Nancy Lublin, CEO of Crisis Text Line, Terminated Amid Accusations of Racism

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Getty Nancy Lublin speaking during the Wired Business Conference.

Nancy Lublin, the CEO of Crisis Text Line, was fired June 12 from her position and her seat on the board after the #notmycrisistextline started trending on Twitter, describing many complaints of racist and abusive treatment from the company, according to CNN.

According to a tweet featuring a statement from the company:

In 2018 the Board of Directors was made aware of concerns at Crisis Text Line about inappropriate conduct of individuals in leadership positions, including CEO Nancy Lublin. We were given the opportunity to take action, but failed to do enough. Crisis Text Line is not the safe and welcoming place it should be. We recognize and apologize for our role in enabling this environment to persist. We take full accountability and are ready to address these issues head-on. No form of racism or bullying of any kind will be tolerated at Crisis Text Line.

In the statement, the company said it was naming board member Dena Trujillo as the interim CEO while a nationwide search for a replacement would be conducted. The company further said that it would find a new chairperson and also stated that another employee, Ashley Womble, would be placed on administrative leave as an investigation was conducted into her role.

Staff staged a virtual walkout, demanding that the board and leadership behave in more “anti-racist” fashion and citing several examples of gaslighting and abuse by Lublin, CNN reported.

According to Axios, the company has said it will begin anti-racist training for board members.


Employees Complained of a Toxic Work Environment

The #notmycrisistextline started trending on Twitter as employees described their experiences at the company.

One person who said they were a former employee on Twitter, Catie Miller, posted that she “witnessed firsthand Nancy Lublin’s egregious abuses of power, racist behavior, and emotional tyranny.”

Another person who said they used to work also said that they witnessed abuse and tweeted “Nancy Lublin was a f**king a**hole. It’s part of why I loved her”:

For ref, I’m a white guy who came to DS from an even more abusive fashion world– i.e. I felt comfortable telling Nancy to fuck off whenev. That was my privilege (and oh what a privilege it could be). It was not the privilege of many of my non-SWM co-workers … They were frequently made to cry, feel like shit, etc. To me she was just Bobby Knight, a prickly head coach. But my friends weren’t crying from a brittle spirit. It was abuse. @DoSomething & @CrisisTextLine should take steps to never let that happen again.

Muneer Panjawani — now the vice president of foundation, government and corporate partnerships at The Trevor Project according to his LinkedIn page — said he was passed over for promotions for white and heterosexual employees. He also said he was “emotionally traumatized” and also described Lublin as “the single most emotionally abusive boss I have ever worked with.” He even said that Lublin and another employee in leadership had fudged data to minimize the rate at which minorities were fired compared to non-minorities.

He also said in a tweet that he was breaking a non-disclosure agreement to speak out.

Others expressed that they felt they had been complicit for not speaking out against problematic behaviors earlier. One woman tweeted, “I think many of us feel hypocritical coming forward because we benefitted from nancy’s network. she made an introduction for me that ultimately got me a job, for which I am grateful. but favors can’t buy silence and I hope others chose to speak out.”


One Former Employee Said She Was Fired for Raising Awareness about Abuse

In a Medium post, Patty Morrissey, Crisis Text Line’s former director of training, described her own experience at the company and questioned, “How could an organization dedicated to mental health harbor such toxicity?”

According to her LinkedIn page, Morrissey worked there for one year and has been self-employed ever since.

Morrissey said during the interview, she was asked whether — at 32 years old — she would take issue with reporting to her boss because she was “‘significantly’ older than her.” Morrissey, who said she had a background in mental health, also said she recognized the signs of abuse right away.

The culture resembled that of an emotionally abusive relationship. Nancy hired talented, motivated young people who were new to the workforce. She groomed staff with attention, praise, and spontaneous and public gifting of Veuve Clicquot champagne. I got an orange box delivered to my desk within two weeks of working there, which my manager told me was the quickest she’s ever seen someone get “champagned.”

Nancy groomed these young people with incredible levels of responsibility and access to opportunities — celebrity interactions, TV spots, speaking opportunities, and shared bylines on articles and books. What’s wrong with giving people opportunity? Nothing, except when it’s also accompanied by belittling, public shaming, and isolation. She methodically positioned herself as the caretaker to these young souls while simultaneously tearing them down so they believe they would be worthless without her, or worse be actively retaliated against.
As a mental health professional I recognized these red flags right away.

She said Lublin would set employees up to fail with unrealistic goals, and was chronically racist and abusive.

She also said that while working there, she remained open to challenging her own biases: “I held meetings for this leadership team and it wasn’t until I was called out by a black woman on my staff that I was segregating people by race. As soon as this was called out to me I corrected it,” she said.

Morrissey said she tried to protect the employees on her team, but struggled.

As a senior leader and their manager, I actively worked to shield them as much as possible from Nancy’s abuse and unreasonable demands. Nancy would regularly undermine my role as a manager and didn’t consider my input when making decisions about promotions and special project assignments. At one point she decided to create rotating leadership positions that would change every few weeks/months. The white women on my team were the ones chosen for those roles, overlooking the black employees who I flagged as high potential.

Morrissey said she developed a “Happiness Survey” to gather a consensus on how the staff was suffering under Lublin’s leadership and said that she responded with an employee-wide email, stating “If this is not the right place for you, I want to make it comfortable for you to make the decision to go.”

Morrissey said she was fired shortly after that.


Crisis Text Line Was Lauched In 2013


Crisis Text Line: Strangers Helping Strangers via Text | dose.Crisis Text Line has received more than 31 million messages and does on average 10 active rescues each day. Text “Hello” to #741741 for help. To volunteer go to crisistextline.org produced by Dose.2017-03-01T20:08:24Z

Crisis Text Line is a mental health service that was created by Stephanie Shih and Lublin, also the CEO of DoSomething.org, a nonprofit for youth who want to start volunteer campaigns, according to the New Yorker.

It was started as DoSomething.org members began texting and asking for personal help, according to the website. It was deployed in 295 U.S. area codes within four months. The Crisis Text Line company raised $24 million in 2016, according to CNN.

According to Mashable, Crisis Text Line was incredibly popular and partnered with Reddit and Riot Games and received funding from Kate Spade New York and the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why.

Lublin’s biography on Skoll says that at age 23, she created a company that gives women suits and career development training called Dress for Success and was brought in to reinvigorate the DoSomething.org., which she did by making it more virtual.

Lublin gave a very popular TED Talk highlighting Crisis Text Line.

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