Ellen DeGeneres sent an open letter to her staff about their toxic work environment

Ellen Degeneres attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California © Jill Johnson/jpistudios.com

For months, stories and articles about Ellen DeGeneres have been circulating widely. There were stories about how she treats employees, how she treats waitresses, how she treats other journalists and colleagues and more. She’s apparently a pretty vile person, which wouldn’t be *as* notable if Ellen’s brand wasn’t all about niceness and kindness. Anyway, who would have ever thought that the woman who is abusive to waitresses would also create a toxic work environment on her eponymous show? A few weeks ago, Buzzfeed published an article claiming many people on The Ellen DeGeneres Show hate it there and that it’s a toxic work environment full of sexism, racism, favoritism and shady behavior.

About a week after the Buzzfeed story came out, Warner Bros announced that they would conduct an “internal review” of the show, with a third-party team so that staffers could feel free to talk about their experiences. Buzzfeed has done a follow-up story in which some very serious sexual misconduct and sexual harassment charges were raised from unnamed staffers, mostly in regard to executive producer Ed Galvin. The Hollywood Reporter’s sources now say that Galvin is being let go, and that more senior staff will likely be fired before all of this over (and who knows when the review will be over). Throughout the entire months-long controversy over Ellen’s behavior in particular, Ellen has not said anything or issued any kind of statement. When her staffers began speaking to Buzzfeed, she still didn’t say anything, and THR says she was “discouraged from addressing the allegations.” But now she has released a statement to her staff, which was promptly leaked to media outlets:

Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.

I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.

I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.

It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.

I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.

Stay safe and healthy. Love, Ellen

[From THR]

“I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention” - because staffers didn’t have an outlet to address the toxic work environment and that’s why they went to Buzzfeed, which instigated all of this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think *everything* rests on Ellen’s shoulders, and obviously they have a big staff and Ellen delegated and kept herself away from the daily operations. But, again, it’s HER show, her name, and she has the responsibility for how the show operates. It’s been dysfunctional for years, clearly.

Golden Globes 2019 Press Room

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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68 Responses to “Ellen DeGeneres sent an open letter to her staff about their toxic work environment”

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  1. Restless Bitch Face says:

    She gave the weakest talk-around apology ever. I imagine she is trying to be inclusive of everyone who felt unhappy at her show, but the effect is that it is passive and ineffective. She thinks people are misrepresenting who she is, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

    • Astrid says:

      +1

    • Bella says:

      You put it perfectly. I completely agree

    • I’m shocked that more people haven’t seen the humble brag in her weakass “apology” either.

      “As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. ”

      As you’ve “GROWN EXPONENTIALLY”. Sit down, Ellen. Maybe if your staff could look you in the eye or talk to you you might know what’s going on. You don’t even know their names. It’s nice to see her finally getting called out for what everyone in Hollywood has known for years. And I love the celebrity *crickets*.

  2. julia says:

    Because letters make everything better. I work in healthcare, and as a thank you for working during the pandemic, my hospital sent out a thank you youtube video. It didn’t feel like a thank you, more like a slap in the face. Empty words serve no benefit to your staff.

    • Ann says:

      We periodically get “presents” from my employer, which is one of the biggest Healthcare networks in the country. Those presents are always company merchandise. We’re getting another COVID present soon and I swear to God if it’s another f’ing water bottle… I bet Ellen’s employees are drowning in Ellen show merch. This letter probably came with an Ellen fidget spinner.

      • julia says:

        Haha! Same! I don’t need another water bottle! If I could, I’d send you a gift card to a great restaurant as a thank you for your service during the pandemic. :)

      • Nikki* says:

        One Christmas my MIL gave me a plastic wrapped blanket which said “ST. JUDE’S CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL.” Though I’m a fan of that hospital, I would rather she gave me nothing than a charity freebie masquerading as a gift!

      • pottymouth pup says:

        gosh, at least my company sent 10 facemasks & a strip of 10 disposable thermometer strips – none of it branded to our company

      • molly says:

        This made me laugh out loud–I work for a major healthcare employer and when my last project ended I got this giant pretty expensive looking vase– with my company’s name and the project name on it. My kids were laughing — who wants a vase with a company’s name on it I’d rather have a starbucks gift card and probably much cheaper!

    • Mle428 says:

      Julia, I think you work for my old employer. One of my friends was complaining to me about this exact thing!

    • kimberlu says:

      I had an employer hand out 50dollar bills to everyone with their thank you, and it was greatly appreciated. The manager was told to buy our office lunch for a thank you. This didn’t seem good enough to my manager. She thought it wasn’t much of a thank you, since so many lunch at their desks, so instead she cashed in the lunch money. She then went around and personally thanked us and apologized she couldn’t give the 100+ staff more…

    • Em says:

      YES. Also work in medicine in an area hit hard by Covid and our hospital had some light instillation saying “thank you health heroes!” And then they sent out multiple emails referencing how they are “recognizing our sacrifices” that way. Empty meaningless words.

  3. bluemoonhorse says:

    All of this is passing the buck – I didn’t know, I delegated, it’s everyone else’s fault but mine, it’s time we all do better. What a crock.

    • Mumbles says:

      Right as if her personal cruelty, well documented in multiple accounts and which also sneaks through in her interactions on the show, was her staff’s fault.

    • bunny says:

      Yeah, her note suggests (to me) that her concern is avoiding lawsuits.

      What I read in her statement is that she thinks that she couldn’t possibly have known about abuse and mistreatment. Therefore, she has no responsibility or liability for the culture at the company.

      It’s not an apology at all. It’s made to bolster a legal and PR defense.

  4. DS9 says:

    I especially loved the part where she used her experiences from coming out as ‘proof’ that she’d never condone a toxic work environment…

    Ma’am…

  5. A says:

    It’s not all her fault but all those stories about not talking to her or looking her in the eye are also floating around. She did not want to be around her employees and hired, apparently, some real gross people to insulate herself from everybody else.

  6. ItReallyIsYou,NotMe says:

    Note that she took no responsibility for the specific allegations that she herself is rude and demeaning to work for and promise to do better. It’s all, “I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job as a supervisor.” total bs.

  7. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    All she did was pass the buck. She completely talked around herself and blamed her staff. In fact, anyone who said anything derogatory about Ellen specifically has to stop. Because they’re wrong.

    • erni says:

      Exactly.
      Many of the voices is about Ellen herself, not the show, nor people running the show.

      • lucy2 says:

        So true. Aside from the complaints about the producers, I’ve seen a LOT of people who work or worked there have direct, legitimate complaints about her.
        There’s a lot of “we” in her statement, but there needs to be a lot of “I” too. As in “I need to and will do better.”

  8. Flamingo says:

    That letter was clearly written by her counsel with a few Ellen-isms thrown in. There is no way someone could lack that much self awareness. Did she not find it odd that none of her junior level staff spoke to her or even looked at her?
    From a legal standpoint, most of the accusations will be very difficult to prove and even if they are proven, it would have to be against a certain protected class or classes to have legal consequences. I’ve said this in previous posts, but simply being an asshole to all of your staff does not fit the legal definition of a hostile work environment, you have to specifically target a protected class.
    From a PR standpoint, the damage to her brand has been done. She has more money than she could spend in five lifetimes, it might just be time to shut things down.

  9. jbyrdku says:

    If anyone else watches Succession on HBO, her response reminded me of the scene where Brian Cox’s character says “I’m not operationally involved”, in response to the rape/murder allegations of his company…

    • Nina Simone says:

      My thoughts went there too! Perfect 🤣

      But of course, we learn later that he is very much involved. Each decision goes through him. I find it very hard to believe that it was upper level staff that decided no one would look Ellen in the eye or eat mints before speaking to her. I see her fingerprints all over it

  10. Christin says:

    Lost count of how many times “I”, “me” and “my” were used.

    Stories about her have floated around for some time, and I never had trouble believing the walk did not match the talk (persona). The few times I watched her show (usually while captive in a medical office), she seemed like a passive aggressive jerk.

    • Kristen says:

      This. If she’s barely nice to people who are guests on her show, one can imagine how she treats people privately.

    • MaryContrary says:

      Thirty years ago she lived next door to my husband’s best friend in Santa Monica. She was a total and complete beyotch then. She used to yell obscenities over the fence at them. I completely believe any story that she’s horrible to everyone who has the misfortune of working for her.

      • minx says:

        I believe it! How did she become successful? Her show is cringeworthy and she’s just an unpleasant person to watch.

      • Christin says:

        The poor neighbor! Sounds like it was not money and fame that led to the nastiness.

  11. Allergy says:

    Now this is just hilarious!

  12. Queensland says:

    Your fifteen minutes are over, Ellen.

  13. JJ says:

    Funny how none of her famous friends have stuck up for her!

  14. pyritedigger says:

    I believe all the stories and her letter is weaksauce.

    However, why does she pose like that? Really bizarre. Also her plastic surgery did not do her any favors.

  15. Léna says:

    What a weak letter.
    A year ago (time flies!) before I left my ex-job (it was a short term contract) and had nothing to lose anymore, I went to HR and told the head of HR (a woman, which I think helped a lot) that my coworker was being sexually harassed since she arrived, 5 months prior (my co worker agreed that I would talk to them). I had no hard proof, but my co worker was interviewed and the guy investigated. A week before my final day, the head of HR called me into a meeting room and personally thanked me for coming forward with what I had seen. She told me it lead to multiple woman coming forward with their stories and that the company fired a few people in the process. The company was shitty for a lot of reason, but I appreciated how they handled this delicate situation.

  16. Case says:

    Amazing how she’s blaming her staff and not addressing all of the terrible behavior she’s been accused of. I don’t doubt there are general company culture issues, but she has been accused of terribly mistreating people.

  17. Rad says:

    Her name is on the sign outside the studio. She is, in essence, the CEO. I do believe that she is sincere. I hope that WB will make the investigations transparent. She is at the top of her show’s organization, but frequently what happens below ranks is – people are put in power and they abuse it – shield the distractions for reaching above their levels. Look no further than that “Darling of the Today Show” – Matt Lauer. The Today Show producers did not know how much he abused women. Then they did. Ellen has to figure out which of her producers abused staff and / or WB needs to investigate how culpable Ellen was in this, as well.

    There is a lot more that has to happen before we pig-pile on her – let due process complete.

    One thing to remember about Ellen is that she is a survivor. Regardless, she’ll bounce back.

    • minx says:

      I believe she is the opposite of sincere. It’s the old saying about the fish rotting from the head.

    • Sarah says:

      Due process is for folks charged under the criminal justice system, not the court of public opinion. Before these allegations regarding her employees were years of reports of how awful *she* is, personally. Please.

  18. Frida_K says:

    I notice she doesn’t mention the part about not paying anyone and essentially hanging them out to dry during shutdown.

    Hm.

  19. minx says:

    She’s an awful person and her “apology” is laughable.

  20. KBeth says:

    Right, she never addressed the issue that *she* behaves like an insufferable asshole.

  21. ce says:

    I worked on a TV show which needed to do an internal investigation on a senior person’s abusive behavior, so I know first hand how this goes. Expect a settlement soon and for her to also lose her job. Once they start collecting stories, it’s over

  22. Kristen says:

    I think they should retire the show. I think she’s burnt out and hates doing it, as this point. She should take a breather and reassess her life and why she’s treating people so poorly. Maybe being in the fire of the spotlight is not in alignment with her personality or interest. Also- she took zero responsibility and blamed her leadership team, very motivating!

    • Jenn says:

      This is really perceptive and generous, and I very much agree with you. She isn’t happy, which tends to happen when we aren’t living according to our values, whatever they are. This show has never been her “thing” and I wonder if she even realizes that. And misery loves company; it’s really sad that her unhappiness has done so much lasting damage to the people around her.

  23. L4frimaire says:

    It all started w/Dakota Johnson. That’s when Ellen’s mask started to slip, LOL

  24. Paperclip says:

    The fish rots from the head and all…

  25. Jaded says:

    I wonder what her marriage is like and if it will survive? Portia seems like such a gentle, giving kind of person. I imagine Ellen is the “alpha” in their relationship but it must be going through some rocky stuff given the amount of bad press Ellen’s getting.

  26. Sidewithkids says:

    I really think Ellen knew some of this esp the Kevin stuff b/c she’s good friends w/ him. It’s funny also how about one day ago she/her staff were still posting stuff on her IGs but today nothing, maybe she’s finally taking it serious.

    I do feel like Ellen hangs out w/ the wrong crowd, she started to interview them mostly and the show became boring as well. I remember that Dakota Johnson interview and I think it had more to do w/ people and issues behind the scenes i.e. the famous crowd they know, it just spilled out in front of us.

  27. Jenn says:

    This is really disingenuous. “We’re taking steps…” doesn’t mean squat when YOU are the issue.

    I feel like Ellen has a lot of unresolved trauma and bitterness, and I wish she would take just six months off to do some intensive therapy and soul-searching. A year of DBT, and she’d feel like a new person — I really believe that.

    • Jenn says:

      Okay, it’s clear that when I wrote this I hadn’t really read the Buzzfeed News investigation. Two of the men running the show have been harassing and groping employees. I do believe DeGeneres might be SO hands-off that she wasn’t aware of their behavior, but that just speaks to the total absence of leadership thus far.

      • bunny says:

        Yes. Being an absent figurehead is part of the complaint, so it doesn’t excuse her. If Ellen will not allow staff to look directly at her, that is worse than being absentee leader -it’s actively avoiding the people who work for her and that fosters an environment where people in power can abuse others.

    • ravynrobyn says:

      @ JENN-I’m “graduating” next week from a year-long DBT program; it has ABSOLUTELY &.TOTALLY changed my life for the better. I’m truly engaging, participating & living my best life, a life so much better than I could have ever even imagined 🤸‍♂️🤹‍♀️🤸‍♀️

      I’d give ol’ Ellen a couple of years to actually accept that SHE is the problem and needs serious help. I so feel for Portia.

  28. Valerie says:

    Uh-huh, Ellen Disingenuous. She had no idea that it was happening for years but maintains that they’re a close-knit group. Totally believe that.

    I’m doubly irritated that she brought it back around to herself in the third paragraph: “As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything…”

  29. Golly Gee says:

    These pictures of her! I think she missed her calling. She should be a villainous Vulcan priestess on one of the Star Trek franchises.

  30. Jules says:

    Dakota Johnson is somewhere sipping her tea and watching this all unfold. I was never a big fan of her, but now looking back on that interview, she’s had balls to go on her show and call her out like that.

  31. mara says:

    Please, can Ellen just go away already? I am happy that several stars have confirmed that the rumors of her nastiness are true. I used to buy into her fake ‘nice’ routine, but her nastiness to some of her guests made me tune out a while ago. She is way too fond of scaring people and making them uncomfortable. There is nothing kind or nice about her.

  32. Alex says:

    I don’t hear anyone coming to her rescue, which is telling. No one—not a grip, not a camera man, not Karen Kilgariff or notable writers. Maybe Ellen’s celeb friends are defending her but…not that I have noticed?

  33. candy says:

    I worked in a toxic organization like this for a high-powered individual. It absolutely comes from the top. Good that she is being called out, I personally never found her warm and fuzzy and her interviews are cringe. Often, I feel she’s passive aggressive and makes women feel bad about themselves. It’s rare that I’d label a woman sexist, but she fits the bill.