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Airbnb Employees Speak Out About Company Bullying Tactics & ‘Toxic’ Work Environment

According to current and former employees, the corporate culture at Airbnb has become ‘toxic’ over the last year.  In 2015, Glassdoor ranked the company as the #1 place to work, in 2017 that ranking dropped to 35th, and many employees are speaking out.  A person who has worked in Airbnb’s Food Department for more than 2 years first approached us with grievances concerning company’s changing work environment, and when we reached out for more sources to confirm the story, many were all too happy to share.

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Airbnb Office, San Francisco

“The original working culture at Airbnb was ‘be a host to each other‘, but that’s not how it is anymore”.  Claims a source inside Airbnb, who insisted on remaining anonymous.  “It’s become a toxic work environment where management bullies the staff, I know several people who have left and several people threatening to leave.”

When we pressed for specifics:  “Many complaints have been filed to HR against management, because of ‘bullying tactics’, and passive aggressive management.  At one point people were even afraid to file for overtime even if we were working longer hours, because management was so hostile.”

Another Airbnb employee’s email complaint about management was leaked to us, it voices concerns about a hostile work environment and suspicions of a management strategy to force full time employees out.  Screenshots of the actual emails have been removed as requested by their original source for fear of retribution:

“This is a company of belonging and inclusion, everything our new management has done thus far personnel wise has been the opposite of that”

“There is a concern that upper management is not inclined to help tenured employees succeed, and rather is doing everything they can to make certain people look bad and make them become frustrated”

“there is a business need to eliminate full time employees…and move towards all contracted employees”

Several Airbnb Food Department employees felt there was a corporate strategy to push out full time employees (FTE’s) so that they might be replaced with cheaper contractors.

A third Airbnb employee sent us his feelings on the department: “(I) saw a lot of my friends treated like dirt, manipulated and exploited for their hard work, while being completely ignored as contributing members to the team.”

We looked at Glassdoor employee reviews to see if these trends existed in other departments.  The reviews on Glassdoor are anonymous, so should be taken with a grain of salt, but there is a clear trend of long term employees speaking out against new management in several departments.  Many reviews complaining about ‘inexperienced’ or ‘uncaring management’, as well as a corporate structure that does not allow for upward mobility.  These trends may come at no surprise given their business model of relying on cheaper, part-time contractors as way of cutting costs and company responsibility.

There were also many positive reviews from employees, and feel free to read them yourself at glassdoor.com.  Below, we’ve concentrated on reviews that brought up concerns with management, company culture, and growing pains in May of 2017, of which there were many, in several departments:



“Honestly everyone seems miserable and like they’re phoning it in. It’s such a far cry from the magical office I joined three years ago.” – Airbnb Employee


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“People are treated like cattle” 

Airbnb’s growth in the last 4 years has been astronomical.  In March 2017, Airbnb continued to raise money and was valued at 31 billion dollars.  This growth has not come without pains.  Airbnb owes much of its success to the ‘sharing economy’, a model that allows corporations to pass off costs of doing business to their own work force.  Like Uber or Taskrabbit, these companies avoid paying taxes or benefits to their workers by mostly supporting part-time positions.  At the same time they find ways to duck governmental regulations and taxes, thereby gaining a huge advantage on traditional competitors.  As a result labor unions and local city governments have been fighting Airbnb’s aggressive expansion for years, and in several countries.

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San Francisco ‘Yes’ on Prop F campaign sign. A campaign to regulate Airbnb in 2015.

The silicon valley term for these types of companies is ‘disruptors’.  In the industries they are changing, and to the cities they are manipulating, these companies are sometimes called far worse.  In San Francisco for example the chief concern was that +8,000 unregulated Airbnb ‘hotels’ were taking away much needed housing stock during a historical housing shortage.  City Residents fought to regulate Airbnb’s ‘temporary’ hotels, so that they could make sure Airbnb would pay their fair share of taxes.  But Airbnb spent over $8 million in a smear campaign full of obvious untruths and scare tactics to defeat regulation.

‘No on F’ Airbnb advert.  Prop F asked Airbnb hosts to file their guest bookings just like a hotel, so that they do not skip out on paying their taxes.

This year, under judicial pressure, Airbnb has agreed to register its hosts who rent homes and rooms to tourists.  This is an important step in a city where housing costs have skyrocketed as more and more homes are taken off the market to be used as unregulated hotel rooms.

Now that Airbnb is worth 31 billion dollars, maybe it’s time they think about treating their employees and the cities who host them with a little more respect.  As the first Airbnb employee who interviewed put it:

“It’s a company about belonging anywhere, but how can we belong if we feel like they are trying to push us out”.  – Current Full-Time Airbnb Employee.
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  • Cynthia

    “… myself are very concerned.”
    People, please learn when to use me, myself, and I.

  • ejcsanfran

    A company whose business model is to facilitate illegal and/or unethical activity on the part of their users and take a cut of the action is a bad place to work? MIND BLOWN.

  • JC

    I worked as a full time employee in the Airbnb food program and left because of the toxic environment that you wrote about. THANK YOU for writing this article. A lot of employees in the food program that I still keep in touch with are miserable there and they tell me how much worse it’s gotten.

    When I worked there, I spoke up to upper management and HR numerous times about the toxic and passive aggressive behavior of managers, especially about the behavior of the current executive chef (name removed by request), but nothing was done about it. I experienced first hand her passive aggressive, aggressive, and immature behavior towards me and others in the kitchen. She would use various tactics to intimidate members of the food team. She would speak badly about cooks behind their backs to other cooks, sometimes even making fun of them. She created an environment of hostility and a culture where making fun of one another or speaking badly about one another was allowed.

    The previous executive chef was basically pushed out and forced to quit to make room for the current executive chef who is in over her head thinking that she is capable of running what WAS one of the best in-house tech food programs. Instead, she is running it to the ground.

    One thing Brian Chesky our CEO would say is “Don’t fuck up the culture” to remind everyone at the company to treat everyone with kindness and to be a host to one another. Chef (name removed by request) fucked up the culture at Airbnb and the food team. Unfortunately, she has never been formally reprimanded and her behavior continued. And unfortunately, it’s only gotten worse. While I enjoyed working for Airbnb, the food team was awful and I am so happy that I left.

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  • Jon Forrest

    “Airbnb has agreed to register it’s hosts” -> “Airbnb has agreed to register its hosts”

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  • mike j

    I have to fully agree with JC. As a member of the food team, I have also witnessed Jenny Le making fun of colleagues on the food team, but it wasn’t just the cooks she would mock. I have witnessed her mocking the Front of the House General Manager and the Operations Manager (her boss) behind their backs to people on the food team. It was very uncomfortable to witness and I was shocked when it happened.

    She also bullies people who she doesn’t like and favor those that she does. People on the food team are afraid to stand up for themselves in fear of retaliation from her. Her practices are not just inappropriate, but illegal.

    Jenny Le lacks the professionalism and leadership qualities that is required to run such a special food program. I hope that the executives and founders of Airbnb review the murmur reports from the food team because many people have expressed their concerns of her management style. She brings down the morale of the food team and the culture she creates goes against the core values of Airbnb.