back to article Bezos defends Amazon culture in letter to shareholders

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended criticism of his company's culture in a letter to shareholders. Still reeling from a damning report in The New York Times last year, which revealed harsh internal evaluations and a culture of pressured over-working, Bezos fell back on the old canard of the company not being the right fit for …

  1. Colin Millar

    It's a Cultural Revolution

    No - really - Chairman Mao would be proud to see that his legacy is being kept alive by the running dog capitalists - it is a tried and tested method for re-asserting the power of tyrants after they have fucked up big time.

    1. fandom

      Re: It's a Cultural Revolution

      Yes, indeed, what's described in the article and killing a few million people, pretty much the same thing.

      1. Colin Millar

        Re: It's a Cultural Revolution

        The millions of dead thing - I think you will find that was the Great Leap Forward - said massive fuck-up from which the great leader needed to divert attention in a hurry. The management principle remains the same - "it wasn't me - it was all these disloyal underlings".

        1. fandom

          Re: It's a Cultural Revolution

          Nope, that was both of them.

          Not that Mao need a catchy title to kill millions of people.

          1. Colin Millar

            Re: It's a Cultural Revolution

            Nope - that was one of them - the score for the Cultural Revolution was in the 100s of thousands but nowhere near the scale of the great leap (somewhere between 20 and 50 million). Also - the Great Leap was a fuck up by Mao - the persecution and deaths of the cultural revolution was quite deliberate policy as he re-asserted his power by blaming it all on the "bourgeois" elements within the party who had questioned the wisdom of the great leap and dared to criticise Mao.

  2. Youngone Silver badge

    Seen it

    I've worked at a place that sounds a bit like Amazon.

    The bosses put a lot of effort into convincing us the business was always on the edge, and we'd need to work harder for less if we wanted to keep our jobs.

    When that got old there were performance reviews that everyone failed.

    Eventually the only people left were the old timers protecting their generous pension entitlements, and the unmotivated. I left it far too long to leave, and didn't realize how unhappy I was until I found something better.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Seen it -- "the beatings will continue until morale improves"

      I think a lot of us have been there with you. Things start off well and over time, deteriorate. We sit there and hang on through the management temper tantrums, the bean counter bloodlettings, and the various re-purposing of departments that goes on with the management scheme of the day: silos, competency centers, Agile, feely good stuff like Act One, and now Dev Ops.

      Morale is a tenuous thing and once lost, it's almost impossible to regain though it may come back in the form of the "bunker mentality".

      At some point, we say "screw it, I've had enough" and then we're labeled as "not a team player". But deep down, there's a realization that we should have bailed out earlier. The abuse just isn't worth the paycheck.

      And no... I'm not a masochist so my morale will not improve with additional beatings.

  3. Brian Miller

    Highest turnover rate

    I've been told by a recruiter that Amazon has the highest turnover rate in the industry. I believe that. I worked there for several months, and there's no way I'll go back. Horrid development environment that was broken most of the time, badly written and buggy code to work with, and an incompetent manager. And I keep getting recruiters from Amazon contacting me. Blech!

    Now I'm working for a company where the turnover is incredibly low, and I have my own office.

    Hey, shareholders, get a clue! Oh, yeah, they aren't canny enough to read El Reg.

  4. R Soles

    Yes, but ...

    Bezos claims:

    "Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another."

    Select a culture? Unfortunately very few people know what the corporate culture is *really* like until after they've joined the company. And then they're stuck for a year or two, unless they want a dodgy patch in their CV ...

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Yes, but ...

      unless they want a dodgy patch in their CV ...

      I'd have thought "Recruited by XYZ inc. Discovered after a few months that I simply hated working there because of a mismatch between their culture and my own. Left for ..." was acceptable provided it's not repeated too often (preferably not repeated at all).

      Of course it guarantees that no company that is trying to emulate XYZ's culture will offer you a job, but that's a job you really don't want in any case.

  5. Joe Gurman

    Not all that different from where I work.... er, not

    Hypothetically (because I can't post statements that might be taken to imply that I speak for my employer), I work for a US government agency, that for want of a better way of putting it, launches things into space. Things that observe and measure things we've never measured before, that see things we've never seen before, and that expand our mental horizons about the world we live in, its neighborhood, and the cosmos. And to get those things done, there are certainly times when lots of people on a project put in those killing hours, BUT they are recognized for their work, managers generally try to turn around weaker performers, and we aren't expected to work that long every week of every year. If you see us crying, it's because our own mistakes led to friends and role models getting killed, which seems a much more valid reason for tears than a tinhorn dictator of a manager putting you down.

    And if you see us cheering and lifting glasses of champagne (sorry, non-alcoholic; the real thing isn't allowed at work), it's because we think we accomplished something more meaningful than a good quarter.

  6. DougS Silver badge

    I finally figured out who Bezos is

    Look at that picture - he's S. R. Hadden from Contact. He owns a space launch company, and looks like a slightly younger version of him, so I could see him living in space in his later years.

  7. Seajay#

    Two successes

    And you picked kindle and Alexa?

    I would say they are Trustworthy online shopping and AWS. Those were both world changing. Kindle is great but ultimately just a gadget so has to be number 3. Alexa is nowhere (yet).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consistently failed...

    ... with mention of the Kindle. Similarly, Apple might have consistently failed, apart from the iPhone... I'm sure lots of companies would take nine failures if the tenth was going to be that successfully (and "Kindle" seems be used as generic term in much the same way iPhone means smartphone or Hoover vacuum cleaner; I imagine it has a bigger percentage of the e-reader market than iPhone has of the phone market).

    And there's also the massive failure that is AWS.

    And the assessment about Amazon TV is subjective. As an owner it's a pretty fantastic experience. I had an Amazon Prime subscription and an £80 box later Prime Video is just one of the extras I'm enjoying for no additional cost. (And I'd rate Prime Video over Netflix UK for content so far.) For me, it just works (and a nice touch that it was configured for my account when delivered). TV's a bit fragmented and you can hardly say Apple TV (or whatever) is ubiquitous.

    Their working environment and culture is one thing but dismissing their products like this is a bit simplistic. Epic failures all then. Except the de-facto e-reader, AWS (which is more than holding its own against minor players like, er, Microsoft and Oracle), Amazon Prime subscriptions, Alexa (just release it in the UK!).

    I don't know anyone ever having an Amazon Phone but I only know one person with an MS one.

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    While there's no doubt that Amazon is a successful company in terms of revenue and profit

    Revenue, yes. Profit less so.

    Investors have stuck with Amazon for years because of the (self-fulfilling) high stock price and jam tomorrow. At some point they might start demanding margins > 1%: sell the tat bazaar and focus on the digital stuff.

  10. Captain Dallas

    I could summarise this article in four words...

    Bezos is a dick.

    Not really news, though.

  11. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Kindle

    it and Kobo have REALLY poor User Interface and book sorting/organising features. I've got a Kindle and Kobo, I love the hardware and eInk. The software is terrible. We had better document organisation software 30 years ago.

    Amazon's CreateSpace is a dreadful website.

    Amazon KDP, Author Central and retail sites are terrible GUI / UX too.

    They are good at marketing, not at software. I suspect the HW is mostly bought in consultancy?

    Kindle Reader was based on Mobi and the eInk Kindle is basically a poor user shell on Android + Mobi Reader.

    Amazon Echo / Alexa is totally creepy. No thanks. Ever!

    One tech company I worked was just like what Amazon sounds like. Most somewhere between that and acceptable. Only one in over 30 years was "reasonable". Burn out was common. Engineers were thought of as something to be used up like laser toner. "We'll hire more"

  12. Florida1920
    Big Brother

    Da

    Bezos would have thrived under Stalinism.

  13. paulf Silver badge
    Boffin

    My concerns about Amazon just keep increasing

    As with tax avoidance, their capability at box shifting is as effective as it is ruthlessly efficient; and their prices tend to reflect this.

    For basic CS stuff like "My item arrived damaged" they're great IME but I've only experienced their box shifting, not stuff like AWS.

    But the deeper concerns keep mounting, thus far unresolved, and not investigated in the media (that I've found).

    1. Their change last year requiring everyone to provide full photo ID when selling through Marketplace. That's understandable for entities trading as a company but its somewhat disproportionate for a private individual selling unwanted items to be asked for utility bills and a copy of their passport.

    2. They provide all the billing details on Marketplace orders to the seller when I thought the whole point of Marketplace was Amazon acted as the payment processor. The consequences of this leads me to 3.

    3. Marketplace sellers offering bribes [partial] refunds in exchange for removing negative feedback - whether justified or not. Thus a dodgy Marketplace trader could simply target partial refunds to improve their feedback score, potentially misleading future customers about how good that trader is. I've had contacts via the Marketplace messaging system which is fine but in one case I was called by a trader offering a partial refund despite the negative feedback being justified. This means they were given my home address too - not desirable if they were inclined to turn nasty about my critique.

    I've contacted Amazon about this twice and both times got an email back saying they couldn't find my Marketplace account (I no longer have one - see 1) and couldn't discuss the matter further.

    I just hope they haven't put too many of their competitors out of business yet as I'm looking for alternatives.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon = Walmart?

    "While there's no doubt that Amazon is a successful company in terms of revenue and profit, it had in large part succeeded by pressuring others to sell their goods at a lower price, bringing in more customers to Amazon's marketplace and further strengthening its hold on the market."

    Two comments on the above:

    -- Pressuring suppliers sounds like the Walmart model...

    -- I have always heard that Amazon does not make a profit on the marketplace, but does make a profit on their cloud services.

    Continuing the Walmart analogy regarding personnel practices, Amazon sounds like it learned a lot from Walmart: "We control your life - leave if you don't like it."

  15. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Typo?

    "provided personal details about some of the most critical former employers in an effort to undermine their credibility". Should that be "employees"?

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