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Bezos rejects allegations of "soulless, dystopian" Amazon

Barry Collins
17 Aug 2015
Amazon warehouse
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Amazon boss refutes latest allegations of poor staff treatment at the online retailer

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has hit back at the latest allegations of draconian working practices inside his company. A New York Times report published over the weekend made damning allegations about the workplace culture within Amazon - this time focusing on the middle management rather than the workers in the company's warehouses. 

The New York Times spoke to several current and former Amazon employees, who painted a bleak picture of life inside the Amazon offices. The employees described a culture where staff were expected to work late into the night, encouraged "to tear apart one another's ideas", and give secret feedback to one another's bosses which was "frequently used to sabotage others".

The article describes the relentless pressure Amazon's middle management are put under. One described how emails frequently arrive after midnight, shortly followed by a text asking why the message had not been answered. Another reported how the strain of working for the company left "nearly every person I worked with" crying at their desks at some point. 

The long hours put a particular strain on working mothers or those who fell ill whilst working for the company. One mother of three was reportedly told by her boss that "raising children would likely prevent her from success at a higher level because of the long hours required", whilst another woman who suffered a miscarriage went on a business trip just days after the surgery because her boss told her "the work is still going to need to get done". 

"Not my company"

Bezos has flatly rejected the depiction of his company. In a memo sent to staff, which has been leaked to GeekWire, the Amazon CEO says the article describes a "soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard", which "doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day".

Bezos goes on to invite any staff who "know of any stories like those reported" to escalate the complaints to HR or to email him directly. "Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero," 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," says Bezos, urging his staff to read the article. "I know I would leave such a company."

It's far from the first time Amazon has been accused of operating a brutal workplace culture. In 2013, a BBC Panorama investigation concluded that staff in the company's warehouses faced an increased risk of mental illness because of the pressure they were put under to meet targets for picking stock. Last year, a former warehouse worker told US documentary makers that he "felt like Amazon was prison", with long hours and tough working conditions. 

The recruitment site Glassdoor gives Amazon an average rating of 3.4 out of 5 from former and current employees. Work/life balance is its worst performing category, with a score of only 2.7 out of 5. 

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