Jeff Bezos Slams New York Times Article Decrying Amazon’s ‘Bruising’ Workplace Culture

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos slammed a New York Times article published Sunday that decried the company’s “bruising” workplace culture.

The article quoted Amazon employees who recounted tales of workers crying at their desks and pregnant or seriously ill colleagues put on a “performance improvement plan.”

NYT spoke to 100 current and former employees. The piece said workers are constantly measured on performance and are expected to reply to emails even after midnight. Employees who fail to respond quickly to emails are sent text messages to prompt them back into work.

Practices intended to improve productivity are, according to the article, having a detrimental effect on the workforce. The company’s Anytime feedback tool allows Amazon employees to give private feedback about their co-workers. But according to those who spoke to NYT, the tool is “frequently used to sabotage others.”

Bezos responded to the article with a memo to Amazon staff saying “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.”

“Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero,” he added. Bezos himself is worth $49.5bn. Amazon recently overtook Walmart to become the world’s valuable retailer.

Apart from rejecting the NYT’s portrayal of Amazon’s working conditions, Bezos said he didn’t believe a company that treated its employees in such a poor way in the tech industry could be successful.

“I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market,” said Bezos.

One Amazon employee took to Linkedin to lavish praise on the company. Nick Ciubotariu, head of infrastructure development at Amazon emphasized that no one asked him to write the post. He described the NYT piece as a “hatchet job” and said “I’ve been here 18 months, and I’ve never seen anyone cry.”

He added “In 1997, Amazon revolutionized the way the world shops. Today, we’re the world’s most innovative technology company that just happens to sell books, among other things.”

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Guy Bentley