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Jeff Bezos says he doesn’t recognize ‘soulless and dystopian’ Amazon

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This weekend, The New York Times published a long report examining the workplace culture of retailing giant Amazon. The story was unflattering to say the least, describing a treacherous environment in which employees are pushed to breaking point, and personal trauma — such as a cancer diagnosis — could lead to individuals being "edged out" of the firm. The company has disputed the report, and, in an internal memo forwarded by an Amazon employee to The Verge, the company's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos tells his staff: "I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either."

"The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know."

"The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problem," writes Bezos. "The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day."

In the memo, Bezos encourages employees to report any "stories like those" described by The New York Times to HR or Bezos himself, and says that "even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero." He goes on to say that he doesn't think "any company adopting the approach portrayed [in the Times story] could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market."

Bezos praises the quality of Amazon's employees and tells them "you can work anywhere you want" — implying that if Amazon's workplace practices were as "soulless" and "dystopian" as the Times suggests, then no one would be there in the first place. He adds: "I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company."

You can read the full memo as sent to The Verge below:

Dear Amazonians,

If you haven't already, I encourage you to give this (very long) New York Times article a careful read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

I also encourage you to read this very different take by a current Amazonian:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians-response-inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-nick-ciubotariu

Here’s why I’m writing you. The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don't think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.

I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.

But hopefully, you don't recognize the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.

Thank you,

Jeff