Bullying. Executive favouritism. Employee girlfriends of execs wielding unjustified power. No room at the top for women in Lululemon’s boys’ club.
Despite their mantras, extoling greatness, health and fairness plastered around their headquarters in Vancouver, employees say fitness apparel leader Lululemon’s work environment is toxic. And employees put the blame on HR and top executives.
Just last week, CEO, Laurent Potdevin, stepped down. While the company remains vague about his resignation, CNBC confirmed his low standard of work behaviour, including having a long time relationship with an employee. The employee, a designer, resigned in January but stayed on as a consultant. However, their relationship had already been ongoing for four years. Potdevin had “announced” their relationship to the entire company in a bizarre confession known as a “clearing,” where employees share anything that might interfere with their jobs. This practice stems from Landmark’s Forum, a series of self-help seminars, which employees are encouraged to attend.
The seminars are costly, averaging $700 each, and Landmark has been sued many times over. Once a Lululemon employee shares info in a clearing, HR is absolved of any responsibility. While some employees did not object to Potdevin’s relationship, others were furious that she was kept on the payroll as she was assigned the best design projects, travelled first class with Potdevin, and took extended time off with no consequences. According to one former designer, she was flying first class and staying in five-star hotels with Laurent on Lululemon’s dime. The girlfriend also had undue decision-making influence at the company without relevant experience. After his resignation, Potdevin walked away with a hefty bundle: $3.35 million cash, and an additional $1.65 million over the next 18 months.
Potdevin was also accused of poor leadership, promoting an unhealthy work environment where employees fought to become part of his inner circle, drinking and drug use at work functions, turning the executive team into a rowdy boy’s club, and promoting a culture of oppression with a glass ceiling for women execs.
This is not the first time that an executive/employee relationship has occurred at Lululemon. Executive creative director, Lee Holman, hired by Potdevin, also dated a staff designer. According to several employees, the designer was a bully whom employees campaigned to fire her. When her contract wasn’t renewed, Holman left with her.
A London employee stated that while Lululemon professes mindfulness and health, the opposite is true, and the company needs to instil morals, respect, and standards at the company.
Featured image: Instagram/ @lululemon
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