Jeff Bezos rejects criticism of the Amazon workplace culture

The workplace culture at Amazon is under the spotlight and not just when it comes to warehouse staff.

A long and stinging piece in the New York Times describes a tough and sometimes quite cruel working environment. You can read the whole article here.

In one sense there’s nothing unusual about grumbling employees but the picture painted is stark. And it does contrast with how other dotcom giants treat their people. Places like Google, Facebook and, to some extent eBay, certainly do seem to have a more generous outlook.

And so it’s interesting that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has rebuffed the claims in the article with a surprisingly strident memo to staff which has been published on Geekwire. Here’s some of what he said:

“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 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.”

What do you reckon?