Jeff Bezos dismisses claims that Amazon is an evil employer


Jeff Bezos says The New York Times painted an inaccurate picture of life at Amazon.
Jeff Bezos says The New York Times painted an inaccurate picture of life at Amazon.
Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr CC

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wouldn’t want to toil in the dehumanizing hellhole described in a recent report about work conditions at his company. In a memo to employees responding to the allegations, Bezos painted a picture of caring Amazonians who are “fun” and “brilliant” and “helping to invent the future, and laughing along the way.”

He also said anybody who gets treated badly by Amazon should snitch to HR — or email him directly to air their grievances.

Reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, who wrote the The New York Times’ lengthy Amazon-bashing article, talked with more than 100 current and former employees, who described an atmosphere of breakneck pace, emails that arrive past midnight, terse brainstorming sessions and people who cry at their desks.

Bezos said the depiction sounds nothing like the Amazon he founded.

“I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay,” he wrote in the memo, first obtained by GeekWire. “I know I would leave such a company. The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices.”

Amazon is the largest internet-based retailer in the United States and Bezos is considered the fifth-richest person in the world, according to the Times. The company’s ambitions include consumer electronics, like the Kindle e-book readers and Fire tablets, and the company is pushing for drone-powered delivery that could bring products to customers in a matter of minutes.

According to the Times, Amazon’s embrace of technology has a dark side. Amazon uses a data-driven management system that measures the productivity of each employee, leading to the horrors described in the story.

Those who talked with the Times came from a cross-section of Amazon departments: the leadership team, human resources, marketing, retail and engineering. Some said they thrived amid the high expectations and, even if they washed out early, saw their careers take off.

The best employees were described as “athletes” by the company; one employee referred to these thriving team members as “Amabots” who become one with the system.

Bezos called BS on the allegations. He encouraged employees to check out the Times’ story — and also to read a far more rosy account of what it’s like to work at Amazon.

The Times’ article “goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes,” he said. “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 article also described employees who were shunned because of having to take time off for a family emergency or pregnancy. To this Bezos replied, “Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”