You know things are tense at work when your boss sends an email around asking everyone if the vibe around the office feels like "a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard."
Right, Amazon employees?
Amazon said late Sunday that it would not tolerate the “shockingly callous management practices” described in an article in The New York Times over the weekend. Jeff Bezos, the retail giant’s founder and chief executive, said he did not recognize the workplace portrayed in the article and urged any employees who knew of “stories like those reported” to contact him directly.
Come on Amazon minions, show Papa Jeff on the org chart where the company hurt you.
But what was in that NY Times piece? Was it really bad enough to get King Bezos so flustered?
Work/life balance is like an obsession in the tech world and Amazon is a tech company, so logic dictates...
One ex-employee’s fiancé became so concerned about her nonstop working night after night that he would drive to the Amazon campus at 10 p.m. and dial her cellphone until she agreed to come home. When they took a vacation to Florida, she spent every day at Starbucks using the wireless connection to get work done.
“That’s when the ulcer started,” she said.
Well, maybe they're just Millennial wusses. Compared to Wall Street, Amazon must be like a vacation.
Many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.
What about the Amazon's treatment of women?
In 2013, Elizabeth Willet, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, joined Amazon to manage housewares vendors and was thrilled to find that a large company could feel so energetic and entrepreneurial. After she had a child, she arranged with her boss to be in the office from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, pick up her baby and often return to her laptop later. Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon.
“I can’t stand here and defend you if your peers are saying you’re not doing your work,” she says he told her. She left the company after a little more than a year.
A woman who had thyroid cancer was given a low performance rating after she returned from treatment. She says her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”
Well. at least they don't work in the warehouses...
In Amazon warehouses, employees are monitored by sophisticated electronic systems to ensure they are packing enough boxes every hour. (Amazon came under fire in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse toiled in more than 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away laborers as they fell. After an investigation by the local newspaper, the company installed air-conditioning.)
For Amazon executives there is definitely air conditioning, but also the constant threat of being allegorically murdered.
Resources are sometimes hoarded. That includes promising job candidates, who are especially precious at a company with a high number of open positions. To get new team members, one veteran said, sometimes “you drown someone in the deep end of the pool,” then take his or her subordinates.
Even getting promoted at Amazon sounds like torture.
In 2012, Chris Brucia, who was working on a new fashion sale site, received a punishing performance review from his boss, a half-hour lecture on every goal he had not fulfilled and every skill he had not yet mastered. Mr. Brucia silently absorbed the criticism, fearing he was about to be managed out, wondering how he would tell his wife.
“Congratulations, you’re being promoted,” his boss finished, leaning in for a hug that Mr. Brucia said he was too shocked to return.
In his email, Bezos says that he doesn't recognize the miserable world depicted in any of these examples and states that his email door is open to employees looking to tell him differently.
But one quote in the Times story kind of says it all. In the hellscape employee culture of Amazon, there is only one true incubus and his name be Bezos.
“It’s as if you’ve got the C.E.O. of the company in bed with you at 3 a.m. breathing down your neck.”
Sleep tight, Amazonians.