UPDATE (8/17/15): Welp, even Jeff Bezos thinks Amazon is an awful place to work. Or at least the Amazon as described in the exhaustive and scathing New York Times story published this weekend.
In a memo to Amazon employees sent Sunday and first reported on by GeekWire, Bezos says the Times article "doesn't describe the Amazon I know." He goes on to say 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."
The Times article depicted a harsh (albeit spectacularly successful) corporate climate at Amazon where employees were forced to work in the immediate aftermath of family tragedies and encouraged to snitch on their co-workers, an environment where crying in the office was a regular occurrence. The piece was based on interviews with former Amazon employees as well as current management, although Bezos himself was not made available for interviews.
Good news for Amazonians: This is shaping up to be the most relaxed week in company history!
See original story from 8/16/15 below.
How would your work-life balance stack up against that of an Amazon employee? According to this New York Times article, there are no such boundaries at the retailer/production studio/content publisher that is Amazon. In comparison to the the rigors and pressures the company places on its employees, your job may appear to be a cakewalk. With interviews and conversations culled from current and former employees as well as with the bread crumb trail of the few internal communications available to the public, the article presents the world’s largest retailer of everything (except for a small handful of things like pets and liquor), as retaining the preternatural compulsion and magnitude for precision and growth that we all already thought it did.
Amazon wants to sell you everything at the push of a button. More so, it wants its employees to conceive of new methods and means to get its products into more people’s hands. According to the Times, “Amazon uses a self-reinforcing set of management, data, and psychological tools to spur its tens of thousands of white-collar employees to do more and more.”
With an extreme distaste for mediocrity and bureaucracy, the company’s high turnover of employees stems largely from its climate of success. The company’s 14 Leadership Principles dictates the steep level of achievement and standards each new hire must reach. New employees are drilled on the Leadership Principles during orientation, which occurs every Monday, so expectations for achievement are set incredibly high from the get go.
“When you have so much turnover, the risk is that people are seen as fungible. You know that tomorrow you’re going to look around and some people are going to have left the company or been managed out.” One former Amazonian is quoted as saying. “Once you know something isn’t as good as it could be, why wouldn’t you want to fix it?” says another.
With absurd amounts of ambition and heaping wealth, Jeff Bezos's data-driven management style informs every move Amazon makes, especially as it expands its campuses. (The newest addition will hold 50,000 people.) The demanding and competitive ethics has produced some of the company’s increasingly intricate forays into personalized delivery services. Amazon’s priorities became your same-day, and later, same-hour delivery systems. With mind-melting amounts of data, metrics, manpower, and tears (everyone cries there apparently), Amazon has willed itself to the top of the global retail market.
This ethos, though heavily guarded and proprietary, traces back to Amazon’s earliest days. In a 1997 letter to shareholders Bezos wrote, “Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery.” If there was ever a through line for the Digital Age and especially for the empires of Apple, Google, and Amazon, this statement may be it.