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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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 Dick 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.
This has "taken out of context" stamped all over it & symptomatic of a growing reliance on hyperbole to score points https://t.co/30bfSMBujy— dick costolo (@dickc) August 15, 2015
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 Germany, where staff at four Amazon warehouses have gone on strike several times over a long-standing dispute regarding work conditions and pay.