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 …

  1. Naselus

    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.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      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...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Ledswinger

          that and open door polices. Been there.

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          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...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            been there too

            The first one to report was fired.

            He was also the last one.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          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.

      2. Annihilator
        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.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      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!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      in the picture the only thing missing is the ring.

    4. Blank-Reg
      Black Helicopters

      I am oddly reminded of this Dilbert strip

  2. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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?

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        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.

  3. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    WTF?

    "...caring Amazonians"

    FFS.

  4. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    the beatings will continue until morale improves.

  5. jamesb2147

    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.

  6. Seeker

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    2. Hollerith 1

      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?

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        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.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        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...

  7. Daedalus Silver badge

    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.

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Oh boy!

      problem is, Amazon also employs people

  8. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    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).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

  10. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    Did he...

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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did he...

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

  11. Anonymous Coward
    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...

  12. Crisp Silver badge

    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.

  13. Your alien overlord - fear me
    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).

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge
    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.

  15. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

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

  16. Haku

    BBC Panaroma - Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click

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

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "bruising workplace"

    Clarkson will fit right in.

  18. John 104

    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!

    1. Tcat

      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.

  19. codejunky Silver badge

    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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

  20. chivo243 Silver badge
    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...

    1. Tac Eht Xilef

      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...

  21. anoncow

    "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.

    1. Hollerith 1

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. skeptical i

        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.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    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. :/

    1. Orv Silver badge

      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.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      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.

  23. Orv Silver badge

    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.

  24. asdf Silver badge

    the real question

    Is it going to be Amazon or Walmart that ends up being the one that wins and is in the lineage of Omni Consumer Products?

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: the real question

      In the near future, I expect Amazon and Walmart will merge under that name.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the real question

      Bezos-Walton Corporation

      "Building better worlds."

  25. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Never go up against a sicilian when DEATH is on the line!

    Don't call him if you have a problem. And don't call HR. No, you need to call the man in black.

  26. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    To quote a famous lady

    "He would say that, wouldn't he?"

  27. sleepy

    The use of the weasel phrase "I don't recognise Amazon as . . ." tells me that he knows perfectly well it's true. Otherwise he would directly deny allegations, with no fear of contrary evidence appearing.

  28. 404 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Yeah... No.

    Bezos knows, he created the monster - this is just a dance for the Feds and investors. Whitewash versus reality, one of the things that makes me crazy because it's what they say, rather than what they do, that counts. Fscking politics.

    Isn't it crazy? Everybody knows this, that, and the other is total bullshit, yet refuse to call it as it is.

    People, what a bunch of bastards....

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pot. Kettle. Twaddle.

    Of course as they're not a UK company or UK taxpayer why should we care?

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Pot. Kettle. Jackass

      We should care on the grounds of compassion and humanity. The daughters, sons, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives of families in the UK are suffering this bullshit when they shouldn't have to put up with it.

      That's why.

  30. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Unhappy

    Marketing-As-Management Strikes Again

    Allowing people with marketing personalities to manage anything is akin to a deathwish. What was described from the NYT article sound precisely like Marketing-As-Management. It has killed or decimated many companies. I had to live through it at Eastman Kodak. The end result is obvious. Apple went through a Marketing-As-Management period, culminating in $1 Billion worth of Mac Performa computers rotting in warehouses because no one wanted them. It brought Apple to its knees.

    People with actual, natural LEADERSHIP skills are required for management. Perhaps Mr. Bezos should consider not just the hiring people who are tech savvy, but people who actually understand now to work with and manage other people. Such people are ALSO gravely in short supply, sad to say.

  31. skeptical i
    Meh

    When the economy is in the toilet

    and there are (at least) dozens of job applications on file for every position at the company, what is Amazon's incentive to treat employees with respect? As long as there are plenty of customers happy to use its one-click-and-ship (or whatever their special sauce is) service for their shopping, there is no financial incentive to mend their ways. With low prices being part of their schtick, I don't expect to see customers boycotting the Smiley Box people any time soon (as is/was the case with Walmart and their sub-optimal working conditions).

    1. skeptical i

      Re: When the economy is in the toilet

      clarify: should have typed "the same non-response we got to Walmart and their sub-optimal working conditions", sorry for confusion.

  32. El Limerino

    We have hired several people from AWS and Amazon.com, and Amazon has tried very hard to prevent them from leaving by threatening them with lawsuits because they were forced to sign non-compete agreements when they joined. The non-competes say they cannot work at any company Amazon deems a competitor for 6 months after they leave, which of course would make them unemployable anywhere else if enforceable.

    Now these Draconian non-competes are not enforceable in California, but they still make the lives of these people a living hell by threatening them with crippling legal costs. They are, regrettably, enforceable in Washington state. So, as an employee wanting to leave, who do you believe -- the new employer who says you won't get sued, or the crazy guy from Amazon legal foaming at the mouth threatening to sue you for everything you have?

    What's particularly chilling is that they even do this for the people Amazon fired. Yes, the folks they culled for whatever reason, Darwinian or otherwise. They fire them and then still want to enforce the non-compete, ensuring the poor fired people have no income for another 6 months for daring to want to work somewhere else and earn a salary. Do not work there -- you will regret it, even after you leave.

    1. 404 Silver badge

      There's the meat of it

      Do I live poor for six months or take a chance the bloodsucking lawyers* will come after me?

      Right or wrong, that bastards will beat you to fucking death funding a defense against them - then you're forced to make a business decision rather than stand on principle.

      If you're single, principle is King, you'll survive it. If you have a family that depends on you, you get the business decision.

      *Imagine all the grief we could save the world from if we hung all the lawyers. Since 99.3% of all politicians are lawyers, we (as in humans) would get a two-fer. Robert Heinlein was an intelligent man.

  33. Annihilator
    Pint

    Anecdote

    On holiday in Seattle, was with my wife at a hotel bar when a big Amazon conference was on. Some (drunk) guy claiming to be on their grad scheme imposed a conversation on us about how amazing Amazon was and how he was proud to work there, as he had a team he managed (in distribution I believe). He regaled us on how he berated them when they failed to meet targets and how many people he'd fired because of it. He was around 20-24, arrogant, yet astute enough to realise his team hated him. He didn't know or care why.

    My wife and I came to the conclusion that we agreed with his team.

  34. Adam Inistrator

    canned reply

    can you believe that their PR department didnt have contingency plans for exactly this type of article and Bezos memo wasnt drafted well in advance? no? me neither

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Arsehole and gets things done

  36. breakfast
    IT Angle

    An easily solved problem

    Clearly what he needs to do is declare a WAR ON STRESS.

    It worked for Reynholm Industries, it could work for them.

  37. rtb61

    Amazon go boom. Problem with dog eat dog at the workplace, the rabid dogs last the longest only because they are better at taking credit for the work of others whilst blaming others for all the mistakes. This burden of corruption work practices in order to survive eventually kills the company. Decent people do not want to work there, only taking the job if they are desperate and leaving as possible there after.

    Think about staff turnover, each one gone is now an ex-employee and most definately an ex-customer, keep it up and you have very few customers left because one thing disgruntled customers do is create more ex-customers.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019