Jeff Bezos defends Amazon in wake of brutal New York Times Expose

By midian182 ยท 28 replies
Aug 17, 2015
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  1. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has refuted claims made in a damning New York Times report that described his company as having a demanding and degrading work environment which pushes employees to the limit.

    In an internal memo sent to staff, Bezos said he does not recognise the “soulless and dystopian” Amazon the piece portrayed and that it didn’t "describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with.”

    Dear Amazonians,

    If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give this (very long) New York Times article a careful read:

    I also encourage you to read this very different take by a current Amazonian:

    Here’s why I’m writing you. The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

    The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.

    I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.

    But hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.

    Thank you,


    Authors of the New York Times article interviewed over 100 current and former Amazon employees who painted a picture of a company that employs cruel management practices and shows little empathy for staff with health and family problems. One former employee was quoted as saying “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk."

    Other allegations made in the article included a female employee with breast cancer being put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals; an employee with thyroid cancer being given a low performance rating after she returned from treatment, her manager explaining that her peers achieved a great deal while she was out; and a woman being asked to go on a business trip the day after miscarrying twins.

    Some prominent names in the tech world, including Twitter CEO **** Costolo, have dismissed the Time’s report, saying it was “taken out of context”, bias, and that employees should accept that “intense” work environments are part of the culture of successful, large companies like Amazon. The company has found at least one employee willing to speak positively on its behalf; Nick Ciubotariu, an engineering manager at Amazon, has rejected claims made in the report.

    The online retail giant is no stranger to allegations that it allows toxic work environments; a BBC investigation into one of its UK-based warehouses found workers were expected to collect orders every 33 seconds - conditions that a stress expert said could cause "mental and physical illness". The company also faces problems in German, where staff at four Amazon warehouses have gone on strike several times over a long-standing dispute regarding work conditions and pay.

    Permalink to story.

  2. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,681   +1,080

    Anybody here work for Amazon and can shed anymore light?
    SantistaUSA and jobeard like this.
  3. Mo Ali

    Mo Ali TS Rookie

    I worked at AWS Support, you should keep in mind of the departments mentioned in the article. I used to work out of the Northern VA office building and I can tell you that no one was "sabotaged" by the internal phone system.

    They are a very metrics driven company. Like all big companies out there, you are a number. With that in mind, the department that I worked, you're not told to "climb the wall" they actually gave you some rope to climb up with (they being managers, leads, and other teammates).

    I had a very different experience. I have left the company to pursuit other opportunities that suit my needs that I could not find at Amazon. So with the context of the article, you should keep in mind at the size of the company and those particular departments. I was in the one of the departments where I'm a number, yes, but I was not sabotaged. So it should not persuade you from working there if you're looking for a career there. It's a great place to learn and further develop your career.
  4. Mo Ali

    Mo Ali TS Rookie

    I meant to say "no one that I knew was sabotaged by the phone system"
  5. fredderf81

    fredderf81 TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +40

    This is either a load of crap or other forces are at work here.

    the company I work for isnt exactly easy, but they pay well. people are constantly working well over 40 hours per week, on weekends, vacations, PTO, sick days, etc. most people you talk to will say they have about 50% of the tools, equipment and /or resources they need to do their job and yet they are constantly expected to perform as if they have the other 50% at their disposal. employees are given ridiculous goals and expectations and it is common that no one really knows all that many people because people come and go so quickly. some get fired...some get sick of it. but again, the company pays fairly well. databases are trash and bad data is rampant, IT is nearly non-existent, policies are all over the place and the ones that are, no one follows anyway...but the pay is quite good. travel is crazy and everyone has several different direct reports. one area of the business cannibalizes another area so that director's bonus is higher that year....but the pay is quite nice.

    so it really comes down to A: this is a load of crap or B: employees decide what is more important, their health / well-being / family life ... or money. In America, money almost always wins.

    I would say with amazon, they have so many employees that this is probably crap. one would think that if these things were actually happening, there would be more of an uproar among the employees of that company. I'm sure not ALL of them fall into the 'money' category.
  6. Littleczr

    Littleczr TS Addict Posts: 439   +86

    Good job tech spot, I read the article yesterday you linked on weekly tech readings then looked more in to it and now it has ballooned. Anyway I don't think all of what the article said is accurate.
    jobeard likes this.
  7. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,681   +1,080

    you could just edit the original in forum mode
  8. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,714   +855

    I live in Seattle and work 2 blocks from the Amazon main offices and a ginormous warehouse. I bump into their employees all the time during lunch, shopping or at one of the local brewpubs after work. They seem like a pretty damn happy and satisfied group to me. Not once have I sat next to a table of Amazon employees and heard any grumblings about their work beyond the usual, "wish I could win the lottery and not have to work" stuff that everyone says. Not to mention the line to get hired there goes around the block.

    Wouldn't surprise me one iota if the people they interviewed for this article were millennials who've had their hand held their entire lives by Mommy and Daddy and are now actually expected to do some work. We're having our fair share of problems with those types at my own place of employment.

    From what I see first hand, I think the article is total crap.
    p51d007 and jobeard like this.
  9. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that way... I live in America and have Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I am no longer able to drive or go out anymore but I'm a software engineer who works from home now. Not normally allowed by the company. I remain productive (especially since I can do little else, and end up putting in vastly more then your 40 hours a week. I've clocked as much as 120 on the worst weeks but often put in 60's+, without a commute, I still spend more time with the kids then many.) but also have 3 kids (21 and two 2's) and a wife and I make a fair living (more then most I'd wager). I also spent many months in the hospital and the HR/Medical department know me by name because I cost the company one of the most of all of them in terms of medical expenses between myself and the twins who were born at 27 weeks.

    It's not a bad thing but during open enrollment when I was still able to go into the office, they were like 'Your X person! I see your name all the time. Nice to put a face to it. How are things?'. I spend a LOT on medical that most people also do not. Last year my medical deductables totaled over $15k out of pocket and that doesn't include deductables, etc. Sure $ is important but if you don't have family, health (as much as possible) and well-being, why bother? $ alone just is NOT worth it. $ is just $. Doesn't help you when you're dead...
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015
    davislane1 and Arris like this.
  10. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Guru Posts: 358   +375

    I've heard these stories about amazon before so while I can't say if it's all 100% true there seems to be some smoke coming from the company even if they say there is no fire. We also sell some of our products on amazon and I can state dealing with their FBA teams (almost all the reps seem to be in India) sucks.
    OgnDulk likes this.
  11. Jeff Re

    Jeff Re TS Enthusiast Posts: 40   +13

    Unfortunately, I know of too many companies that really do treat their employees like the article.
    SantistaUSA and OgnDulk like this.
  12. OgnDulk

    OgnDulk TS Enthusiast Posts: 26   +6

    He advises disgruntled workers to complain to HR well knowing that's a sure way to get rid of a potential trouble making malcontent.
  13. insect

    insect TS Evangelist Posts: 349   +132

    I read both links in the letter - the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    Because all the Baby-Boomers and Gen X never complain \s. Try not to stereotype, it just makes you look silly and difficult to take seriously, though I agree the NYT article is overly-pessimistic and probably incorrect on most things.
  14. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,332   +1,978

    Never worked for them but one of their recruiters pursued me until I decided to grant them an interview. The first several interviews went very well (high tech, engineer/project manager job). I was talking with people that were knowledgeable, attentive and had a good grasp of the concepts we discussed ... then I finally got to the final hiring manager. He was Indian, had a poor command of the english language, kept asking questions that made him sound like a first year supervisor and seemed to be completely distracted. Needless to say I declined any further involvement. I was astounded and disappointed that such an important position would be filled by a person that obviously was not as knowledgeable as the other managers and would be allowed to behave so poorly. This looks like the classic case of a high growth rate where they are hiring anyone into management that can use a few chic management phrases without any real substance. Yeah, the New York Times has their flaws but over the course of time I have found more of their hard hitting articles to be dead on. Hopefully the Wall Street Journal will turn their reporters on to this situation so we can see how much of NYT is on the mark.
  15. mctommy

    mctommy TS Addict Posts: 216   +38

    Personally I know some current and former amazonians and according to them, it's fairly accurate with the caveat that it depends on the department.
    dirtyferret likes this.
  16. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,128   +982

    Me too :sigh:
    dirtyferret likes this.
  17. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,304   +648

    Don't like how they treat someone? QUIT! No one forces you to work for anyone. (Unless you are slave labor in the Asian Pacific, Central America, etc.
    People grumble all the time where they work. If the working conditions were THAT bad, the silly government would have looked into it by now, along with unions, the NLRB etc.
    Smartphones/Tablets have made it more difficult to disconnect after the normal working hours.
    I work for a small company, less than 100 employees. My personal belief is if it isn't in writing, screw
    it on the weekend. I usually am at the office at 7am, unless I go directly to a customers location.
    I'm usually at the office and lock up because I'm the last one there after 5pm. But, that is MY choice.
    Get to the office early, stay late, I don't have to put up with the ***** drivers, plus, it is QUIET, and can
    do any paperwork, work related internet, grab a bite, get caffeine in my system, read the news BEFORE
    everyone gets there. Same after work. Less traffic and it is QUIET.
    On weekends, if my phone rings, unless it is family/friends, sorry, direct to voicemail.
  18. Trajer

    Trajer TS Rookie

    I work currently at a Fulfillment Center, one that is air conditioned, well maintained and is full of (mostly) friendly staff. The biggest complaint I have is the last of communication among management and over-hiring. That said, the benefits are heads-and-shoulders better than any other job I've had, it has competitive pay compared to my other options, and is generally a fun and interesting if not monotonous job.

    Most comments I saw on the reddit thread from the PA Warehouse article bashed this place pretty hard. One of the major complaints were the breaks: two 15-minute breaks, one 30-minute lunch. Your breaks are 15 minutes including walk time, which sucks, but can be pretty lenient depending on your department. Also, if your biggest complaint is missing a few minutes of a break, then you need to grow up and get a different job. No one said work is easy, and most states don't even require any breaks at all.

    TL;DR: I love my job at Amazon and even with the shortcomings, it's the best opportunity I've had in a decade.
  19. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,567   +714

    No... but some of us like to eat... and when you quit one job, it's not always so easy to get another... especially if you are relying on a reference - which probably won't be so hot from a company you just quit on...

    Anyone who's living in Toronto might have heard of some of the articles posted about the TDSB (Toronto District School Board) and it's "climate of fear"... I'm a teacher and while I personally haven't experienced it, I can vouch for many others who will confirm that everything stated in these articles is true - and probably worse!

    Does the government do anything (and the TDSB technically is OWNED by the government)? NO!! It's really tough for government to intervene in a large company - and Amazon is amongst the biggest...

    Unless you actually work or know someone who works in those affected departments in Amazon, you can't know for sure... but usually, where there's smoke, there's fire!
  20. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,185   +469

    A lot of people address this issue by finding another job before quitting their current job. I'm sure one can find difficulties with following this plan of action but I think, generally, it would be preferable to quitting first and then seeking employment afterwards.
  21. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,567   +714

    Yes... that's obviously preferable... but also not always an option for people... we're not exactly in a booming job market...

    Many companies know they "have you by the balls" and can treat you as they wish.... sad, but true...
  22. hrowder

    hrowder TS Enthusiast Posts: 60   +11

    Just yesterday my wife and I discovered the body of a friend I had known for 20 years. He had been a database engineer/software writer of good competence. In the last few years he was unable to get any work because of his diabetes and other medical problems which, without the health care insurance which can only be afforded through work environments that provide it and he could no longer afford, his health continually declined. He applied for disability but was denied... twice, even though he could no longer even walk well enough to get over a curb. We had taken him to dinner for his birthday just 10 days ago, and it seems he died soon after that in his house, which he had already received a foreclosure notice for. So to those of you who say "if you don't like it just quit!" I would reply sure, if you want to die alone and unknown in your own house. He had been divorced previously almost entirely as a direct result of his work schedule when he was working. He was in his early fifties, and men of his age are no longer regarded as "viable employees" even though they can do their jobs with better than average competence. If you have read any work related articles lately, you will see that more than a few large companies have taken to laying off or requiring "early retirement" for persons who exceed a certain age limit they have arbitrarily set, mostly in their late fifties. It reminds me of the stories of eskimo families who put their elders on an ice flow and wave goodbye because they are no longer able to hunt. I have no doubt that some of the stories related to Amazon are true, though hopefully not endemic. Yet, seeing how this friend fared, and having similar experiences with even my own wife from her work place, I would say it is more common than most of you younger workers imagine.
    SantistaUSA likes this.
  23. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Guru Posts: 358   +375

    Having worked for several large companies (fortune 500), the HR departments seem to be trained by ex-KGB operatives. I've been in management training classes by HR that would be more accurately described as "how not to get the company sued". I whole heartily agree that you have to be very careful about making complaints to HR.
    SantistaUSA likes this.
  24. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Guru Posts: 358   +375

    OK cool, so if I quit will you pay for my family's health insurance, diapers, food, etc., etc.,because I would personally like to take you up on such an offer as looking for a new job is a full time job.
    SantistaUSA likes this.
  25. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,923   +756

    Like mailpup said, find another job first, then leave the one you don't like. I've done that numerous times in my career, and each time, what I have gone into has been better than what I left. Better, not perfect, mind you.
    I can certainly understand why you would be upset since you considered this person a friend of yours, however, there have been many studies in recent years that say just the opposite about older employees. In fact, I'm 56 and could leave my job today and find a different one in a matter of a few days, but then again, I have a great reputation, I've been careful not to burn any bridges anywhere. I am also a diabetic, and I put taking care of myself tops among priority. I cannot comment on your friend because I do not know the person, but if anyone takes the attitude that you suggest, as I see it, they are half-way on to defeat to begin with. I had a heart attach nearly 30-years ago, but I used that as a springboard to a new day. It changed my outlook and each new day is a gift to me. I don't wait to be p!ssed on by the universe, and if anyone p!sses on me, I walk away from them realizing that it is them who cannot see that life is a matter of an attitude - and that they create their own reality. It is tragic what happened to your friend, but what happened to your friend is rare in my world.

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