Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has responded to a rather long list of stinging criticisms about the company, published in a New York Times article (NYT) titled "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace," over the weekend.
In a memo, obtained by The Verge, Bezos told employees:
"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."
On Saturday, the New York Times published quotes from ex-employees who described the organisation as a place where overachievers go to feel bad.
The article included a series of anecdotes that showed off an unflattering side of the company's work culture, including management's reported lack of empathy for employees suffering from a potentially terminal illness such as cancer.
A woman with thyroid cancer told the publication that her boss had given her a low performance rating after she came back to work from treatment.
Bezos addressed these stories saying:
"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 email@example.com. Even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."
Interviewees also referred to the punishing work hours inflicted on them by Amazon and the lack of work/life balance they had while at the company.
According to the NYT:
"One ex-employee’s fiancé became so concerned about her nonstop working night after night that he would drive to the Amazon campus at 10 p.m. and dial her cellphone until she agreed to come home.
"When they took a vacation to Florida, she spent every day at Starbucks using the wireless connection to get work done."
However, in his memo Bezos points to another article posted on LinkedIn by a current employee, Nick Ciubotariu, a day after the NYT published their feature.
The post titled "An Amazonian's response to "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace" (unsurprisingly) gives a more positive depiction of what it is like to work for the company.
Ciubotariu insists that "no one" made him write his report and that his attempt to post it in the comments section of the NYT, was thwarted by the site's moderators.
This is Bezos' full memo, as obtained by The Verge:
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.