Jeff Bezos Fires Back at NY Times’ Scathing Takedown: ‘I Don’t Recognize This Amazon’

“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,” CEO writes

Last Updated: August 17, 2015 @ 9:55 AM

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos fired back at a scathing New York Times story on Monday that depicted Amazon as a “brusing workplace” that lacks empathy and stresses “Hunger Games”-esque competition and vigilance.

“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,” Bezos wrote in a ¬†memo to staff.

“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,” he continued. “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 5,400 Times piece painted a picture of a workplace where workers are encouraged to tear each others’ ideas apart in meetings and are expected to answer emails immediately, even in the wee hours of the morning.

“The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses,” the Times piece reported. “Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Bezos added if Amazon was really like the Times described it, he himself would bolt.

“The Times “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,” Bezos wrote. “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.”

And one of Bezos’ employees is backing the boss: Nick Ciubotariu, head of infrastructure development for Amazon.com search experience, penned a Linkedin piece that poured cold water on many of the Times’ anecdotes, including employees going at each other in meetings to score brownie points.

“No. No one encourages this. In fact, we get immediate growth feedback for this kind of nonsense. We go into meetings and discuss stuff, just like any other company does. If we quickly come to consensus – awesome. We save time and get out early, and that’s a great outcome. If we don’t, we debate – but we debate politely and respectfully, and you are given constructive feedback to course-correct if you are rude or disrespectful.”

Bezos’ full memo 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