Amazon CEO and billionaire founder Jeff Bezos is defending his company following the New York Times’ alarming expose on Saturday, Aug. 15. After the paper printed a report revealing employees’ allegedly cutthroat experiences working for the company, Bezos sent an internal memo to workers, asking them to speak up.
"The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day,” Bezos wrote in the memo, obtained by Geek Wire on Sunday, Aug. 16. “But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly…Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”
Bezos continued: “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."
Bezos concluded his memo by saying that he hopes his employees are “having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.”
In case you missed it, the Times' expose quoted employees who described working conditions as ruthless. One employee told the paper that after she suffered a miscarriage, she was ordered to travel for work one day following her surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” her boss reportedly told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”
Another employee said it wasn’t uncommon to see people crying at work. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. Someone else who was recovering from cancer was also allegedly told that she was failing at fulfilling her work goals because of “difficulties” in her “personal life.”
Amazon’s senior vice president for corporate global affairs, Jay Carney, dismissed the report, telling CBS This Morning in a statement, “I think the fundamental flaw in the story is the suggestion that any company that had the kind of culture that The New York Times wrote about, sort of a cruel, Darwinian or Dickensian kind of atmosphere in the workplace could survive and thrive in today’s marketplace.”
Following the report, Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns author John Green tweeted that he was canceling his Amazon Prime account. “Worst cult ever,” he tweeted, along with a link to the Times article.
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