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A tough weekend for the e-commerce behemoth.
POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Epic, fiery 5,000-word rebuttal penned by an Amazon exec takes on the New York Times’ “hatchet piece”

By Max Nisen

It takes a good head of steam to spend a Saturday writing a 5,000-plus word response to a New York Times article. But Nick Ciubotariu, an Amazon employee for the past 18 months, was sufficiently outraged by Jody Kantor and David Streitfeld’s piece (paywall) on his employer’s management culture that he felt compelled to put his lengthy rebuttal up at LinkedIn, Medium, and on a personal blog.

“I don’t have the data to discuss the past—so I won’t,” wrote Ciubotariu, the company’s head of infrastructure development for search. “However, so much that is written here is deliberately painted to match current reality, and it does not, even by a stretch of the imagination. That is not responsible journalism—that’s a hatchet piece. So let’s correct that, starting now.”

His biggest complaints: The article cherry picks anecdotes to fit a biased narrative; goes out of its way to paint the company as an outlier when many of its practices are industry standard; and that the Amazon described in the piece may have existed in the past, but is nothing like the company today. 

There’s obviously bias here on the executive’s side as well (maybe not a bad career move either, since CEO Jeff Bezos called the post out in his own rebuttal). And Kantor and Streitfeld, who interviewed more than 100 employees, say Ciubotariu gets some facts wrong (paywall).

Regardless, the screed has gotten some traction. In addition to the Bezos shoutout, Amazon’s PR team is apparently sending it out to reporters as an alternate viewpoint. (Ciubotariu says no one at the company asked him to write the article, or even knew about it until it was posted.)

In the post, he denies that people are encouraged to cruelly tear others’ ideas apart, that it’s commonplace for people to weep at their desks, or that there’s overwhelming pressure to work nights and weekends. He acknowledges some of that might have been more true in the past (he quotes an anonymous executive to that effect), but says the company has consciously improved.

His experience, of course, is rather limited and specific to him. His relatively short tenure, and the fact that he’s an executive in a highly valued technology role, might have insulated him to a degree. The Times article notes that people’s experiences vary by department substantially.

In the end, the average day-to-day at Amazon probably isn’t the tech utopia described by Ciubotariu—complete with Nerf gun fights—or an unrelenting cutthroat nightmare full of people that would let someone’s cancer diagnosis affect a performance review (among the anecdotes Bezos acknowledges as wholly unacceptable, if true).