Some Amazonians in SLU say NYT article not their experience

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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SEATTLE - At lunchtime in South Lake Union, you can't miss the blue badges of Amazon employees.

Most didn't want to talk about the culture of the company, detailed by a critical story in the New York Times.

A few agreed to speak, including Aaron Kerson, who had good things to say about his employer of the last six months.

"It's been super enjoyable, very supportive environment so I was blown away by what I read," he said.

The Times story detailed a workplace where managers are so callous and the pressure is so high a former worker was quoted saying "I would see people practically combust."

"We talked with the mother of a stillborn child who said as soon as she came back to work she would be monitored for her job performance, she felt she wasn't given time to recover," New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor told CBS This Morning.

In a message to employees, CEO Jeff Bezos asked workers to email him directly if they knew of any stories like the Times reported, writing "our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."

Software data engineer Beebdhi Tallapaneni said her supervisor gave the same message on Monday.

"From my perspective, most of the article is not correct," Tallapaneni said.

Software engineer Ben Tobin said "the general consensus among my peers was that the article was a bit of a hatchet job."

Tobin said the complaints don't match his experience over the last four years. 

"It seems almost surreal. The picture they paint is of an experience I don't think anyone would stick around for," Tobin said. 

Technology consultant Jeff Reifman has been writing about how a growing Amazon is overwhelming Seattle.

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"Anybody who knows anybody at Amazon has heard these things before. But I was shocked by the depth and seriousness of what I read in the Times story," Reifman said.

Reifman's concerns about the company led him to create a website, Flee the Jungle, that helps people find other ways to shop online.

"I think it's time to stop shopping at Amazon, I think it's unethical to keep shopping at Amazon," Reifman said.

KIRO 7 obtained an email from Bezos that went out to employees after the NYT’s article. Read it 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

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