This week, The New York Times published an article titled, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.” It caused quite a stir, including Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, coming forward to defend his company.
Let’s begin with some of the most startling anecdotes. There was a woman who had just lost a child in pregnancy – she was put on performance review because she wasn’t giving her all to the company. Emails are sent out at all hours of the night and if you miss an email, you will get a text message a few minutes later asking why you haven’t replied. Daily performance reviews are standard – so employees can both boost and tear down each other anonymously.
Amazon was described as a place for overachievers to go to feel bad about themselves. In a YouTube video aimed at attracting employees to work for Amazing, a senior engineer explains, “You either fit in here or you don’t. There is no middle ground.”
Employment lawyers in Seattle were regularly contacted by Amazon workers claiming unfair treatment – most of the time saying they were pushed out for “not being sufficiently devoted to the company.” However, unfairness isn’t illegal so it is a difficult suit to win. Only 15 percent of employees stayed with Amazon for more than five years. Officials at Amazon say that this is because hiring was so robust.
“Purposeful Darwinism” is what Robin Andrulevich, a former top amazon human resources executive calls it.
Founder, Jeff Bezos says that he doesn’t recognize the company they are describing. “Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.” He also told employees to contact human relations or himself if any situations like those named have occurred.
Some loyal Amazon customers have even spoken up. “I want the company I’m dealing with to treat the human beings who work there with respect, not force them into a climate of fear. That’s at least, how The New York Times described it, and even if Bezos claims to not recognize the environment, over 100 current and former Amazonians who spoke to The New York Times did.”
Amazon may be focused on creating instant delivery for their customers, but it turns out that their customers don’t want it if it takes these circumstances.