Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, responded to his employees directly via letter in response to the searing New York Times article titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” in which they accuse the retail giant of bad practices and creating a “bruising workplace”, among other things.
In the company-wide letter obtained by NYT, Bezos stated Amazon would not tolerate the “shockingly callous management practices” described in the article. He also urged any employees to contact him directly if they knew of “stories like those reported”.
Amazon has always been a company built on an uncompromising attitude. They have excelled at fast-paced business with a hard-working ethos and hard-hitting management style. The company’s motto is, after all, “Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History.” Jeff Bezos wouldn’t have it any other way calling the culture surrounding the company “friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.”
This intensity has quickly propelled the retail giant into the top 10 of the top retailers worldwide and earned them a market capitalization of $250 billion. However, it’s also this dedication that drives them so hard it has perhaps blinded them to the treatment of others.
The original New York Times article focused on the accounts of one hundred former and current employees from different departments in the company. They describe a work environment that teeters on the line between the self-described “friendly and intense” culture and what would seem to be unjust punishment.
Employees are held accountable for knowing a large array of metrics and tested on their capacity to remember and recall them. In one “business review” held weekly or monthly, employees receive printouts sometimes fifty to sixty pages long a day or two in advance. At the review, the employees are cold-called and pop-quizzed on any one of those thousands of numbers.
In some of the worse-case situations, employees who had gone through devastating and debilitating procedures were treated with disdain and brashness. One woman suffering from thyroid cancer was given a low performance rating after returning from treatment because her peers were accomplishing a great deal compared to her. Another who had breast cancer was “in danger of being fired” and put on performance review because her personal life was interfering with business. A female employee who miscarried twins had to leave for a business trip the day after surgery being told by her boss that “the work is still going to need to get done” and “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.” Another who gave birth to a stillborn child stated “I had just experienced the most devastating event in my life” only to be put on performance review “to make sure my focus stayed on my job.” She left the company shortly after.
After the article was published, Jeff Bezos urged his 180,000 employees to give it “a careful read”, but stated it “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” He went on to say, “I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either.” He also told his employees, “Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”
Do you think Jeff Bezos is sincere in his statements and truthful in his lack of knowledge at what happens at Amazon, or is he just trying to backpedal to keep stock prices high and save face? Tell us in the comments below.