back to article 'I don't recognise Amazon as a bullying workplace' says Bezos

Jeff Bezos has responded to an article reporting on Amazon's allegedly unpleasant office culture by stating that the "shockingly callous management practices" do not ring true with the Amazon he knows. A mammoth article from the New York Times reported on Amazon's "bruising workplace" this weekend, with the subheading …

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Really? The CEO and founder found that everyone at the office was nice to him, regardless of the claims that the workplace is unpleasant?

Well, there's no reason why people who were being twats to lower-ranked staff would behave differently with him, is there.

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He is not the only one to criticise the article. Several other Amazon employees have on LinkedIn and elsewhere... But just because those employees have not witnessed what's been described in the article, does not mean bad people managers don't exist in the company and do turn someone's workplace experience at Amazon into a special kind of hell.

That said, Bezos specifically says that if this *is* the case for someone, they should report this to him, so it can be investigated.

That probably excludes any 'casual' 'partner' in the warehouses though...

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That said, Bezos specifically says that if this *is* the case for someone, they should report this to him, so it can be investigated.

Most whistle blower programs are simply way of getting troublemakers to self identify, IME.

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Anonymous Coward

@Ledswinger

that and open door polices. Been there.

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Bad whistleblowing programmes are... well... bad. The problem is that HR (oh, sorry, people services) should be neutral in all of this, but they never are...

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Childcatcher

C'mon, get real!

Even Sadists laugh!

Why does the picture make Bezos look like a coke fiend all pumped up and ready to work at 190mph speed. Of course at that speed, mere mortals who couldn't afford the crack / cocaine diet must look like slackers!

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Anonymous Coward

been there too

The first one to report was fired.

He was also the last one.

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Anonymous Coward

in the picture the only thing missing is the ring.

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Black Helicopters

I am oddly reminded of this Dilbert strip

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Meh

"does not mean bad people managers don't exist in the company and do turn someone's workplace experience at Amazon into a special kind of hell."

Yes that's the problem - the NYT stated Amazon is "conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions", implying it's the whole company. All Bezos has to do is show a token non-jackass which effectively refutes that claim.

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Anonymous Coward

"Most whistle blower programs are simply way of getting troublemakers to self identify, IME."

That, and sometimes used as a weapon against other employees, e.g. a pesky manager standing in the way of your oh-so-well-deserved promotion. Or even just someone you don't like in the workplace -- no problem, simply sick HR on them.

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds like what I heard

Friend worked in line management at one of their warehouses. He was asked by a senior manager to look into allegations that another shift had been falsifying their numbers. He found and presented evidence that supported that. Not too long afterwards, he was baited by an employee in that group into saying a naughty word, grounds for termination according to Amazon.

The senior manager who asked him to work on the project declined to intervene on his behalf with HR.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sounds like what I made up just now

>>he was baited by an employee in the group into saying a naughty word<<

Right, he didn't cuss someone out, he was "baited" into saying a bad word. What chance did he stand against a master baiter??

Seriously, what sort of person upvotes anonymous bullshit like this? Have you no critical thinking ability at all?

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Re: Sounds like what I made up just now

In the US where there is a lack of worker protection, this is easily done.

A friend working for a certain Redmond software house explicitly told his line manager not to include his latest code in a critical build for their project. Those instructions were ignored and when it all went tits-up, he pointed to his email and said "I TOLD you not to". Cue his termination not too long after on the basis of 'bad development practices' because he'd caused his boss to lose face in front of the team.

Needless to say, dodgy power-mad management exists everywhere, not just Amazon.

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WTF?

"...caring Amazonians"

FFS.

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the beatings will continue until morale improves.

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I did a little research before interviewing there and it becomes really clear on Glassdoor very quickly that your experience there is "purposefully Dawinian."

It also becomes abundantly clear that your experience will be at least 50% dictated by your direct supervisor. So, a$$hole boss == crying at desk. Nice boss == competitive but interesting environment.

The guy I interviewed with turned out to be not that nice, so I ran. It was an interesting experience nonetheless and I am quite confident that a lot can be learned from working there.

Fun fact: one interviewer said he'd been there 3 yrs (he was the sole developer for one of their web products) so I joked that he must be a real veteran of the company. He immediately went to check and found he was in the 86th percentile for length of time at Amazon. Good grief, that place has turnover.

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This is exactly the Amazon I know - As a customer

I've been through the process of onboarding as a reseller with two different companies and Amazon are horrific to work with - They are arrogant and have a hugely inflated sense of self-worth for a generic online store.

I'm not at all surprised that they treat each other like crap internally, when they do that to their corporate customers too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is exactly the Amazon I know - As a customer

They're just trying to stimulate you to perform better as their corporate amazonian customer.

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Re: This is exactly the Amazon I know - As a customer

My mate, a publisher, says that Amazon visits him every year and leans very heavily to get more % shaved off from what he gets and onto what they get. Since he is a decent bloke and keeps the royalties as per contract with his authors, he himself has to take the hit. His opinion is that Amazon does not give a rat's ass for books, which is heartily confirmed by umpteen other news stories I've read. As a near monopoly, Amazon can simply squeeze publishers until the pips squeak, and if a small publisher goes under, who cares?

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Re: This is exactly the Amazon I know - As a customer

Sadly, in the world of Amazon and massive supermarket chains, your mate is actually the problem. The correct response to being squeezed is not let them. The problem for the publishing industry is that its been a sheltered workshop full of genuinely nice people for a long time and they simply don't have the skills to stand up to the hard men from the likes of Amazon.

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Re: This is exactly the Amazon I know - As a customer

Amazon is not a bookseller. They are a logistics process company, just like supermarkets are. They both shave off every penny they can, and they'll keep squeezing until the pips squeak.

Why do you think are the farmers in uproar over the milk prices that are charged by supermarkets compared to the pittance they are paid by the milk processors? Because they're being squeezed out of business and supermarkets don't mind because that stuff's a loss leader for them. Until their customers boycott them and pressure them into giving the farmers more, that is.

Ultimately, until Amazon's customers boycott them (good luck!) or pressure/shame them (good luck!) into returning better margins to suppliers, they'll keep pushing their boundaries... Their processes are so fine tuned that it's hard to get away from them...

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Oh boy!

Anybody who can make marketeers cry is OK with me. It makes up for the times marketing has brought tears to my eyes.

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Re: Oh boy!

problem is, Amazon also employs people

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was a good article to read

As someone who worked in the Seattle area from 2000 -> 2011 I heard a lot of these kinds of stories from amazon folks, though I didn't know of things that were *that* bad, I knew enough by 2005 that I knew I would never want to work there though.

The article did enlighten me on one point though, I had one co-worker, ex amazon 11 years ago (maybe he is reading this I was tempted to email him). When he joined our company at the time people thought he had tourettes by his behavior especially in meetings he would semi regularly attack people(verbally). Nobody wanted to work with him. He was (probably still is) a really smart and knowledgeable person(though I'd never work with him again if he is still like that). He spent several years at Amazon. After reading the article I figure he is perfectly normal he was just raised that way working for years at Amazon from an early age.

By 2010 I determined that I was mostly incompatible with ex-amazon people from a work perspective(last company I was at had MANY ex-amazon people including my 2nd boss though 2nd boss was a great guy), very few that I came across did we see eye to eye on things.

One interview I had in 2011 some mid level technical guy(from amazon) was hired by a mid sized company to be an architect, he wanted to re-implement AWS at this new company, build them their own cloud. Nice concept if you have the talent to do it, I knew they didn't. It was the only interview I've ever had that I was ready to stand up and just walk out, my ears were hot, this guy was toxic. I was able to put on a good bullshit screen though he liked me, and they offered me the job (I declined of course).

I'm sure very smart but very amazon. He proceeded to drive most of their IT staff away (I was told at one point the entire network team quite en masse). He had an idea but it was the wrong idea for the company(they lacked the ability to build OR operate such a system). This amazon guy thought hey let's go buy the cheapest shit we can find and make a cloud.

Within a year of my interview I was told that not only was he fired but he was escorted out of the building. The company had such a bad reputation for work environment they had to pay through the nose(good for them realizing this) to get quality people after that(last I heard they had a good team in place). He went on to do consulting and I heard from another contact that he encountered him at another employer I had, though other than seeing him there I haven't heard anything since.

Amazon tries to recruit me 1-2 times a year(my resume hasn't been updated since I left WA so I get people contacting me 4 years later not having checked LinkedIn profile thinking I am still in WA), I just laugh and say I'm not interested. I'd ask them to not contact me anymore but I don't think that would work. Can't pay me enough to work there.

Amazon's influence in the region is one of the things that drove me away from WA, and keeps me away. Just a toxic bunch of folks for the most part, like a cult or something.

I cringe every time I see one of my acquaintances going to work for them (linkedin says 23 of my contacts are there).

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Anonymous Coward

Hear of such stories over here in Amazon India. Sadly the employees from there also spread that culture everywhere else.

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Did he...

Forget to wipe the KY off his head after removing the condom?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Did he...

from the photo, i thought he was doing his famous 'ice breaker', "The Tortoise Head" routine.

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Anonymous Coward

a soulless, dystopian workplace were no fun is had and no laughter heard.

Obviously not been to see the Windows 10 hardware testers at Microsoft...

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It's funny how the king can walk through the city and see no poverty.

I'm willing to bet all his parcels arrive on time as well.

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Coffee/keyboard

Typical office enviroment. Nothing new here.

All CEO's think their place is 'competitive but fair in the marketplace' but since they don't remove their head from their own ar$e, they never see the real workfloor and in particular supervisors fighting to be middle management and middle management doing anything to get to senior management.

Yes, 'Esc'ape from your shackles and rise up my oppressed friends (and other leftie bull).

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Devil

"a soulless, dystopian workplace were no fun is had and no laughter heard"

The thing is with statements like that you know he knows it's a soulless dystopian workplace where fun is had and laughter is heard... at the expense of others.

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He looks in that picture like Charlie Runkle ( the masturbating agent ) from Californication.

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BBC Panaroma - Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click

Full programme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXWJ4GfQ22E

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Anonymous Coward

"bruising workplace"

Clarkson will fit right in.

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Interview Experience

I interviewed there several years ago for a corp side engineering role (Exchange, AD, etc). It was a most of the day event, lunch provided. Manager was nice, most of the folks I interviewed with were nice, but by the time I was finished, I didn't want the job.

Each engineer revealed more and more about how things worked, what they had to work with and how overworked they all were. I love tech, but I have a family to raise and a life outside of work. This just seemed like a self inflicted prison term!

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Re: Interview Experience ~ It's a cluture thing, really.

Your comment to me, nails it.

My history in SEA is tech from Vietnam, leaving post 9/11.

Before MS started changing Puget Sound the city culture was Boeing.

All those shinny things that fly from the 707 through the 747, made here

Plus military stuff.

Occasionally overtime however the place was called The Lazy B Ranch

Contrast this to when Microsoft was becoming MFST.

I would go to the REI outlet store and buy all my friends the same thing:

A sleeping bag to keep under their desk.

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Hmm

I hope he is sincere and tries to sort out this problem. It does no good for Amazons image and so reflects badly on him too. Unfortunately a bad manager is a bad manager and they need to be thrown out. I am sure we all have our tales to tell in that department

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Re: Hmm

I hope he is sincere and tries to sort out this problem

Kudos to you mate, for your naieve optimism. In any organisation I've ever worked in, you can have isolated pockets that differ from the norm, but that allowed, an organisation's culture is always the shadow of its leader. The number of deeply unfavourable and similarly toned reports about Amazon seem to be more widespread than can be accounted as isolated pockets, and that implies that unfavourable attitudes, values and behaviours have pervaded the entire business, and by implication they have spread top-down.

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Devil

I guess it...

... is good to be the king. Are those new clothes you're wearing?

When was the last time you heard a CEO say his management is a boat load of fucking assholes? On the record or in public...

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Re: I guess it...

Well, not those exact words, but ... Sol Trujillo at Telstra, 2005.

Of course, what he meant was that they weren't the right kind of arseholes...

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"Escalate to HR"... a sick joke. Could Bezos really be that out of touch, or is it just rhetoric for consumption by clueless outside investors? Everyone in the the business for more than a month knows that HR is just the enforcement arm of management, and always takes the side of management.

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Of course I'd escalate to HR

I'd sincerely and helpfully escalate that sort of thing to HR once I had an offer in writing from my new employer, and the reference was already in the can.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

I have said a few things at exit interviews, very carefully worded, and knew the minute I left the notes would be filed in the round bin under the desk.

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Anonymous Coward

hr aren't that bad

Just make sure you take your union rep in with you. Worked wonders for me last time HR got discipliny with me.

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Re: hr aren't that bad

What is this "union" of which you speak? My donut says Amazon's warehouse "fulfillment" ops are in right-to-work (aka "right to get fired") states, and that much of the rest of the staff is "contract" labour.

Although I note with amusement the NYT's drop of this article just before the Labour Day holiday (no, we Merkins don't celebrate it on 01-MAY like the rest of the world), providing more fodder for those working for more progressive workplace policies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Of course I'd escalate to HR

I've worked at Big Dumb Companies where exit interviews were outsourced. I.e. corporate HR didn't have to bother round binning any comments, carefully worded or not -- it was all done for them.

I was surprised by this the first time, nowdays I expect it is commonplace.

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Anonymous Coward

HR is not there for the employees benefit

"But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR."

HR's reason for existence in American companies is to ensure employees are paid the least possible, and be an early warning system for potential legal problems.

"Escalating" to HR in an American company is rarely (almost never) a good idea for an employee. :/

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Orv
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Re: HR is not there for the employees benefit

You are correct, except that in my experience they're also useful for filling out health insurance paperwork. Of course, they also make sure you'll have the crappiest plan possible, and they'll change it every year to make sure that remains the case.

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Re: HR is not there for the employees benefit

Right... you talk to HR about a personnel issue and are immediately marked as a "troublemaker".. soon enough, they will show you the door.

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When the job market is such that people know being fired will prevent them from getting a new job, employers can pretty much treat them as shitty as they want.

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