The New York Times’ damning account (paywall) of Amazon’s intense work culture, published on Saturday (Aug. 15), took over social media feeds over the weekend. Reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld spoke to more than 100 current and former white collar employees of the e-commerce giant, and described a workplace where people are pushed incredibly hard, conflict is encouraged, mothers and those going through personal difficulties are treated harshly, and there’s rapid turnover and frequent weeping at desks.
Over the weekend, Bezos shot back with a memo (confirmed by an Amazon spokesperson) that actually encourages people to read the piece. He asks them to personally email him or tell human resources if they encounter the sort of behavior described in the piece.
He denies that the company is trying to create the sort of “dystopian” workplace the piece describes, and said the company could never succeed if it did.
He also suggests employees read a long LinkedIn post from Amazon executive Nick Ciubotariu that pushes back point by point against much of the New York Times piece. Ciubotariu offers an impassioned argument that the Times article is biased, has facts wrong, is selective in its reporting, and does not accurately represent how the company currently works or feels.
“I’m not going to stand idly by as a horribly misinformed piece of ‘journalism’ slanders my company in public without merit,” Ciubotariu writes.
Bezos is making something of a statement by linking to his colleague’s response, but his own words are rather more diplomatic.
“I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay,” Bezos writes. “I know I would leave such a company. But hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described.”
Here’s the full memo:
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.