Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been at the center of criticism following the release of a New York Times exposé that highlighted his company’s “brutal” work environment and controversial management practices. In response to Jeff Bezos’ memo to employees on Monday, one spouse of a former Amazon employee says it is a little too late.
Beth Anderson, the wife of a former Amazonian, wrote in a letter published by Quartz and addressed to the CEO in answer to his request for direct feedback:
“In a memo on Monday, you asked employees to write to you if they had any stories that were similar to those published in The New York Times’s now-controversial takedown of your company’s work management practices published Aug. 15.”
The couple uprooted their lives and left their friends, family and former jobs behind when her husband was hired by Amazon in 2007. Life in Seattle was dazzling at first; the couple was even assigned corporate housing with a waterfront view. However, the glamour soon wore off,.and the grueling work life crept up:
“But little by little, the shine wore off. My husband’s first team was responsible for managing shipping warehouse software. With warehouses around the globe, my husband would get paged to fix problems in China in the middle of the night, in the UK in the wee hours of the morning, and then in the Kentucky warehouse during work hours. During those weeks when he was ‘on call,’ we would hunker down in our apartment, isolated, tethered to the laptop.”
The demands of her husband’s work schedule was overwhelming for the both of them. He was expected to respond within 15 minutes if his pager went off or risk backlash from his manager.
“If something came directly from you, Jeff, it was all hands on deck until that problem got figured out. No matter the emotional or physical toll.”
As time went on, her husband’s team dwindled down to three people, and the leftover workload was piled onto his shoulders. The effects were detrimental to his work-life balance.
“ ‘Our’ all-time record was 64 different pages in one 24-hour span, mostly answered outside of business hours.
“Without children, this schedule was grueling. But when our girls were born, it became almost unbearable.”
She and her husband sacrificed much for his job, and it took a toll on their relationship and family life at home.
“When our first daughter was about a month old, he was asked to go on a business trip. I imagine he could have turned that down, but I was insistent that he go so his managers not worry his home life was impacting his work ethic. This is the Amazon way, after all. It was one of the loneliest weeks of my life.”
By the end of his time at Amazon in 2013, her husband had underwent such a tremendous amount of work stress that she recommended him therapy.
“Ironic, isn’t it, that we were able to afford such a good therapist because of Amazon?”
Anderson doesn’t seem to harbor resentment against Bezos for the stress she and her husband endured those years while he worked for the company. On the flip side, she is appreciative of what their move to Seattle has brought into their lives in terms of other, better career opportunities after Amazon. She ended her letter on an ambivalent note:
“But it’s hard to know if the six years we spent at your company were worth it.
“If only you had asked for our feedback earlier, and responded with the same kind of intensity with which you expect your own employees to respond to yours.”