NY Times Claims Amazon Is A Cruel, Soul-Devouring Workplace; Jeff Bezos Disagrees

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a lengthy article based on interviews with current and former (mostly former) Amazon employees about the company’s employment practices. They concluded that for most employees, the pace of work and atmosphere were unbearable, allowing employees no personal lives, encouraging snitching and paranoia, and working employees impossibly hard before spitting most of them out a couple of years later.

The workplace that the Times describes isn’t bad compared to some workplaces: it doesn’t directly physically endanger workers’ lives or safety, like a white-collar version of the company’s warehouses that let employees pass out from heat exhaustion rather than install air conditioning. Amazon workers are paid competitively, but their offices lack the fancy perks that tech workers for other companies might get.

No one seems to disagree that Amazon employees work long hours and that working there isn’t for everyone. The allegations that led founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to send out an all-company e-mail this morning, though, were that employees dealing with their own or close family members’ health problems or even a personal tragedy like a stillbirth were punished for not putting their jobs first.

Bezos encourages employees to read the Amazon piece, then says that if some of the more extreme stories are true, he wants to hear about it:

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.

Even the best CEO inevitably has some jerks working under him or her in management, so maybe Bezos’ horror is genuine. People interviewed for the piece say that this attitude is knitted into the company culture, though: hard work and constant criticism of one’s peers are the best way to get ahead in system where a certain percentage of workers every year are culled: something that Bezos denies but that an Amazon spokesperson earlier confirmed to the Times.

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace [NY Times]
Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Won’t Tolerate ‘Callous’ Management Practices [NY Times]

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