On Saturday, the New York Times published an incendiary report on online retail giant Amazon, in a piece that drew from over 100 interviews with staff and former staff at the Seattle company. The piece painted Amazon as a workplace designed to be "intentionally Darwin[ian]", according to one manager, where the lowest performing are culled annually and no exceptions are made for those who are experiencing illness or women with small children. 

Today, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and fourth richest person in America according to Forbes, wrote an email to his staff telling them to give the piece "a careful read" while claiming to not recognize the culture it describes. He asked that staff members alert HR to any practices like those described in the article, which he called "callous". It's worth noting that many comments on the original piece written by people claiming to be current and former Amazon employees describe a similar culture to that described in the article.

Read the full text of the email 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,


Cover: Flickr