Jeff Bezos has responded to an article reporting on Amazon's allegedly unpleasant office culture by stating that the "shockingly callous management practices" do not ring true with the Amazon he knows.
A mammoth article from the New York Times reported on Amazon's "bruising workplace" this weekend, with the subheading informing readers that: "The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions."
The report has caught the attention of the Sultan of Seattle himself, who circulated a memo to employees encouraging them to blow the whistle on the kinds of management behaviours that were reported, either to human resources or directly to the CEO himself.
Bezos's response to the piece notes that: "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," wrote Bezos. "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."
Amazon's office culture prizes peculiarity, which the article notes is "the company's proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions". Workers who can be found to be insufficiently peculiar are culled annually, in what a former HR director described as "purposeful Darwinism".
"Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out, rather than given time to recover," reported the NYT.
A former employee in books marketing stated that the enduring image he had of the workplace was of his colleagues crying at their desks. "You walk out of a conference room and you'll see a grown man covering his face," he told the NYT. "Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk."
Bezos' memo, which has been published in full by GeekWire, stated:
The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace were 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 Register contacted Amazon to ask whether any additional action would be taken in the light of the NYT report, of if Bezos's memo encouraging employees to come forward about bullying would be considered the ultimate aim of the matter. We will update this article if and when we receive a response. ®