Amazon CEO responds to ‘dystopian workplace’ allegations

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Amazon hit headlines recently after a New York Times (NYT) exposé claimed that the company’s ruthless and “unreasonably high” expectations were reducing “nearly every [employee]” to tears.
 
The article – which was published on Saturday and generated thousands of comments and responses – has now led to the corporation’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, personally responding to the claims.
 
Bezos’ response came in the form of a memo to employees, which was originally published online by technology news site GeekWire.
 
In the memo, Amazon’s chief executive said that anyone who worked at a company like the one depicted in the NYT report would be “crazy to stay” there, adding that he hoped Amazon employees “don’t recognize the company described”.

“[The article] claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard,” he wrote. “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 NYT article compiled an extensive list of allegations using more than 100 interviews with current and former Amazon employees. These included claims that cancer patients were given low performance reviews after returning from treatment, and the mother of a stillborn child was put on a performance review plan.

In the memo, Bezos did not confirm or deny any specific allegations, but referred to the company’s management practices around health and family issues as “shockingly callous”.

He also encouraged staff to contact the HR department or to email his personal address if they had heard of these practices occurring.  

Bezos suggested that employees read the NYT story if that had not already done so, and requested that they then read a LinkedIn post published by a current employee.
In the latter post, engineering leader Nick Ciubotariu argued that the NYT article was “so blatantly incorrect”, stating that the conditions described are “definitely not the Amazon of today”.

The full memo from Bezos to employees, as originally obtained by GeekWire, read:
 
Dear Amazonians,
 
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give this (very long) New York Times article a careful read:
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html
 
I also encourage you to read this very different take by a current Amazonian:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians-response-inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-nick-ciubotariu
 
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 jeff@amazon.com. 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,
Jeff

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