV’s lack of a reliable HR department. One former employee likened a mass layoff to The Red Wedding, that one episode of Game of Thrones where everyone and (literally) their mother dies. On the same day that Haney announced she was resigning—she had been forced to step down as CEO days prior—the company fired 15 employees one of whom was pregnant at the time.“Everyone thought it was a joke at first. It came out of complete nowhere and then there was no email about it. The way it was handled was fucked up,” an employee told Buzzfeed.
But like any good CEO who built a brand around empowerment feminism and the blood of the young, Haney isn’t letting anything like huge financial losses, HR complaints, or being asked to leave the company get her down. Haney has remained largely silent since her departure, a move she attributes to “documents [she] was required to sign when being removed from [her] position at OV while on maternity leave.” She did, however, take a moment to write a three-paragraph post on Instagram about how everyone else was wrong and she was and will continue to be right. (Of course, sexism is Haney’s reason for why everything went wrong.) Haney wrote that her “different playbook” rattled seasoned retailers and that she was asked to step down when “things changed” and she chose to “stand up” for herself, her vision and her team—the same team that seems to have spent a lot of time crying in the bathroom, according to Buzzfeed.
As Haney looks forward to her future with excitement and hope, her employees are left to pick up the pieces of what they thought would be a game-changing brand. Despite everything she’s accused of, the comments on Haney’s farewell post are largely positive. She is being hailed as a “role model” and an inspiration. One commenter wrote, “I’m so sad! I loved OV because of YOU and what YOU stand for. this is so messed up.” Haney seems to have covered herself in a layer of Teflon, in place of OV merch. Perhaps this effective bit of crisis PR, which appears to leave her poised for a comeback, shouldn’t be surprising. In terms of her creative direction, one former employee told Buzzfeed, “She’s a visionary and a fucking genius. Do I think she can run a company? Absolutely not.”