This Sunday’s New York Times contained a lengthy, shocking piece on its front page with the headline “Amazon’s Bruising, Thrilling Workplace”. The story, reported by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, contains disturbing anecdotes from former employees – many anonymous – and casts a harsh light on founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’s leadership. (Let’s just say there’s a heavy emphasis on the “bruising” part of the tech giant’s workplace).
One particularly provocative paragraph, placed high in the story, reads as follows:
Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.
In response to the article, which was published online Saturday and was talked about online all weekend, Bezos wrote a memo and distributed it to the entire company. In the note, he both encouraged employees to “carefully” read the Times story, and writes that the article “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” Bezos goes on to include his personal email address and encourages workers to report anything untoward, even if it’s rare – because, he writes, “tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”
There also exists a widely-read and measured refutation of nearly every claim made in the piece, written by current Amazon employee Nick Ciubotariu. In his blog post, Ciubotariu – in addition to carefully picking apart many of the story’s smaller factual claims – makes a very simple overarching point:
…hiring the very best of the very best is incredibly difficult, especially at Amazon. And it’s just stupid to create and, heaven forbid, foster an environment that encourages people to leave just as you’ve worked so hard to find and hire them in the first place.
Ciubotariu does acknowledge that he’s heard tales of Amazon’s unpleasant work environment in the past, but says that the New York Times story in no way reflects the company he’s worked at for the past 18 months.
It’s also worth noting that Bezos, who owns Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, the longtime rival of the Times.