Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos has defended his company after allegations of employee cruelty made by the New York Times.
In a rare communication from the 51-year-old, Bezos told staff to carefully read the “very long” article and compared it with a “very different take by a current Amazonian” in an internal all-staff email.
Bezos said: “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.”
The company’s founder, who is worth $49.5bn, told staff that they could email him directly and that “even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero”.
Pushed to their limits
The New York Times piece interviewed over 100 former and current Amazon employees for its 5,400-word expose describing working conditions devoid of empathy that pushes employees to their limits in the name of productivity and efficiency. One former Amazon employee said: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
The article paints a picture where every part of employees’ working and personal lives are tracked and quantified, with instant replies to emails expected, even if sent in the middle of the night.
Employees are also apparently actively encouraged to secretly funnel their back-stabbing or praise through Amazon’s “Anytime Feedback Tool” while managers are forced to rate their employees and fire their lowest-scoring workers.
The article illustrated the alleged poor welfare with anecdotes from employees. One female employee with breast cancer was allegedly put on a “performance improvement plan” while another was sent on a business trip the day after suffering a miscarriage. A thyroid cancer sufferer was also allegedly marked with low performance on returning to work and told that Amazon was more productive without her.
Bezos said: “[The article] claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. I don’t recognise this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either.”
“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.”
A spokesperson for Amazon said: “While we generally do not comment on individual news stories, we quickly saw current Amazon employees react.”
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Monday 17th August 2015 13.44 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010