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Amazon CEO responds to allegations in NY Times article

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey was published in 1989, is a seminal work that is required reading for business students and corporate executives. There is a strong possibility that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has either never read it, or thinking that its arrival predated the iconic Internet age, that its precepts don’t apply to him. This is, if you believe the charges leveled at him regarding Amazon’s workplace culture.

In any event, rather than refute its findings in the media, Bezo has tried to distance himself from the assault by sending an email to employees… an email that has been obtained by Geekwire

I covered the NY Times lambasting of Amazon in an article last week, in which former Human Resources director called “purposeful Darwinism” to be pervasive at the company. The NY Times article also chronicled countless abuses and what most would consider cutthroat corporate practices in everyday life for employees at Amazon. Bezos’ retort to the story is curious for its method as it is for its content, for in replying he never categorically denies the allegations leveled at Amazon, instead saying that this is not the company that he knows, founded, or developed.

Bezos, whose posture is not the least bit apologetic, claims that he doesn’t recognize the company that the Times describes, wouldn’t want to work there, and wonders why anyone would stay at such a firm. At the same time he encourages employees observing or experiencing such untoward behavior to bring it to the attention of the appropriate Human Resources personnel, although he doubts these actions will be necessary as that culture does not exist at Amazon!

This despite the NY Time’s assertion that it spoke with more than 100 current and former employees. If these accusations are true, Bezo says that employees would “be crazy to stay

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

As far as the Seven Habits is concerned, Habit Six- Synergize – is apparently absent from the Amazon corporate parlance if you are to believe the NY Times article. Because synergizing requires a positive atmosphere, not the back-stabbing one described in the article, it is one Habit that should be reviewed at Amazon.

Synergy combines the strengths of people through positive teamwork to achieve goals together that one could not achieve alone. If this was employed at Amazon, retention would become important, rather than the annual employee purges described by current and former employees.

Likewise, the Seventh Habit – Sharpening the Saw (personal renewal) – would also be recommended for all people, and runs counter to the practice of stepping over each other to achieve advancement. It extols the virtues of balancing work with happiness, health, and renewing your resources and energy – something which it appears is sorely needed at a firm which, according to reports, would penalize employees for attending to normal, everyday personal and health crises.

I suspect that the future will tell the tale of who is right in this picture. Because the Amazon depicted in the NY Times piece will not survive the rigors of the corporate arena as it’s presently consisted.


Stan Ward Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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