Amazon’s CEO is Not Impressed With What the New York Times Had to Say About His Company

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is fighting back against accusations from a recent New York Times exposé that decried the company as a “bruising” place to work. The Times article questioned Amazon’s leadership principles by highlighting the company’s unreasonably high demands and its encouragement of workplace sabotage and backstabbing.

Bezos defended himself on Sunday when he wrote in a letter:

“The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. 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.”

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The CEO acknowledged that the exposé was comprehensive and didn’t focus exclusively on a few “isolated anecdotes.” The story incorporated responses from 100 former and current employees and concluded that Amazon is essentially conducting its own experiment testing the limits of how far they can “push white-collar workers to achieve their ever-expanding ambitions.”

Bezos pointed out the importance of promoting a positive work environment in the race to attract and retain top talent against other giant companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft. While the technology sector is booming, companies such as Amazon need to foster positive work cultures in order to keep their employees happy. Bezos said of the Times’ portrayal of his company:

“I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.”

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Bezos went on to elaborate on his zero tolerance for inappropriate management behavior and poor treatment of employees. He encouraged his workers to report any incidents immediately:

“If you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at [email protected]. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”

He is most likely responding to the Times’ reference of their internal phone directory, which directs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Workers at Amazon reveal that they often use the tool to sabotage one another.

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One of the isolated incidents reported by Amazon was that of Bo Olson, a former Amazon employee who worked in the books marketing department. Olson attested to the difficulty in working in such an environment:

“You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face.

Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

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Nick Ciubotariu, head of infrastructure development for Amazon’s search product, gave a strongly opinionated response to the accusations against his company in a LinkedIn post that went viral on Saturday:

“If Amazon was the type of place described in this article, I would publicly denounce Amazon, and leave.”

The full text of Bezos’s letter:

“Dear Amazonians,

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give this (very long) New York Times article a careful read: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

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I also encourage you to read this very different take by a current Amazonian: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians-response-inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-nick-ciubotariu

Here’s why I’m writing you. The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. 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. You can also email me directly at [email protected] Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. 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 people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.

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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.

But hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.

Thank you,

Jeff”

 

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