Quoted: Jeff Bezos disputes article about Amazon’s ruthless culture

“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.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, on the New York Times article over the weekend that painted a nightmarish portrait of his company’s work environment. In a memo to employees obtained by GeekWire, Bezos said “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know” and urged employees who see the type of harsh practices described in the article to tell HR, or him directly.

Money quote from the NYT article: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,” said Bo Olson, who worked in book marketing at Amazon for less than two years.

The article, based on interviews with more than 100 current and former employees of the retail behemoth, included gems such as: a peer review system in which employees gang up on other employees they see as poor performers; a woman who suffered a miscarriage pressured to go on a business trip the day after surgery; a woman who had breast cancer who was put on a “performance improvement plan.”

In his memo, Bezos told employees: “Hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described.”

The article is not the first unflattering account of Amazon’s demanding culture. The 2013 book “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” described Bezos’ management style as sometimes brutal. (“If I hear that idea again, I’m gonna have to kill myself” is among the many putdowns Bezos is said to have uttered to employees.) And that’s just about treatment of the company’s white-collar workers. The experiences of Amazon’s warehouse workers have also gotten plenty of press over the years.


Photo: Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, holds the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD at the product’s introduction in Santa Monica on Sept. 6, 2012. (Reed Saxon/Associated Press)


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  • Admiral401

    Or maybe this isn’t the Amazon that he knows, because he’s so isolated from the grunts that he can’t see it, and no one there has the courage to tell him the truth.

    • RegularGuy55

      That seems completely reasonable. All the way up corporate management chains, the emphasis is ‘get the job done’. Managers aren’t rewarded for bring bad news to the executive offices, they’re rewarded for getting results. The CEO’s view of life among the worker bees is always obscured by middle management.

  • ellafino

    You would think in this age of cellphone video someone would have documented the reported mistreatment.

  • Merle Kessler

    Bezos is a saint, a saint I tell you.

  • DL2014

    If managers use the anonymous text/phone review system as a primary performance review vehicle they are creating a zero sum game rather than a cooperative work environment where everyone is working to increase the size of the pie rather than get a bigger piece. Waiting for Bezos to address that same tool of which use is written into multiple HR handbooks.