Dear Jeff Bezos,

bezosIn your position, I imagine that you rarely have an opportunity to receive feedback from one of your temporary-contract employees. I thought you should have some input. I hope you find this useful.

Having just completed my maximum of eleven months of contract work Amazon allows, I thought I would share my thoughts on your practice of hiring a staff that is made up of temporary-contract workers. Although it may seem like the company is saving money — because you don’t have to provide temporary workers with medical coverage or paid vacation time — the revolving door of new hires encourages low quality work, inconsistent productivity and wastes useful resources on training.

I joined the X-Ray for TV and Movies development team in its infancy. [“X-Ray for Movies & TV is a new feature available on Kindle and Wii U devices that enables Amazon Instant Video viewers to quickly identify and learn more about the actors in the scene while watching a movie or TV show, simply by tapping the screen.”] The product hadn’t even launched yet. It was exciting to watch the product grow and have input on creating the best possible user experience.

My team leader was an experienced manager, with the ability to adapt to the ever-changing process and gave the rest of the team confidence that we could go to him with questions or feedback and he would give it careful consideration. It felt like we were all learning together. Our coding tool was constantly being updated based on worker feedback, and our guidelines were always subject to change. Each new development was covered in our weekly stand-up meeting. If something seemed to get missed or lost in translation, an impromptu meeting was called to get everyone on the same page, which proved to be an effective training method.

One day that all changed. Our experienced team leader was transferred to a different department. A few of the temps, who had been on the project since X-Ray’s inception, applied for the now vacant position of project manager. I was convinced the position would be filled by one of two individuals who had trained me and acted as point people for questions and concerns when the manager was in a meeting. None of the temps who applied for the position got it, which most of us on the team found confusing because they were basically already doing the job.

An outsider was brought in who knew nothing about X-Ray. I was later told the new manger was hired based on management experience. She spent her first week being trained by one of the temps who had been deemed unqualified for the product manager position. After spending a week training the manager, and being her go-to person for the next three weeks whenever there was a problem, he was let go because he reached the maximum of eleven months on his contract. Since the new manager never completely grasped the program, she asked a select few of the oldest temps to train the newest temps. It seemed to me that these people were not chosen based on merit or capability, but more like she was putting together her own collection of “cool” kids. The best way to be put in a leadership role was be a pretty girl or a dude who used liberal amounts of Axe hair gel.

As experienced temps left and new ones rolled in, the breakdown began. Temps who had not paid attention in training were now training new temps. Different temps were teaching different techniques and it wasn’t long before the quality of work suffered. As witness to the poor quality, I made a few attempts to express my concerns, but none of my suggestions were implemented. When one of the higher-ups checked our work and realized that mistakes were being overlooked, performance scorecards were implemented.

The oldest temps would grade the newest temps. If a temp made twenty mistakes in a week they were let go. I agree that if someone makes that many mistakes they don’t deserve the job, but perhaps these mistakes were caused from a lack of proper training. Even though I performed excellent work, I was not deemed worthy of a full-time position, yet I held the fate of someone’s job in my hands. We were told the scorecards were an attempt to find out what mistakes were most often being made so they could be addressed. This was confusing since nearly everything I checked had the same mistakes, yet they were never addressed. Of the current X-Ray team only about half know the guidelines and proper procedure.

By my final month, it was difficult to care. I did quality work. I was one of only a handful of employees who didn’t need their work checked before pushing it to live status, but as far as the rest of the team was concerned I’d lost my enthusiasm for the project.

Why should anyone care if X-Ray succeeds or fails? If X-Ray becomes the biggest program on the planet and puts another several million dollars in your bank account, people in my position will still be sent packing at the end of eleven months. There will always be an endless supply of replacements, and they will be paid less since the pay rate of the team decreased with every new batch of hires. My replacement will probably work really hard for about six months, and then realize that they are cruising towards a dead end. They might start caring a little less.

In this terrible economy, I am grateful for the work, and the fact that I have a Bachelor’s Degree and the ability to write a complete sentence, means I will probably be back on the Amazon campus in a different department one day. It is likely many of the temps from the X-Ray team will be back as well, but know if they are wearing a green badge, you won’t be getting their full potential.

There’s a lot of talk about how Amazon is a great place to work. They have showers in the basement. You can get your bike serviced while you work. And there’s food trucks!

But if you really want to create a positive work environment and generate productivity and employee loyalty, give your employees some job security.

Amazon is a large company and I know this experience is not unique to me. The company is at a disadvantage when the employees are not working to their full potential.


Steven Barker

PS: In my final team meeting, we were told that you watched Dumb & Dumber using X-Ray. I did the quality assurance on that film. I hope you appreciate my credit timing for Cam Neely in the bathroom scene. We spent an afternoon discussing that one.

Editor’s note: This post was written in response to the story this week that has some of the least loyal employees

Steve Barker is a former catalog specialist at Amazon. Follow his blog and podcast at Ordinary Madness.

Related Post: Amazon hits 97,000 employees, more than tripling in size in three years

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  • Patrick Husting

    Welcome to the new normal of technology staffing for large companies in the Pacific Northwest. This has been going on for years and is really nothing new. With the notion that you can just hire someone at $65hr onshore or $25hr offshore, you THINK you are saving money and can scale. But you are not.

    Those inexperience managers need that 1st failure to understand that having trusted and valued employees is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than saving a few dollars on a project.

    But have hope, there is a total trend of moving resources back in-house.


    PS: In the case where they hired an outside manager to come in, I doubt it was experience. I would say the person was less expensive to hire that to convert one of the smart people on the team. It is Amazon after all….

    • Jessica Darko

      In my case it was all people in pacmed, all reasonably talented engineers, though some were H1Bs who were a bit weaker, but more junior, not stupid. The managers, however, were idiots, and management positions were determined politically.

      Engineers of high quality were excluded from management because any engineer who points out that a decision is a bad one is obviously a “bad apple”, even if they turn around and execute the (Bad) decision perfectly.

      Microsoft was overloaded with bureaucracy, but had a LOT less incompetence.

      • Redacted

        Amazon is by far the most incompetent place I’ve ever worked. They have entire businesses where no one actually knows how to do anything. Their continued success really is amazing when you consider how few people within the company know what they’re doing about anything.

        • Michael Destefanis

          I can attest to this one. I worked in one of the 3 US call centers and they’ve been hiring in managers externally rather than promoting from within. I know it’s not on the same scope as someone from a dev team but still. I had also noticed that there’s been a decline in staffing in US call centers with the ones overseas (Particularly in Hyderabad and Costa Rica) steadily going up in numbers. I was on the Kindle Chat support team. We helped lay out the groundwork and got it piloted. Suffice to say while our team of 20ish vastly outdid the 100+ they had in Hyderabad, we were deprecated and given the explanation that “It was not frugal” to keep us.

          But over the last 2 years especially I had noticed there was just some weird shit going on in the company. Decisions being made that were not very pro-consumer or even pro-employee. Felt like the company did a 180 on it’s practices. Now more than ever they do stress that we’re all simply replaceable including higher management in our call center. Kinda sad to see it go down this way because I had a lot of pleasure, at first, working for Amazon. Just seems it’s all gone downhill. Naturally the corporate cheerleaders (associates who back the company on every decision no matter what really) say otherwise but deep down.. they’re either eager to become one of those moguls or they’re simply in denial.

    • joebeans

      “Welcome to the new…”

      …and this is where I stopped reading your pithy comment.

      cool story, bro.

  • Luger Drmc

    Excellent letter. You should be an asset to the next company that hires you. Look forward and put your energy into a company that gives a sh!7 about you!

    • Guest

      Non sense …why should someone hire a person who looses enthusiasm for such a common phenomenon in the industry.

      • Guest

        You have clearly never been a contract worker and lack basic empathy or understanding of basic psychology or human instinct. If you did a study on the average contract worker and their efficiency over a one year span, very clearly there would be a rapid decline at 6-8 months. Even for you kind sir. It’s just human nature for brain capacity to begin to focus on future jobs and security as you near an end point in your role. This is the very same instinct that would kick in for you, if you learned you were being let go in 3 months, from your cushy FTE job.

      • Bette

        It’s terrible when someone looses their enthusiasm. Sometimes it bulges over the belt or just pools around the floor.

      • Buzzy

        Why should a person pay attention to ANYONE who can’t spell LOSES ?

      • Brad Jensen

        Everyone else probably lost enthusiasm too but this person is the only one who will admit it. The other ones are liars and fakes like you.

  • Ricky89

    Great article Steven. I agree with Patrick on having valued employees instead of temps. In the long run the company can save more money having an experienced employee that care instead of a temp that will know he/she will be gone soon.

    Why does it not surprise me that Amazon does this?

    • LML

      microsoft does this too

      • AnonDude

        So does Intel.

      • Techy48495

        Apple does this.

        • palmeria

          Google might be the worst for this.

    • LinkedOut

      LinkedIn is the worst :-/

  • @CascadeRam

    Great letter on how short-sighted decisions by big corporations can hurt them in the long-term (and in this case, hurt them in the short-term as well)

    An excessive reliance on temps is a great example of how companies make short-sighted decisions.

    imo this excessive reliance on temps is a major problem. It is also worth pointing out that the problem extends beyond temps. Steve’s letter talks about how the manager was “putting together her own collection of “cool” kids.” This is a big problem in many large companies. It is bad enough in the case of temps, but even worse when this problem manifests itself in the hiring or promotion of incompetent (but politically well-connected) full-time employees.

  • guest

    Don’t like being treated this way? Organize. Much as I love GW, writing articles here is not going to move the needle in organizations like Amazon and MS, where this sort of second class citizenry is commonplace.

    • Richard Lamb

      Second class citizenry indeed! This is why I left the big corp world and went freelance! I should have done so a looooong time ago! Microsoft and Amazon treat contractor’s very poorly. It’s insulting. Why suffer that kind of crap? After 11/12 months at a new employer you are just getting comfortable with how to operate in that world. To exit at that point is wasteful to say the least!

      • Bette

        where do you get your insurance?

    • Patrick Husting

      We don’t need unions. Temporary contractors get free sodas at Microsoft with their $510 a month fee for work space… :o)

    • nope

      Yes yes yes. Organize!

    • voice_reason

      Organize? American workers have become a nation of sheep, unfortunately the concept of organizing has been ‘bred” out of the young. They still foolishly believe in their ability to make a mark on their own. Granted, some can, and will, but the overwhelming majority cannot and won’t. Get ready to keep living with your parents for a nice long time to come; or go overseas and start a new life in a more cost friendly country

      • Michael Destefanis

        That and organizing is more or less pointless these days given the law more or less is now tailored in favor of employers. That little “at will employment” loophole most states seem to have makes a union very much redundant these days. Complain about higher pay? Simple… change the policy, raise the bar and terminate for poor performance. That’s a common practice these days I hear. Amazon’s done that by raising the standards on call handle times and Yes vs No responses on those email surveys you get anytime you call in. Nowadays though I’d argue that unions are more or less on their way out the door. Even the new Hostess company has all but kicked out the Baker’s Union after their strike last year and speed up the bankruptcy of the original company. All new positions there are non-union.

        In any event Unions nowadays save for a choice few are all but corrupted and eye those dues more than the worker. Personally the fight is with the law and Unions were mainly there to ensure an employer complied with the law but now with the essential laws tailored in favor of the employer well.. there you have it. I feel this country has gone too money-happy in the grand scheme of things. That much is clearly evident with the tax incentives and loopholes available to big business while social programs are cut back to the poor and the middle class is stuck paying for everything and is told to blame the poor for their burden.

  • dakini_3

    This is an excellent article … and I totally agree with Patrick Husting … this seems to be the New Normal for PNW tech which is hugely sad and shorted sighted …

  • haliphax

    This is how the gaming industry has operated for… well… ever?

    • Guest

      Nope. Sorry, you are misinformed.

      • haliphax

        I follow several industry blogs and portals, and all of them report on this behavior regularly.

    • Guest

      The gaming industry waits to ship a product then fires its full time employees.

      • guest

        At least it’s performance driven. You’re game doesn’t perform? Hit the bricks. Easy to understand and communicate.

        • Miramon

          The game industry frequently fires a lot of staff on successful ship or delivery. Q/A is typically hit hardest, but entire studios can be shut down as a reward.

        • haliphax

          Also untrue. They don’t care if it performs or if it doesn’t; they still slash and burn. Even incredibly successful launches still result in a stripped down (or entirely eliminated) dev/testing team.

          • Michael Destefanis

            The joys of project based employment eh? It’s the ugly brutal nature of business, particularly when you have higher ups in the studio or publishing company that wants to ensure they see a large cut of the profit from the project.

      • haliphax

        Unfortunately, not always. Often, the ramp-down begins before it ships.

  • McKenna Phillabaum

    Reiterates everything I’ve heard about the culture at Amazon unfortunately.

  • lowrizzle

    Temp employees at Amazon aren’t a high percentage of the tech working population there, and ‘good’ temps and contract workers are usually converted to full-time if they’re worth their salt. It’s just not possible to keep enough qualified employees to staff these positions, though you don’t want to hire someone with very little work experience and real world training, invest deeply into their development, then have them turn out terrible. Contract or temp to hire positions fill that gap. Get over it.

    • Jessica Darko

      You presume that Amazon is capable of telling who is “worth their salt”, when the hiring process is not exactly quality. For instance, please explain to me how someone with a BS degree in criminal justice and no software industry experience can tell whether a programmer is “worth their salt” or not ? Because that literally describes one of the people managing programmers, and in the interview loop as the “Bar raiser”, no less!

      Amazon is one of the worst tech companies in the country to work for, and this is because it’s management is incompetent. Get over it!

      It’s not day one. Door desks are not “frugality”. (They actually cost more than regular furniture.)

      • disqus_NIEDl0JPGk

        Actually they’re cheaper based on the rates we can buy them for and how they’re easily modifiable for different size requirements. Don’t buy into all the rumors :)

      • Bette

        No, they can’t tell who is worth their salt. With their rounds of peer interviews, all it takes is one abusive douche who writes down something and you’re out. The hiring manager or director won’t hire without everyone saying yes. What that means is, the people there want to hire a dude that is a go-alonger who will be a bit less successful than they themselves so their bonus and political position is good. When a dude gets on a tech team, some teams are guys standing around with their hands in their pockets, with a lot of work to be done, but first you decide who is lamest by the top mean girl (who is a guy). The top mean girl is decided by whoever says their opinion with lots of gestures emphatically and who finds something to snark on about an idea, which means he’s “smart.” No salt evaluation whatsoever.

        • lowrizzle

          Thanks for using 2+ paragraphs to get half a point across.

          • Bette

            Since you only got a half a point across. What was that point?

      • lowrizzle

        Sounds like you were in a poorly managed group. Don’t generalize all of one of the best run companies on the planet because of the very small, in comparison, experience you had.

      • Michael Destefanis

        I agree with you for the most part on this. However there are quite a few people out there who can acquire a degree but really are not “worth their salt’. A degree simply means you received formal training in an area of expertise and completed it. It does not automatically mean you are efficient enough at the job to qualify for a full on working position. Was kinda interesting to see these people at Amazon with a BS in computer science wash out in a mere tier 1 helpdesk spot. There were 3 during my time at Amazon. They even had certifications too. One had a full on MCSE. All they proved was they could pass a test in an academic environment.

        Now, that’s not to say that going for a BS is… bs…but all I’m saying is not everyone who graduates is someone who is viable in a work environment in that field.

        Heh I remember those door desks. They still have a few of ’em at our call center where Kindle was developed. Amazon is a frugal company overall, just it does the cutbacks where there shouldn’t be any. The outsourcing is flat out ridiculous. Most of the first level dev support is in Hyderabad, India … and let me tell you.. some of the WORST devs I have ever worked with. File a trouble ticket for a customer, the dev pushes back saying “we need this information” or “please ask the customer to perform a hard reset before filing a ticket” when it’s all there in the notes and log. I’ve lost count of how many times I had to tell a dev to actually read the ticket. Don’t even get me started on the phone and chat associates overseas either. Oi…

    • boop

      Why is it “not possible to keep enough qualified employees to staff these positions”? I don’t understand. Is it because Amazon “has a median stay with the company of just one year” (according to a 5 July 2013 article in the NY Times)?
      For the record, I am an Amazon temp who is looking forward to her break in service and is fortunate enough to have enough financial cushion to enjoy it.

      • lowrizzle

        Because talented, qualified technical individuals don’t grow on trees. Do you know very many people in tech that are out of work now? How many of them are not just good, but great at what they do?

        For the record, I hire amazon temps. Many of them are eventually converted to regular. If you were hired as a temp or a contractor, you don’t have the job experience of abiliites to prove that it’d make sense to make the same investment into you as they have a someone who has proven themselves and has a built resume.

        • boop

          I don’t any Amazon devs other than the one who was snarky to me over Communicator late one evening last summer because I asked a question he thought was stupid. Boy, did I ever want to take that guy out for a beer and tell him to stop taking himself so seriously!

          • boop

            I meant “don’t know any” above.

      • lowrizzle

        Also, ‘median stay’ statistics are highly contrived. When you have a company with the rapid growth that Amazon has had, median stay time’s going to be very low. Please use some critical thinking.

        • boop

          I was only asking a question. No need to get snippety. I don’t understand how rapid growth translates into a median stay of just one year–unless they mean median stay in just one position (not at the company overall). From what I’ve seen, people change jobs internally all the time.

          • lowrizzle

            It means when a group with 10 people with 2 years experience rapidly needs to grow to 20 people with 0 years experience.. well, you were an Amazon employee, you should be able to do the conversion to percentages there ;)

          • boop

            I was assuming they were not including current Amazon employees in their calculations, only people who had left the company. You have a point.

          • ij

            something wrong with your math lowrizzle- a group of 10 people with 2 yrs experience = 20 man years. When it grows to a group of 20 people it cannot become 0 years experience since you already have a collective 20 years. So if all 10 new people have 0 years experience the group would still have 1 year experience per person average.

    • Mark MacKay

      Who defines “good”? In temp situations it’s anyone’s guess. Mostly these decisions are based on favoritism, blind luck or bias. Unions provide protections for workers when it comes to retention, training and advancement. “Get over it,” is a churlish philosophy at best. It usually means, “Shut up.” or “Don’t cause trouble.” AKA management policy.

      • Michael Destefanis

        The problem is Unions lack the teeth nowadays to really prevent anything like outsourcing or hiring externally. Personally I’m against them all together. They’re an outdated ideal and focuses quite a bit on seniority rule even if they can promote someone who may be newer but is more qualified for the higher position. They were good at ensuring an employer complied with the law but these days the law itself is tailored more toward favoring the employer. A union doesn’t equal permanent employment either as many will attest to. If the employer wants to downsize, they will downsize. Ironic how the Baker’s Union went on strike against Hostess, hastened the bankruptcy of the corporation which resulted in someone else buying it and having all positions now be non-union. I don’t feel Unions are the answer to problems facing employees nowadays.

  • Beeez

    My hat goes off to you, Steven. This has been an on-going problem that nearly everyone on the team has observed and something that I’ve noticed for a long time. Replacing skilled workers with inexperienced new ones to pay cheaper wages and avoid benefits, has already and will continue, to dilute the quality of work on X-Ray and has demolished morale. To me, it’s not much of a personal cost since I’ve finished my 11 months, but to other team members who continue to receive abuse of power and lack of respect – I would leave the team if there is an opportunity. Otherwise, prepare to hold on for the ride.

    btw @lowrizzle:disqus thats the mentality of many of the permanent employers (which I can safely assume you are). It’s unfortunate because the scope is very short-sighted and does not come close to giving a real perspective on team dynamics, performance, and reward. But lucky you, that is not something you have to worry about.

  • Rod Long

    When writing something like this, whether it’s for public or private consumption, always do you best to leave yourself and your personal experiences out of it. It’s too easy for someone to read and dismiss as a rogue or disgruntled employee. People have different versions of the truth, but data never lies.

    • Anagogue

      Personal experience are also data, and data may not “lie” but it also doesn’t interpret itself. This religious awe towards ‘data’, particularly to the exclusion of all other sources of relevant information, is also a part of the problem the article sets out to tackle.

      • Michael Destefanis

        So talking about an experience with a company… and Rod saying it’s best to leave yourself and your personal experiences out of it or be labeled as a rouge or disgruntled employee? Usually there’s a valid reason for an employee to be disgruntled, especially given how ridiculous company policy tends to get in the way of the human side of things. Though in all fairness, contract positions are expected to be temporary but given how many states have “at will” employment law… everyone really should consider themselves temporary workers in those states that have it.

  • Jessica Darko

    Full time employees at Amazon are not treated much better. The entire management structure is extremely political. They constantly reorganize and since about %50 of the “managers” for programmers are not programmers themselves you often end up working for idiots. But you have to kiss their ass our you get fired.

    For a programmer with a great deal of experience in the industry, including at large companies such as Microsoft, Sony, Apple, etc. Amazon was by far the worst employment experience.

    Further, they defrauded me and never paid me what was promised in my offer letter alas, they tricked me into signing a no-sue clause when I left (at a time when I had not realized the error in my payments) …. a contract that is, itself, illegal in Washington State.

    This all comes from Jeff Bezos. He has surrounded himself with yesmen and political backstabbers. I know this directly because we reported issues that needed to be resolved up the chain of command, were told not to fix them, then one thanksgiving evening, Jeff himself contacted our manager and demanded that the issue be fixed.

    This means either Jeff is incompetent and doesn’t care about the quality of, or the people who report to him kept this issue from him because it would be embarrassing to them— either way, they are not the ones who get the blame when things break. Which means really, it’s Jeff’s responsibility.

    I know Amazon pays PR agencies a lot of money to make it seem like the kindle is a success, and that Bezos is supposed to be something like a Steve Jobs figure, but nothing could be further from the truth. Bezos is a BOZO, because at the very least he’s surrounded by BOZOs. Bozos Steve Jobs would never have tolerated in the company.

    Amazon is run by C players who hire D players. It’s a terrible environment for the A and B players that get recruited into it.

    • triplesec_ice

      if that was an illegal contract you can sue them, can’t you!

      • Michael Destefanis

        Yup. You can.

    • Guest

      I hope you don’t consider yourself an A
      player. A players don’t whine like this. They thank people like
      Bezos for an opportunity, decide that the company culture isn’t for
      them, and MOVE ON.

      A/B player engineers are in such high
      demand right now and command such a high salary that it should be no
      skin off your back to say “This job isn’t a good fit for me, I’m
      going to [Another department/Microsoft/Google/A cool startup/etc].”
      No need to kiss ass or get fired (which, as an engineer, is quite a
      challenge at any large company – usually only reserved for the most
      caustic or incompetent).

      • Thessalon

        Being an A player does not mean being a patsy for barel mediocre leadership.

        • Bette

          First rule of Douche Fight Club, don’t talk about Douche Fight Club.

      • Michael Destefanis

        A/B players are losing out as well due to outsourcing to cheaper labor as well. Did we already forget about the “whining” those in the VFX industry did not that long ago? Also don’t confuse not getting fired with being given the opportunity to resign instead as a means that an engineer of sorts is caustic or incompetent if they are fired. A large part of the problem is in fact the outsourcing that’s allowed to continue. US based associates are brought in to lay down a foundation and pilot. Then once successful, support is handed on over to engineers overseas to save costs.

        Suffice to say having worked with these “engineers” first hand that so graciously did not bother reading trouble tickets before sending out a response and regularly leaving customers waiting 30+ days for some sort of answer to the problem ( as a matter of fact it got so bad that a US based team had to be developed to do the work those in Hyderabad were supposed to be doing in the first place) they often left me wondering how they even landed a job as a developer in the first place. This wasn’t just with one or a few but it was systemic. I suspect things might be a bit better but from what I’ve been told by some who still work there, the still have issues with tickets being resolved in under a month.

      • suesmaller

        I have always been an A-team player all my career. I started out years ago at a Fortune 500 company that was then the company to work for. I’m talented and one of a kind in my field.

        I recently took a contract to hire position with major insurance company here in Seattle. I naively thought that, if I did well, I would get hired. I jumped to the conclusion that there was a head count associated with the position right from the start. That turned out to be untrue. In fact, even worse, someone in the Insurance company’s group where I was placed would have to be forced out in order for me to get hired.

        It was the worst employment experience of my life. I reported to the placement agency. The person I reported to should not have been managing anything, let alone people she placed at the insurance company. At every turn, she gossiped about my coworker’s health problems, and about how she had sent them to the right doctors, ordered them to see a personal trainer, etc., etc.. Nothing could shut that woman up. Talk about unprofessional at best, defamatory and invasion of privacy at worse.

        She had no respect for anyone. To keep me working for the placement firm, she made a lot of false statements about the job and
        about how contractors always get hired. This was obviously not true, as most everyone in IT was a contractor. She lied to me point blank, stating that, if pager duty became a necessary duty, I should go talk to my manager at the Insurance company and he would negotiate it with me. As it turned out, pager duty was of utmost importance to my manager at the insurance company, and the placement agency knew it.

        Meanwhile, my manager at the insurance company really appreciated my work, and said so at every turn. I was on track to getting hired. Yay!!! He was even going to send me to a major conference.

        Something went awry. There were some misunderstandings about the duties of the job. My manager at the placement agency spread a rumor about me that I was a trouble maker. (She called everyone a trouble maker.) My manager at the insurance company at first said that he could move me to a different part of the company, that he didn’t want to lose my skills from the company.

        However, my contract, which had recently been renewed, was suddenly terminated. I was fired by the placement agency, in public, in front of my coworkers. The person I reported to at the placement agency said with a smile: “Dick [your manager at the insurance agency] wants to sever his relationship with you.” Later, I found out that my manager at the placement firm was still spreading gossip about me to people at the insurance company. She divulged all of the reasons why I had been terminated, talked in great detail about my health problems, and told my coworkers that no way could I sue. (I could; I just don’t feel up to it.)

        The brutality of my termination was incredible. I’ve never been fired from a job before. Laid off once, yes. Fired, never.

        To me, it appears as if the Northwest has sold out to the idea that contractors are a better way to go. This apparently was a new experience for the insurance company, and I have to say, I hope they realize it’s a lousy business model that ensures both sides lose.

        I’m furious that I was treated like a replaceable unit, disposable, and a second class citizen.

        I don’t have ties to this area. Seattle is a beautiful city, and I could see making a home here. But I don’t have the stamina to always be a contractor with none of the rights of a “permanent” employee.

        For seven months, I was trained intensively by my department at the insurance company.
        So now all of that training was a waste of time due to some kind of misunderstanding. The premise of the placement agency was that contractors are not covered by the same laws as employees. If I had the energy, I would lawyer up and disprove that notion.

    • Michael Destefanis

      Having worked in a call center in Kindle Support I can attest to this even on the lower ranks. We were always pushed to be on the leadership team. While they tell you that you can apply for most positions without jumping to an level 4 leadership position, from my perspective it was extremely rare. Then to even get the help in being a lead you have to be someone’s pet prodigy and people I have worked with who are more then qualified to be a lead were flat out denied the position on frivolous grounds. One of them for example had a manager that was out on vacation but apparently you have to have your team manager be there for the interview and to back you to even be seriously considered. That is if you can even land the first interview.

      It’s so much about politics there it’s not even funny. It took a year and a half after our team identified a fraud practice that was rather significant for Kindle projects team to actually do something about it, even though we flat out told them what needed to be done in the first place. Then of course they happily took the credit….after wanting our data we mined regarding the fraud activities.

      I have to say at first I had a lot of respect for Bezos. But with all the cutbacks that were done in the name of “being frugal” which included deprecating entire teams in favor of overseas associates (who apparently are paid on a per contact basis, not an hourly rate; I have not confirmed that 100% however).. and then he willy nilly buys himself the Washington Post from his own private fortune? Yeah. No. Just another fine example of the rich getting richer in the end while more of the jobs that can be done overseas are moved overseas. If international shipping wasn’t so costly I’m certain fulfillment centers would be primarily overseas as well.

      It honestly is a relief not working there anymore though. The associates and level 4 leads were easy enough to get a long with but level 5 (customer service managers) and up.. that’s when the politics really kicks into play. I had this one CSM who I would argue is one of the best around. He questioned policies and he was the type that kind of walked that fine line of pushing for proper change and biting the hand that feeds and just went to show that even he had very little power in the end.

      But yeah, in management it really doesn’t matter how well your performance is. Frugality comes first, not so much the quality. Ideally they will get both.. a quality worker who will basically be a yesman. Oh they will run JDIs and Kaizens and give you a sense of making big change but it seems to me when you push for a change that really does matter quite a bit that conflicts with current policy, no amount of data will convince them to change it.

  • Ryan Parrish

    What is this, miniAmazon?

  • Lynn

    Thank you Steven for explaining a period of my life.

  • hellaopinionzdawg

    I worked as a contractor at Google and Microsoft, never at Amazon, but I totally would. They pay pretty well and it’s a great learning/growth opportunity. Experience is usually seen as equal to education so if you look at it that way, you’re getting paid to go to school and work on cutting edge products. So what if it ends in 11 months and the managers left to clean up the mess and the product suffers, it’s not your concern anymore, right? Besides, you signed up for a contract position, a full time position was never promised, you just feel like you or one of your peers was the best fit so you feel like it’s a mistake on management’s part to let you go but really it’s just what you and the hiring team both agreed to (shit you interviewed for it and everything). If you didn’t want it to end in 11 months I would suggest not taking (or even interviewing for) the position and holding out for a full time position – if you have the experience, My guess is that you don’t, because you wouldn’t be working as a contractor if you did. These large scale operations are set up to work this way and Amazon does actually hire on 80% + of their contract workers to FT. This sounds more like you complaining to Bezos about how you didn’t get a job you wanted more than a suggestion on how to better their business practices. This how these large scale operations work these days, if you don’t like it, don’t apply for the position.

  • Fred

    I worked as a contract programmer for Microsoft for years and mostly enjoyed it. They have their own share of programmer management issues of which they are aware but have not done anything about. I worked with some great programmers and picked up a lot of great techniques and skills.

    The thing that made me choose to go full time elsewhere was the lack of competent management of the engineering process and resulting product quality.

    Tools, techniques, and languages have progressed to such a point that programming teams can get by without good systems engineering processes substituting a miasma of hand waving they call “agile.” (“Agile’s a friend of mine, I know agile, your off-gassing is not agile.”)

    The result is a product that doesn’t really do what it needs to do, and does a lot of what it doesn’t need to do, and does just enough of it correctly such that things don’t quite fall apart enough to get the manager “reassigned”.

    It just wasn’t fun anymore.

  • UncleRobbie

    Loyalty is earned, not granted. You want loyal employees, you have to make them feel welcome, valued, and a part of the company. It’s not hard, Bezos.

  • Hulksmashchop Martin

    Amazon has shit on its employees for as far back as I can remember so it would kind of surprise me to see them all of a sudden have a change of heart. The company is basically established on the ideals of a revolving door for employees.

    • Eme B.

      Not so. I, and many people I trained with, have been with the company since 1999. Amazon encourages growth and long term employment. It sounds to me like the people ranting are outside the company and are either basing their opinions on bad rumors or a bad experience caused by poor performance. You can work in any job and end up with a manager you don’t agree with or don’t get along with. It doesn’t make them incompetent — but if you are unwilling to change your behaviors, and set aside your differences, then you are obviously not going to perform well under that manager.

      • Michael Destefanis

        And dismissing the entire issue of Amazon outsourcing where it can? ;) Amazon does encourage growth and long term employment but to be candid you really don’t get anywhere in there unless you are someone’s pet project. That’s where the politics aspect of modern management comes in to play. I would argue they have raised the performance bar to unreasonable levels however. So the poor performance remark is really something you would expect to hear from one of the corporate cheerleaders in the company such as yourself. ^_- And ever year it keeps getting raised up. See that slippery slope of an argument for performance is just.. it’s so amazingly illogical it makes me laugh. The notion that “because this person did it, you can too” is a crock of shit. In the position I held, getting that customer who responds NO on the surveys sent out really is more of a luck of the draw than anything. You can do everything correct on the call but all NO responses, including ones that are accidental do count against you. Just somewhat recently they made that even harder how with the NRR practice that eBay had done in their call centers. A former manager there who I am good friends with had told me that the initial purpose of NRR was to raise the performance bar high enough to weed out employees so new ones can be hired in at the base pay. Turns out it saved the company more in the long run, they avoided bad PR by not doing actual layoffs and tend to get out of paying UI benefits. So let’s stop using “poor performance” as a crutch.

      • Hulksmashchop Martin

        Oddly 1999 and 2000 was when tons of people were showing up to work only to get there and the doors be locked.

  • Jonathan M Perez

    Great article. I worked on the Inbound Support Services (iss) team for Fulfilled By Amazon for two 11 month contracts. While I don’t think my managers were as incompetent as yours (my second manager was actually quite professional and very forthcoming), there is definitely that level of “not being one of the cool kids” present. I trained at least 7 employees as green badges that went on to turn blue and I built and maintained healthy relationships with my co-workers as well as various employees at the Fulfillment Centers, TAM employees at the call centers and other various Amazon workers. I felt like I gave the company my all and was a valued worker. At least four times I was passed over for a blue badge. Fact of the matter is, many green badges are no more than an ass in a seat for Amazon. When all green badges are specifically excluded from all the cool functions and events the blues get to go to, you know what the company thinks of you as an employee.

    • Michael Destefanis

      You trained successful green badgers that were converted and… you still got passed up 4 times for conversion? Why.. does that not surprise me?

  • OrangeCrush

    In retail you have to understand how dynamic the work demand becomes. It’s not feasible for a company like amazon to staff work for the holiday season year round. Temps have always been the solution in retail

    • Patrick Husting

      In retail for holidays, sure. But this article is about high tech people working on product and services.

      • Michael Destefanis

        That and there’s a code freeze that starts just before peak however devs are still needed for when things break down and the code freeze is usually the time to start planning for new products and services for the next year. So while it does make sense for temps to be in and out of the doors for retail holiday periods, a similar concept is true for development teams. Hence why they are brought in on a contract basis. That’s the higher up version of temp labor obviously. If you go in on a contract always assume that it’s temp and you will not get renewed. Saves on the disappointment nor does it pose an issue so long as the company is in fact up front that it is temporary with no guarantee of a full time position.

  • Guest

    This is bull-shit. I know people on the Xray development team, and sounds like Stephen was a data entry guy, not in engineering (where there are very few contract workers at Amazon, unlike Microsoft). These types of jobs don’t make sense for FTE positions, however if he was a high performer they would have hired him into another opening if it was available and he was qualified.

    • Michael Destefanis

      While I do disagree with quite a number of Amazon’s practices, being a high performer also knows how to talk to the talk and dance the way they tell you to do. Politics does play a heavy part in conversion, particularly in higher up positions like an engineer. But in any event permanent full time dev positions were not that common while I was there so it’s very likely they had 1 or two spots available and he just didn’t make the cut. What makes his argument a tad hard to really get too into is the fact that contract labor is.. contract labor. It’s temporary unless the contract is renewed. Not really any different in the end than a green badge.

  • rh

    Reading thru the comments below it seems that Amazon has a very poorly organized work environment. The confusion starts when you know the their CS is one of the best in the world.

    What is the secret of disgruntled workers providing the world ‘s best service and customer experience. I certainly would like to know?

    • Guest

      Those who can’t cut it tend to complain the loudest about “fairness” and “management.”

      Tale as old as time.

      • Buzzy

        After 39 years in the people business and the I.T. business, and 22 years as an entrepreneur, it very much seems to me like people who REALLY can’t cut it, are people who point to OTHER people, and say, anonymously….” You can’t cut it “.

        • Michael Destefanis

          Thank you for pointing that out. Plenty of people who are qualified for a position don’t make the cut or are simply axed in the name of “frugality”. Everyone has a boss to answer to and everyone’s ass is on the line in some way especially in performance based companies. I can tell you first hand Amazon is absolutely obsessed with the ridiculously high performance bar they push on you on top of the usual politics that tends to occur in these environments. Amazon was not the worst employer I worked for but certainly not the best. It’s kind of like… they try and they do some of it quite well.. but then it becomes anti-climatic unless of course you wind up someone’s pet prodigy and advance higher up in the ranks. That’s the problem when there are only 1 or 2 open spots and you have 300 or so people applying for it.

  • Nedd Ludd

    One reason companies don’t hire temp workers directly into permanent jobs is that they may have to pay a fee to the agency the temp may work for. It’s cheaper the hire someone else in from outside.

  • Sarang Fegde

    I don’t agree with this view. This is such a biased view (considering someone didnt make it full time). I am a full time Amazonian(a year old). I love the constant changes to the organization. It brings fresh ideas and the break down in systems that are exposed in transition can be positive or negative. Amazon encourages constant movement in task force between teams. This takes its toll on team but it is really helpful in many ways. Even for your career development.

    Voices don’t get heard. It is such a common phenomenon in many organizations that I have worked for. There are multiple priorities in dynamic environments. Just because your suggestions did not get heard does not mean all suggestions go unheard. Such a generalization and narrow mindset on part of the author. I have made a ton of suggestions, 60% of them are not implemented and 40% are and that is not because they don’t care. It is because at Amazon there are million good suggestions coming in from all directions and the management has the luxury and the difficult dilemma on choosing one good suggestion over other at any give point in time.

    I look at this letter as sour grapes. We treat temps equally at Amazon. When I joined the company, I was supposed to take up some responsibilities that a temp was performing. The transition was well planned and I did not see any difference in treatment. The temp who trained me was really good so we moved him to other team when he completed his transition and we eventually offered him a job.

    Sorry Steve Barker. You should have pushed the bar higher. Loosing enthusiasm in 11 months is a lame excuse. The real world is difficult and challenging and you have to do better than that.

    Sarang Fegde

    • MPL

      Many times the great companies don’t recognize what they do great.
      Treating the employees as disposable and keeping them guessing is a management fail. In the pursuit of increasing the bottom end and cutting overall costs specific tactics are employed by upper management who establishes policies.
      One Achilles heel is the culture that is Not being established.
      The Culture of pride, teamwork, and ownership is lost behind these Outdated Corporate Ideals. When that is lost productivity, and concern for the end product not only suffer but decay to a point that eventually specific business failures occur, at that point the upper management tried to liquidate specific portions of an enterprise to save $.

      Basically there is No High Speed Trust relationships built.
      The most successful businesses all have one common trait.
      High Trust Relationships.
      If you don’t understand that, you wont be the most successful.

    • Jonathan M Perez

      Your perspective sounds completely insider! I would love to know how your entry into Amazon happened–did you rise through the ranks as a green badge or did connections land you a position as a blue. Fact of the matter is, Steve is not alone in his experiences as a contract worker for Amazon.

      • Sarang

        I interviewed directly for a full-time role through a normal application process. I had 9 interviews.

        You very easily made a generalization/assumption of people getting the blue badge through connection. It is not an easy process to get full time position and you should know it because you didnt clear the opportunities after getting FOUR chances.(As mentioned above)

        THE FACT is there are many like you and steve with green badges(I dont approve of this terminology of identifying people by color of badge) and direct Full time applicants who dont make it through the interview. The FACT is you were NOT ONE of the applicants and green badge employee you got converted in a single opportunity..

        And dont give me shit about the interview process not being fair..there are 9 different people who interview candidates and nine different opinions to draw the final conclusion. There is very less area for mistake there.

        • Jonathan M Perez

          Congratulations then on making it through the interview process. I know they are excruciating (though not all positions require nine interviews). But I think Steve’s point is–which is one I exactly experienced on a different team–is that it is a ridiculous practice for Amazon not to promote a contractor who can do the exact same job, doesn’t have to acquaint themselves with the culture of the company and has gained the respect of their fellow workers. Doesn’t it make more sense to make a valuable contractor–one who already knows how to perform the vacant job to standards that exceed expectations–a permanent employee instead of looking for an outside solution?

          I also gotta note–for someone who earned a full-time position at Amazon, you’re coming off as brittle and defensive with cursing in your posts and yelling in all caps. If that attitude is indicative of how full-time Amazonians act, then I’m glad I have found full-time work elsewhere.

          • sarang

            First let me just say that I have personally seen a lot of good contractors convert in my team..double digit…including tech and non tech.

            Here is where you have got it wrong.

            “Amazon not to promote a contractor who can do the exact same job,
            doesn’t have to acquaint themselves with the culture of the company and
            has gained the respect of their fellow workers.”

            To be hired as a fulltime employee in great firms, one needs to be more than someone who can do one job. Great firms are looking for people who can be in the company long-term and grow into leaders and work in more than one team in different roles and learn fast. These are the qualities that candidate should posses.

            You should really reassess you definition of exceeds expectations.

            While you are taking notes why don’t you take a note of the above fact instead of making personnel attacks on others and their abilities and cry like a baby when you see facts.

            And all you other people crying about not getting opportunities fail to see that these opportunities are actually awarded to other people. The size of this company has grown so much (higher than ever). You guys should be focused on figuring out how you could improve your chances for converting such opportunities.(Although some positions are purely temp)

            Just see the number of people employed in Seattle and how the number has increased significantly. …they are actually doing great job by providing awesome opportunities and in a huge number.

            Just for the record: I LOVE MY JOB AND MY EMPLOYER.

            I usually am not so vocal on the internet but this article is just plain rubbish.

          • Michael Destefanis

            I was a full time Amazon employee. I started off as a mere green badger (most employees do start off as green badge to more or less..test how you will workout. a direct hire to blue badge at least in call centers is not really that common) and after 2 months on the call floor I did get my blue badge.

            I will not deny that I’m pleased I do not work there anymore. The job was ridiculously stressful far more than it needed to be and the constant raising the bar and putting pretty much the final say with the customer (because you can do everything just fine on a call and still get a NO response on the survey, which counts against you and gets in the way of things like your preferred shift pick, your PRP bonus (quarterly bonus that’s earned monthly, paid out quarterly) and even advancement. The bottom line is your numbers. Doesn’t matter how or why…. it’s all about the numbers in the end which is well not a good thing or even accurate of an employee’s performance there. They depend on the “balance out” principle which is yeah.. no. If only customers knew that a NO response they give even when they are simply upset at the company.. only hurts the associate while the company still gets the feedback whether you click yes or no.

            Anyway, overall I’d say MOST full time Amazonian are pretty good people and fun to work with. I mean that’s like the one thing I miss about working there. Operations managers well.. I can’t say I like them very much but that’s in part because they enforce rules brought on to them by other departments. One example is the workflow department. They determine our schedules and how many people need to be staffed at a given time, etc and information is limited. They tend to “blurb” you a lot when you have a complaint which the blurb is basically saying “sorry, business need trumps your 2 days off in the middle of a 6 day vacation you were trying to take off. So you can have that time off but you have to come in in the middle of your vacation to work” type crap.

            The drawback with Amazon comes a lot from most of it’s internal policies and the power they give to a customer over your position, at least until you wind up in a Level 4 leadership role where they don’t even monitor your metrics. The problem is… getting in to a level 4 is ridiculously hard and basically the politics do come into play there. Not only do you need to be top performing but you also need your manager’s full backing; something they are apparently limited to 1 associate per round of hiring.

            But yeah the people there are overall good people. Management skills can be questionable given a degree is required for a level 5 customer service manager position and we actually had one in Kindle support that had never even touched a Kindle yet her job involved speaking with customers who decided to escalate. A CSM is also supposed to help map out business plans for their respective departments. However, she came in knowing our team was being deprecated to be exclusively overseas associates (of course didn’t have authority to tell any of us she knew it was happening and instead gave us false hope ;) ) and she was back in retail support about 2-3 weeks after we were formally deprecated. However, the problem with a lack of knowledge isn’t exactly uncommon in management but most of them will simply try their best. Kind of hard to get upset with them because as a CSM they are more or less shuffled between departments each schedule change.

            So the culture itself of Amazon is pretty nice. It’s when the politics start coming into play and new policies that either take away your position or you lose out on your schedule bid because someone got luckier with the customers not clicking on NO as many times.. it’s frustrating. I don’t believe on rewarding someone, calling it “performance” when a good chunk of that really is simply luck of the draw and that NO responses count against you even when your lead determines it was not your fault at all. That’s not an accurate representation of performance at all and while there are of course people who do advance, the ones who weren’t quite as “lucky” are labeled as lesser performing persons.

      • Buzzy

        Mr. Perez….get a load of this guy, Sarang. Whenever I hear a newbie (or anyone else) use the term “role” instead of “job”… I know I’ve got a pseudo-elitist on my hands. Also, I’d like to just call your kind attention to the fact that Sarang boasts about having NINE interviews. NINE!!! It’s takes NINE interviews to get a job at AMAZON ? About 30 years ago, a guy name of Phil Ross who taught people how to recruit professionals, said: ” Companies hire in their own image “. Sweet, huh ?

        • Michael Destefanis

          9 interviews eh? Hmmm. That can make some sense. If I recall correctly it takes 8 interviews to get a job as an Operations Manager in one of the call centers. I believe the CSM position (your basic customer service manager) requires 4 or 5 and a level 4 lead (basically your equivalent to a shift manager) will take about 3 rounds of interviewing. The first interviews in those are almost always written ones as well.

    • Buzzy

      Hey !!! You tell ’em Sarang. I know you know all about LAME EXCUSES…..don’t you, Buddy ?

  • JacobB

    Having known a handful of employees (both FT and contract capacity) that have worked at Amazon, this article rings true. I don’t know one employee that isn’t completed jaded by the experience of working under Amazon’s guise of “one of the best places to work”. Yes, they do pay decently and have good benefits, however you’ll be working 80 hr weeks with not so much as a “thank you”.

    • Michael Destefanis

      Well overall good benefits. The health and dental plans that were all out of pocket were complete crap. Other benefits such as paid and unpaid time off banks are common to call centers. Stock options were good. Not sure how they work out for developers but I know leads who do not get the quarterly bonus merely missed getting a quarterly payout but they get more stocks that vest bi-annually. So that is a pretty sweet deal there. Salaried positions they pretty much do work you to death whereas with the lower ranks I was in you had to apply for the extra overtime. Thank you is there in some form.. usually your lead or a good manager will thank you. The company will thank you with an after peak holiday party and a company picnic in the summer. I’m not sure how that works out for fulfillment center employees but the catch is.. if you are scheduled to work on the day of those events… you’re more or less screwed out of getting to go unless you saved up UPT or PTO for it. I mean it’s totally not the best place to work but it’s not that horrid either. But when you’re looking to go from any sort of temp to full time position there.. it’s not easy at all, especially with a limited number of spots and insane competition for them. Oh and the pay is well.. put it this way.. pulling in $14.75 an hour for answering phones, guaranteed 40 hours a week… it was indeed a living wage for my area and I was moderately comfortable given I had some excess to splurge a bit with.

  • John K

    I am not surprised this guy didnt make it full time. He doesn’t possess key leadership principles of Amazon (Bias for action, Disagree and commit.) The truth is that the bar of full time positions is very high and the recruitment process is very rigorous.

    The bar for the contract temp positions is fairly low as assignments are mostly temporary (temp hiring is in an important part of managing costs). So when these contractors interview for fulltime they dont make it because the bar is EXTREMELY high. Even though you do your job well it is not enough. Full time investment is long term. They really test candidates on key leadership skills to fit the culture of the firm and interview success percentage is pretty low for Amazon as they are really looking for great talent.

    The articles clearly shows that you are upset because you didn’t make it. If you failed an interview means you were not a good fit and you have to move on and improve yourself for the future….instead of posting such meaningless articles.

    • Bette

      You’ve got that right Bias and Disagree. If you disagree and snark, you come across as the alpha dog and therefore, the smartest person in the room.

    • Michael Destefanis

      I’m kind of half and half on your post, partly because you’re spouting out more of that corporate cheerleading crap I had to deal with during my time there. Disagree and commit was just another way of telling a lead to shut up and do what you’re told anyway type thing. Bias for action well… I could go on and on about that one given the company has a bias for inaction on some pretty important topics that are simply roadmapped. I mean come on, it took them a year and a half just to actually take action on the Kindle fraud that was happening when our team informed the Kindle projects team that “hey, this is what we need to do like yesterday!” and of course they happily took the credit when they did implement the change needed drastically curb the fraud that was happening.

      I disagree with you that this article is meaningless to any degree, the answer is not always in improving yourself for the future. Too often in fact there are some very qualified people who do not get full time positions simply because there just aren’t enough spots to fill the demand. Politics play a heavy, heavy role in that bar you speak of as well given that ran around rampant in the call center I worked at. I’ve seen people come and go, managers come and go. Hell one was a direct hire operations manager that was recruited externally. Suffice to say he made that hiring bar and left the company due to how badly it was being managed. He had no real power to enact the changes they claimed he would have.

      So, yeah you speak very much like one of those types that are lifers of the company but where I have to agree with you on is the fact that contract positions are temp positions and no one should expect to be a full time employee. It’s not much different than a green badger in the end. You work on a temp. basis and if there is an opening for blue badge.. you apply. However you’re going on the assumption that he wasn’t a good fit. I’d argue not all managers know talent if stared them right in the eye. If that were the case, politics in the workplace, particularly with promotions would not play any sort of part in someone’s advancement. I mean after all one person I worked with there was flat out denied the next interview as a level 4 lead simply because our CSM was on vacation and not present for the interview. Yes, they actually counted THAT against her and nevermind she had been an AP since they made them available in xchat and was regularly assisting other associates with their metrics in and out of her OU.

      Then we have the people who actually landed jobs in the digital OU. Most of these people had zero technical background whatsoever and the tier 1 helpdesk associates? Apparently only 2 of them had any sort of technical certification at all while the guy I sat in with was entirely not up to speed on modern tech beyond what they showed him what his job entailed. That’s not great talent. Then there’s the devs in Hyderabad. What dev (and this was a fairly common problem) reads a TT and asks you to tell a customer force stop and restart an app when that’s actually one of the required steps before filing a TT for an app issue then of course waiting 30 days or so for any sort of resolution was such a bad problem they were pulling in VCC associates to handle them. No, these aren’t proper devs and clearly not a high bar in the end.

      I would argue that while I do not know why this guy was not converted from contract to full time it’s still quite possible he didn’t get hired in because he wasn’t a personal favorite of the hiring manager. Like they say.. it’s not so much what you know. It’s who you know. This is very much true for Amazon just as it is in other companies and doesn’t make it any less right in the end.

  • margaretbartley

    So I read all these comments, and it seems like most people
    don’t understand the nature of the business world. Corporate execs HATE
    being held hostage by highly skilled, highly paid workers. They have been
    spending the last thirty years trying to turn IT work into intellectual factory

    Billions have been spent trying to break the software development cycle down
    into smaller and smaller components, so that moderately skilled (B and C-grade)
    employees can be cheaply trained to do their little piece, and then be replaced
    when the technology changes.

    This goes for the first-line supervisors, as well.

    Corporate leaders understand that they are still far from where they want to
    be, as far as having a software production line that is as cheap and efficient as
    a hands-on factory floor, and that it will probably take several generations to
    accomplish, but they deem it worthwhile in the long run. Just as the
    factory replaced skilled craftsmen in the 19th century, millions of
    easily-trained temp workers will replace valued employees in the 21st century.

    This takes time, and what Steve Barker is pointing out is just another issue
    they have to solve in the long-term process of converting employees to contract
    agency inventory.

    I remember back in the early 90s, academic, business and professional journals like
    to discuss how it was not necessary to
    be a techie to manage techies. This is the same issue: try it out , see
    what works, and what doesn’t work, and keep working at it until it does
    work. Again, it may take a generation or two, but in the long run, you
    will be able to plug in B and C-grade employees as first-line supervisors, as

    The loss of institutional knowledge is a big issue that management is not as
    aware of as it should be, according to my experience. Eventually they
    will figure out a way, probably through constant monitoring, to transfer that
    knowledge to someone else. IBM is working on this big time, but it’s a
    proprietary program that they don’t want to talk about.

    Guest, replying to Jennifer Darko, was correct when he said that the way to
    respond to this is to thank Amazon for the training opportunity, and MOVE
    ON. There is such a strong need for good developers now that this will
    only be a dinner party story for you in a few months.

    • Cudie

      >IBM is working on this big time
      In a world where winner takes all, a big corporation will steadily be outpaced by the one with the most motivating and rewarding tech environment. In the last 10 years, Google attracted many bright developers working on projects like Mozilla, Eclipse (IBM). IBM doesn’t even try to attract the best developers from its competitors, they are too busy replacing their world wide employees with cheaper staff in India.

      Revenues tell no lies, it’s all in decline for IBM. VP’s at IBM for the last 8 years have been watching Google’s revenues going up while the only thing that seemed to be feasible at IBM was reducing employment costs. Innovation doesn’t work in a lean environment. Lean only takes you to the next quarter, IBM is not looking pretty today, but it’s nothing compared to what it is going to look like in the coming five years – when financial optimization runs out of good will to burn out.

      Developers are the first people trying to automate the part of their job that is repetitive. Their tooling keeps improving so they can do more complex tasks. If there were no competition, sure they can all be replaced with C-grade employees. But there’s competition, and your corporation is doomed if it doesn’t have nurtured a rich tech environment. Once financial tricks like out-shoring to India and buying stock back to sustain EPS can’t compensate the empty pipeline of new quality products, even the biggest players can quickly collapse, while new players take over with the technical advantage.

    • Michael Destefanis

      Yeah, I’m sorry but you must be a techie to manage a techie. We don’t exactly take too kindly to having people tell us how to do our jobs when they have no clue in how it works. If my manager has not done my position then he/she is not qualified to manage me. Period. ;)

  • dee gee

    “There’s a lot of talk about how Amazon is a great place to work. They have showers in the basement. You can get your bike serviced while you work. And there’s food trucks!” I’ve seen more FTEs leave than come on in my time here.

    • Gee DEE

      Yes because after Amazon they get really great opportunities…

      • dee gee

        uh, not always. the ones I speak of left for reasons other than getting a different job.

  • AG

    First of all, in case anyone is confused about this, as a contractor you are an employee of the agency you work for, not Amazon (or Microsoft, or Boeing, or T-Mobile). Since it’s up to your employer to give you benefits, you can’t and shouldn’t expect Amazon to give you anything, really. So, if you don’t get benefits (or don’t like them) from the agency you work for then you should find an agency next time who will treat you better. There are plenty of agencies in Seattle who work with Amazon and Microsoft for you to work with.

    Personally, I have several friends (contract and perm) who work for/have worked for Microsoft and/or Amazon and were happy, but I also have some who were not. It always seems to come down to their manager and the group they work for rather than the company as a whole. Some groups are well-run while others are a bit of a mess.

    Just remember, people are much more likely to complain about a bad experience than they are to talk about an average or even good experience. Do your own research and listen to your gut.

    • Michael Destefanis

      Now that was a well written comment there and speaks a lot of truth to the reality of working at a place like Amazon. There is good and bad in it. Some get the shaft while they were perfectly good employees, some succeed and it really does boil down to the management team you work with and the type of manager you get. Some play the personal favorites game, some don’t. I had this one CSM during my time with Amazon. I mean we still got hit pretty bad with bullshit policy but he fought against it for us. He didn’t pick just a couple of people on the team to help set them up for advancement. He’s actually the reason why chat associates can now use emoticons. Before we proved that they help drive the tone of a conversation and in turn drove EDR down it was literally against policy and punishable to use them. Yet the chat teams always had a high EDR and thus a high EDR goal too.

      But anyway, yeah it really boils down to a number of factors, most of which is how much backing you have from your leadership team. I mean just as some associates are ones you wonder how they even got a job there, the same is true with managers. There were a few there that I felt a strong need to recommend a human relations in business course to. ;)

      But yeah this article while has some air of truth to it on certain points, just like a customer comment about Amazon itself…. you’re more likely to hear about the negative ones than you are the positive ones. I mean that in fact was among the nature of my job there and usually the people that would click NO on that survey were the ones that just were not going to be happy no matter what you did. Just the fact they had to call in was so much of a bother and the aggravating part of my job in that regard was those types would pop in at the worst time of the week and give you that NO response. Of course generally speaking I don’t think they realize that the NO response they give counts against the associate, not so much the company in the bigger picture.

      So yeah temp employee not getting a full time spot, not really much to complain on there without more serious backing as to an unreasonable reason why he was declined. Oh I have my suspicions that politics played a role but… hiring managers don’t exactly fess up to that. They give you a kind explanation that’s more or less like a friendly “last word” blurb you give to a customer and some moderately helpful feedback and off you go.

  • Archangel

    Next time bring some cheese with all that whine!!! You’re complaining about the gig you signed up for – if you’re junior (and clearly unprofessional) enough to be a “temp” you signed up for this kind of gig you should suck it up and stop b!thcing

    Professional contractors do I because it pays better overall and offers greater freedom than typical FTE slots

    “Temps” have the “less than 12 months” rule imposed on them because of the court case Microsoft was hit with years ago – professional contractors use their own corporations to provide the client with the proper protections that allow contracts to span years if needed.

    I just wrapped a five year gig for an international bank – the folks were mostly great to work with – were there a few morons? Of course – show me a place that doesn’t have a few. That’s not the issue – if a company is hiring temps it’s because they need some code monkey who are mostly interchangeable widgets – if they need serious skills they recruit or contract professional consultants
    Grow up!!

  • Bette

    Among the techies in Puget Sound, Amazon has a crap reputation for a work place, and bear in mind, that is in a market that has Microsoft the “we-eat-our-own-within-the-company-until-we-die” – a strange sort of self-destructive eating disorder where creativity and innovation goes to die.

    People generally only work at Amazon at most a year or two for the most part even as regular employees. They have crossed into Microsoft territory of internal stabbing and disorganization rather than making long term competitive tech. The code base they have by reputation in most projects suck like a hair ball. They do not believe in senior people, except douchey careerists who congratulate themselves and work more to maintain their positions than the products, so it is all a dream they have of hiring college dudes that just hack it out, on the theory that real tech dudes don’t need no senior supervision and they just release and hire again. And they keep banging on that one nail, removing people who gain any power and team respect for being smart or not hiring them in the first place, and snarking on and killing anyone outside some sort of echo chamber hipster dude club.

    I applaud the writer here. My experience with Amazon is that it only wants young men of a certain age group and look and, no women in tech positions. Oh, maybe as a woman you can be project managers and work in marketing. Maybe a tech intern. Never any position of tech authority really. And if you are an older guy, over 45, that hire is very rare. It’s kind of a Logan’s Run (Google it) there and I’m not surprised they have no respect for team members who have great knowledge of a project, even if there is no one else at all with any knowledge, they will not dare acknowledge your value. To do that would undermine their own position.

    Their record of not hiring qualified minorities I’ve seen up close and personal with friends of mine who are black. What they do is have peers interview you. One “no” and you’re out. So they hire only who is not threatening with the same look, same age range, same douchey attitude, frankly in so many cases. They say “not good cultural fit.” Which means you don’t fit in the mean-girls dude club.

    That said, if they have a continuous need for people beyond 11 months, don’t cha think they should hire? Keeping a large population of your company temporary and scared is plantation thinking. There are many people who are qualified they won’t hire as contract or regular. They do not need more H1-Bs either. If they could fire all tech people and replace them with indentured H1-Bs they would. But who would they hang out with and get a beer to dude snark with?

    Amazon needs to ethically hire and retain people, being a great long term employer. Seattle and everyone should demand that.

    • Jonathan M Perez

      I wouldn’t say Amazon doesn’t hire minorities–there are plenty of people with Eastern Asian or Indian backgrounds there but a serious dearth of African-Americans or Latinos in the corporate offices in Seattle. Plenty, unsurprisingly, in the TAM call centers and the FCs, where work is considered menial.

      • Bette

        I know black men in their thirties who are highly experienced in Amazon technologies who were thrilled and pumped to be interviewed by Amazon cloud technologies at the corporate office. None were hired. Each had the same story. Their feedback? Great experience, great knowledge, not a good cultural fit. Hmmmmmm… All had stories of how icy the whole experience of peer interviewing was for them. And…all said that when they went up the corporate headquarters and were around the team they were interviewing for, no black people at all. I know women in tech that report the same thing. Women, however, can be interns and entry level, maybe project managers and in HR and marketing, but not at all on their tech side…mmmmm…maybe they can test something.

      • Michael Destefanis

        Amazon has this program called a C2 which is basically that for most people in a corporate position have to visit a call center once every 2 years to basically see the “front lines”. They get an idea as to what we’re doing and how things are progressing and what needs we have. Sort of gives us some working time with someone quite high up the ladder. And these things happen very, very regularly and our call center is just a hop skip and a jump from Seattle so we got a lot of the real big wigs coming in. Suffice to say when they’re all clumped together in the main meeting room or even spread out doing listen-in’s with other associates.. there isn’t a lack of diversity there at all. I’ve seen blacks, Hispanics, Europeans, Americans, Hindi and women were not exactly rare either.

        I’ll be among the first to call out Amazon on it’s bullshit practices but the diversity is there in the higher ranks. It’s kind of hard to miss it when you constantly see it week after week of various corporate associates coming in for their 2 year C2. While I have no doubts that in those positions where there is fierce competition it boils down to who the hiring manager likes best in areas other than mere skill (it’s not exactly uncommon that jobs are taken on a who you know basis), I have seen no evidence of race or gender being a factor among Amazon corporate associates, particularly when the Seattle groups flow in. I mean hell the person in charge of all customer service operations in North America is a woman. Our last 3 site leads (basically the top position) at the call center I worked at were all women, one of which was african-american who I was not exactly happy to see go but she had landed herself a job in corporate.

        So I’m very sorry but while I agree with most of Bette’s comments on this article, this one.. no. Amazon will do a lot of stupid shit but I can honestly say they do not pull the race or gender card in top level positions… even though ironically I’ve seen more women leave for corporate positions than men from our call center.

  • Shane Nokes

    Yup this is the new normal. It’s even normal sometimes in some places to have the same temps working for years on end.

    I was on a team at Microsoft that was like that. I know someone that has worked on the same team now for at least 5 years…as a contractor.

    • Bette

      The odd thing is, that much like the author noted, they will rarely actually hire you if you are experienced no matter how useful you are. If you are a young man, with only a couple of years of experience, contracting can be the road to get hired. For people who are in their thirties or older, it’s much less a given option. Apparently, you are great for years on end, producing results they call back again and again in contract renewals, yet somehow you are of a caste they do not want permanently in their politics. Once you get into the contracting gig and you are past a certain age, they aren’t interested. You also get the looks and questions of “gee, it looks like you’ve done a lot of contracting work” from some clod during the interview process. The big companies have tons of openings, yet say they can’t fill them, and so, they need H1-Bs. I’ve heard from frustrated recruiters whose living is dependent on placing people that the companies seem to play games with many openings, and the what the point is, they cannot say, but many perm jobs are advertised, but a smaller slice is ever actually filled.

      • Shane Nokes

        Microsoft is pretty bad too in that way. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me here and there…but it’s true.

        They lose more money on swapping folks around as opposed to keeping them and using their time and experience gained during employment to keep things running smoothly.

        • Guest47

          Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the same way. We have 50% contractors here and some have been contractors for 10 years… Almost as long as the foundation itself…

          Especially in IT department, if you are a contractor there you will not be converted no matter what you do or how long you stay there.

          I suppose there are good savings there, or better yet an unholy relationship with outsourcing companies, where the execs have friends…

          • Shane Nokes

            Yeah I don’t understand the point of keeping folks for that long and not making them FTE’s.

            It just doesn’t make sense from the perspective of doing the right thing. *sighs*

          • Bette

            And yet, Gates talks about building a better world with happy smiling poor people living in a more stable world. I don’t think that people understand your point that “you will not be converted” no matter how good you are. It’s true.

        • Michael Destefanis

          Right? Especially if there’s any sort of training period involved. Like with Wal-Mart for example… high turn over rate because honestly? Too easy to get fired from there. But, hours are good. The store I worked at everyone was full time, part time by request for any that were. Pay was okay.. above min. wage but still not a living wage for this area but at the time $9.75 an hour wasn’t terrible either. Most jobs were paying around $8.50. However, training was about 2 weeks. So.. 10 days of training they invest into someone at your full pay rate for your position and they will fire you over mundane things including known friends joking with one another saying one will kill the other. It has happened. Someone drops a heavy box on their foot and injures it.. they instinctively mutter or cry swear word (this is in the back room and out of customer earshot), instant termination on the spot.

          I actually ended up fired from there because I questioned a supervisor’s decision to pull me out of electronics (I have a strong, strong technical background so that’s like.. my niche) and not Martha, who was this really nice 70 year old lady but knew jack shit about electronics. After about a dozen and a half times of him picking me over her, I questioned him about it and noted it makes more sense to keep the electronics specialist in electronics and the person with 12 years of cashiering experience be pulled to the front. Yeah that didn’t go over so well. ;) I’m like they’d rather train someone for 3 weeks and getting no work out of them while still paying for the person rather than listen to plain and simple business logic and have someone else cashier up front? I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it but I guess his male pride was hurt by it because a lowly associate like myself made far more sense than his own choice thought process on that matter.

          • Shane Nokes

            That happens even at MS to be honest. I had access to specific tools from a previous position and was able to help the new group I was in because of that access. The boss who took over on the new team wanted access, and he wasn’t going to get it. He told me it was then inappropriate for me to have access that he didn’t have. I told him that I disagreed, but that I would turn off that access since it was a problem.

            He said he wanted a meeting the next day to discuss it…he had my contract terminated overnight to prevent even having to have that meeting.

      • Michael Destefanis

        A large part of that is actually due to the fact Amazon has been steadily ramping up it’s outsourcing to overseas contractors and call centers where lower cost of living = lower pay grade = labor cost savings. Quality will take a backseat as well to Amazon’s frugal nature when the chips fall. I know this from first hand experience when they deprecated our entire Kindle Chat support team from the US because it was not “frugal” to keep us around. So we got the pleasure of being rolled back to phone support; the job chat associates loathe more than anything.

  • Capital_7

    Same thing happens daily at Microsoft. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of the end for these two inept blunderhouses.

    • Buzzy

      We can only HOPE.

  • Eric Burgess

    Customers first, not employees.

  • seattlewebdesign

    This is unbelievable: Axe has a hair gel?!

  • seattlewebdesign

    We use only onshore staffers and it is great.

  • Anagogue

    This isn’t happening only in tech. I’ve been let go from three different positions in the health care industry since I’ve lived here, for voicing opposition to poor managerial decisions that impact patients in egregiously negative ways.I bought the Smartest City in America pitch, and am still looking for the geniuses who are far-seeing enough to care about quality and product over number. If you want to study the Iron Law of Institutions live and up close, move here.

  • Guest

    The basis of your complaint is wrong. It is not Jeff Bezos but the labor laws that force companies like AMZN and MSFT to let go contractors after 11 months. If it was up to them they would keep you around as contractors forever. They can see the loss from having to retrain contractors, but are taught by their legal/hr folks to balance that with the risks of being seen as a perma-temp employer.

    My advice would be don’t get suckered into thinking a full-time job is better- freelance is the way of the future- if you do a good job and add value- they will seek you out, rehire you, convert you to fte. You can’t complain and get a job- and even if you do – would you be happy?

    • Bette

      Actually, if you have a full time job, you can plan vacations, family events, coaching that team, personal education, or even personal surgery – you know, luxuries…

      There’s a reason why the IRS limits contract work. It’s because these laws are set up to encourage full time employment when clearly, the company needs full time, ongoing workers. It helps us all. It creates more stable real estate markets, investment in communities, and enables workers to plan their lives. Full time employment also discourages companies from off-loading benefits or a view to retirement to all tax payers. When a company does not offer fulltime employment, that contractor is far more likely to take public benefits, particularly as they get older or if they or their family gets sick. So…basically contract workers are on the backs of tax payers more than full time workers. There’s also the thing that companies continually abuse contract workers, because as contract workers, they are allowed more control over their clothing, their hours, etc, since they are not full time, they should be able to manage their time and location. That is the law, but it’s abused routinely. There are differences in contract vs full time labor laws. But basically, companies don’t want to recognize that they have any obligations to workers at all. They whine like 2 year olds at this, but they are on point to get their tax abatements for creating “good jobs” and on point to enforce any contract of theirs that has obligations owed to them from others.

      The IRS doesn’t want abuse of contract vs full time workers because it costs us all. If a company continually has over years of contract full time work for a single worker, then the worker needs to be classified as full time.

      • Archangel

        The 12 month limit stems from a lawsuit years ago in which contractors sued Microsoft post hoc claiming they were due employee benefits – it was a BS ruling but that’s what companies deal with now – typical staff aug slots get treated to that but properly structured contracts and corporate construct allow a contractor to work for years if they want to – just finished a 5 year gig at a bank – never any 12 month limit questions

  • Carol Schultz

    Wonderful letter! I can’t say I’ve witnessed this first hand as I only do retained work, but after more than 20 years in search I have some assertions as to why this is happening:

    1. When companies get big there is so much infrastructure and red tape. This causes many issues.

    2. Publicly traded companies need to answer to shareholders and earn profits. On paper the finances appear better when using temp/contractors.

    3. Most corporate recruiters are working on a litany (maybe 30+) job reqs at any one time and are graded based upon how many jobs they fill. Consequently, the job doesn’t get done effectively.

    4. Most corporate recruiters are just “agents of management”, meaning they just fill jobs reqs. There’s no partnership or consulting with hiring managers.

    5. Many managers don’t have the power to make decisions that make sense.

    6. The “penny wise, pound foolish” nature of this scenario is rampant within Hi Tech. Companies think if they save money on the front end, this is a good thing. I could tell you horror stories…

    These are just some of the reasons I believe this is happening. Hopefully (not an effective strategy), Bezos will actually take notice and begin a conversation about this.

    I can’t even imagine the idiocy of hiring from the outside when there may have been two perfectly good candidates already working for the organization. But, of course, we only heard one side of this. Maybe they did consider the contract employees and there were red flags? Maybe Amazon didn’t want to pay the staffing firm a placement fee? Maybe the candidate they brought in was from another part of Amazon and they didn’t have to pay a fee?

  • voice_reason

    Welcome to the new America and the economic reality of our times. Companies foster little or no loyalty; are willing to accept less than excellent work, because apparently the cost-benefit analysis says so.

  • LaurenSmith2

    This is an unfortunate trend for corporations today :-(. Your article is spot on. In a large (unnamed) corporation that I worked for in customer service I had six different managers in just one year. It was definitely hard to connect as team as we were constantly being moved to a new one. Very sad, as this affects the quality of work as you point out.

  • Paul Couture

    I’m sorry to say but this company does this to all employees and as some one who buys about $10,000 a year from them I think it is time to find a new source. I feel a company that has managers that tell employees they can not wait to fire them is not worth buying from. Remember Mr Bezos Attitude Reflects Leadership and if look at surveys that your employee fill out you don’t look good

  • Debra Clinton

    Great article! I only wish you had given them the same level of loyalty and effort they deserved, and that they gave to you. One can only watch and hope that they learn their lesson the hardest way possible for their disgusting greed.

  • Katb

    Thank you Steven for writing this! As a 2 time contract worker at Amazon you did an amazing job describing the culture.

  • WishWashingtonPost PublishAll

    I totally agree with the author. I had worked on several projects for Amazon and witnessed and experienced the insulting treatments to contractors. They really only want to hire young people because it does belong to “retail” industury so most of its departments are not seriously about enriching their employees’ skills.
    But in order to please these young new hires, Amazon often take advantage of the contractor job interviews to let them practice and learn without any intention to hire. Yes, be ware, some recruiting companies did help Amazon in this aspect!

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  • Intrigued

    So did you ever hear back from Jeff Bezos? :)

  • Amazon Temp NE

    Steven, I’m with you on this AMEN brother. Spent 2.5 hrs as a Contract Network engineer at Amazon. Was brought back twice after my “3 month cool off periods”, Out lasted numerous FTEs, and managers, and other contractors. Once FTE pass their 2 yr mark they are off looking for more money. In the past 2 months FTEs with 2 – 5 yrs experience have gone across the lake to Redmond.
    It seems like they treat employees like hard drives when one goes out bring in another model and possible cheaper.
    Good Luck to you with your future endeavors.

  • KyleShort

    That explains why I can’t get an answer as to why my account of 18+ years was recently closed. I lost some weight and had trouble finding clothes that fit based on the descriptions from Amazon’s website. Got warning emails and called customer service who told me they were just automated emails and nothing to worry about. Next communication was that my account was closed and they won’t give me any further information. For a company that boosts being customer-centric, this is a very non customer friendly way of handling this situation. A more customer-centric approach would simply be to stop allowing free returns if a customer goes over a threshold. Company should just go ahead and go public, they already behave like one.

  • Someone who Knows

    As a current contractor for the so called “hard-ass” Randstad. I would like to make a disclaimer here. It is extremely difficult to get fired from this job. I have been here for about a year and a half and by no means over work myself and I have never once been talked to about my numbers. In fact I almost always sit near the very top of production and quality and this all takes very little effort on my part. I will also mention that vendors do not decide what numbers you need to reach. The team and pod leads look at the project and decided what is a reasonable expectation and if you are not reaching said expectation the vendors are then informed. And there is no need to cozie up to the vendors. In fact i speak with the vendors only if i need to ask a scheduling question.

    I have no love for this place. It is contract work. Welcome to the real world. The vendors are not here to hold your hand and tell you it is ok to preform badly cause you dont like the conversation around you. To say anything about a racist approach to hiring is completely wrong. There are people here of all backgrounds. The ratio is about the same as you would see walking down any given street in Seattle.

    This is really no more than a person who is taking it personally that they were fired from their job and refuses to accept that perhaps they were not cut out for it. And to go and make a public article trying to portray your former employer as an evil that must be stopped is just pathetic.

    This is not a dream job. The atmosphere here is very relaxed. The wages are not amazing and the opportunity for advancement is limited. However, anyone who has gone through the interview process for this job knows that all of this information is given to you before you officially apply. The vendors tell you: its very relaxed here, you are required to meet numbers, this is not a permanent full time job, projects tend to change alot…and then “are you still certain this is the job for you?”

    You know what you are getting when you start. This job is not hard. You are a contract worker. And you have probably just ruined a lot of career opportunities for yourself. Nobody wants to hire a person who goes and writes an article for the world to see about how they were cheated by “the man” when really they just didn’t do the job required of them.

    Dont get me wrong. I am not crazy about this job. But is a contract job and for being a contract job it really isn’t bad.

    • magic66

      You can’t even manage to put this comment on the right article

  • D. Bell

    Sounds like the same kind of thing goes on at all levels within Amazon. I have worked at Amazon as both a Tier 1 and Tier 3 employee for over 7 years now, and the injustice is appalling. Amazon will tell people that they absolutely MUST work as a temp employee before they can be hired to work directly for Amazon, then turn around and do a direct hire of several factory employees. They completely ignore competent, hard working people in favor of someone off the street who often could care less. They will then tell the temps they can’t hire them after they have already proved themselves. Of course, the turnover rate is very high any people quit after only a few hours of work. Every time someone leaves, time (and money) must be spent to train a replacement but that doesn’t seem to matter. My mother had a phrase “strain at a gnat, swallow a camel” and Amazon it the perfect example. They waste tons of money on bad ideas and then constantly berate the workers over the most trivial of problems. Why do I stay? It’s an employer’s market for people at my level so there’s always a line of new potential sacrificial victims to take anyone’s place and not many places offer health insurance which is a huge factor. At any rate, this only scratches the surface of what happens. I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  • IndustryLeader

    Temp Staff firms need to provide education to their employees before going on assignment for big companies like MS, Amazon, Google, etc. on the differences between temp work and true employment with a company. Companies have policies in place to prevent co-employment risk – term limits, distinguishing temp from FTE, access to perks/benefits/what-not.

    This really isn’t a “new normal”. If you’ve worked in the staffing industry you know that this is how the industry works. Being a temp enables you to work in different companies and gain broader experience. Good firms will set that expectation for you so you know what you are getting into. It’s meant to be short-term work, hence the “temp staff” title. You can’t go to a temp staffing firm and expect to to get the same deals as a FTE. Some folks enjoy temp work because they can move around and try different jobs.

    Much of the problems being stated by the author and several other commentors are due to lack of understanding. When you are going through a temp firm, you need to have candid conversations about the expectations of being a temp on assignment for a company. Otherwise, you are simply spreading misinformation on a large complex topic such as the staffing industry. Too often these days, we see disgruntled workers who had a bad experience go to the internet to complain about how companies just want cheaper talent, and how they think they are saving money… whah, whah, whah. Take some time to educate yourself on what you are getting into and the various forms of employment.

    The staffing industry is evolving, but you will only continue to see an increase in the use of temp staff and SOW work. Online Staffing and overall freelance work will become more prevalent as well. Get informed and stop complaining – control what you can and acknowledge what you cannot. Like David Foster Wallace said: “Think – make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to.” Otherwise you just end up pissed and writing generalized articles that speak to only parts of the overall problem.

  • icaris001

    Sadly, every companies are like that now a day. It’s all about the bottom line. This is definitely an eye opener about Amazon.

  • Reno Blue

    There is no way you should want to work for Amazon. It is an electronic sweatshop and they treat their employees horribly. I am now retired and worked for a number of top corporations in my career including GE and Boeing. My experience at Amazon was the worst of my career. I hated the forced ranking of employee performance. Most managers were too busy trying to kiss Jeff’s butt to really manage, and Jeff could be incredibly abusive to his staff including publically humiliating them at staff meetings for relatively minor things like using the wrong PowerPoint format in a presentation. There were also the social cliques that worked well if you were a member, but very much shut you out if you were not. These included the Princeton Gang, and the Stanford Brainiacs. A few people at the top of Amazon were getting very rich while the rest slaved away under intense pressure to deliver the next new feature. Based on my experience, and those of many former Amazon employees I have talked with, we strongly recommend you NOT work for Amazon. Go find an employer who will support and nurture your career instead of suck the life out of you and discard you at will.


    I have read job reqs for Amazon, and have to chuckle because in many cases the job descriptions aren’t any where close to correctly describing the positions, and the requirements are so out of line it is really humorous. The idea that good software developers make good managers with no additional training or education is hysterical. Also, I have friends that tell their friends to write their resume to match a specific job so that the computer maytching the key words comes up with a direct hit.That doen’t really describe hiring the best and brightest. I know of a an employee that was recently hired and he had none of the qualifications that the job required. He is struggling to do so the documentation that the job requires and keeps telling his friends that others are worse off than he is.
    Too many companies are autocratic like Amazon and don’t really consider employee feedback. After information – most tech companies largest assets are their trained workforce – except at companies that turn the workforce. I think Amazon should consider getting some business consultants in there to show the financial impact to an constantly churning workforce on the bottom line. Amazon should also consider the efficacy of turning the team shortly before or after implementation.
    It just goes to show that the managers don’t have management training or experience, and the executives are the same way. Jeff Bezos can’t run the company by himself, and as such, one would think he would hire better management. People who actually have doe the job before at a similarly situated company.
    Companies that don’t have an ombudsman, or employee suggestion plan with rewards, don’t care about employee or customer feedback – which is scary because employees and customers are the backbone of any company. Amazon will soon suffer the same business fate as MSF which keeps laying off people and is losing its reputation in the marketplace. They never had a competitive offering in Zune, mobil phones, or cloud services, so if their desktop software takes a dive – they are on their way down.
    Hopefulliy Jeff Bezos has the sense to redefine and redesign his management team. And when he does, hopefully he will get people in their positions that actually know something about Amazon’s business and its business plan.

  • dave

    > The best way to be put in a leadership role was be a pretty girl or a dude who used liberal amounts of Axe hair gel.

    I bet this happen in a lot of places.

  • fakegramita

    Maybe it just depends on what team you’re on, but what I’ve seen in my experience haven’t been anything like what the comments are suggesting (I am an FTE 4yrs but have worked with many contract employees). I’ve seen plenty of contracters of all ages do a good job and get hired full time (usually teams working with them are asked about their performance to make that decision). I’ve seen people with higher levels of experience be hired both via contract position and just off the street. I was a contractor at MS and we were treated WAY worse than contractors are treated here. I’ve had both good and bad managers, and the bad managers never had enough power to pull rank to keep themslves in position at the expense of their team- it’s always the crappy manager that ends up going (so far).

    IDK, not trying to kiss Amazon’s ass, but personally my experiences have just not been anything like what people have said here. It sounds like the manager they hired in the article WAS a bad hire, but at the same time I don’t think someone is qualified to be a manager just because you have a deep knowledge of a project you’ve been working on… There are SDE II and III’s that have a deep knowledge of ALL projects they work on, and probably many things they don’t, and even they aren’t necessarily qualified to manage a team. There are different skill sets to being an individual contributor vs a manager, and having knowledge of a specific project is great for reducing ramp-up time, but it’s not the most relevant part of the position. That team will move on to other projects, and other challenges and to meet them you want somebody who is good at the higher level task of actually being a good manager. I’m not saying none of the people who applied had that (and clearly the manager they DID hire didn’t), just that I don’t think anyone should expect that just because they’ve been around and know a project inside and out, they’re qualified to be a manager. Ramp-up costs time and money, but hiring a poor manager costs a LOT more than that. Looks like they ate both in this case.

  • Rose

    It’s also because new hires lie just to get the job I was told. Nowadays you have to lie. I thought one of the criteria to apply for Amazon is you have to be a high school graduate. I know an employee working with Amazon who lied that she was a graduate just to get the job. Isn’t that falsification and will lead to termination. There is an area on the app that says you have read & agreed that all information provided is true and any falsification could lead to dismissal & termination of employment. So now I ask why is this person still employed.

  • getmeakitkat .

    It’s exploitation plain and simple.

    I’ve been a casual member of staff in an organisation where I’ve trained my permanent replacement who didn’t know what they were doing. I felt demoralised and used. I will boycott Amazon after reading this. I don’t know how things will change, but Amazon needs union presence at least.

    I’m glad employees are getting their voices heard on the internet this way. Naming and shaming is the only power we have.

  • tevra

    more balderdash – if this was true then why are they operating at such an efficient level?

  • PeakOilAdvocate

    By a show of thumbs up and thumbs down how many would be interested

    in going into business for themselves as a franchisee Business Development Consultant saving planet Earth with technology?

    We don’t expect you to walk on water like General Zod nor exhibit Superman

    like characteristics, just be yourself.

    Big Data, J2EE, .NET experiences not mandatory AND we even train you.


  • jj32ty7tdw

    There is really only one bottom line. Jeff Bezos is a greedy bastard who doesn’t give a shit about you or me. He will lie, cheat, steal, or kill to be filthy stinking rich. And millions of desperate fools will act as the enablers for people like him to live the way they want. All the while, the people that really matter in this world will continue to be beaten down all because of the fool enablers. I say to all you people who work for Amazon. Try finding your moral principles and reinstall them. Stop enabling companies like Amazon and Walmart to thrive. We need to tear them down and let “Made In USA with Pride” companies to dominate once again.

  • Anne

    I just retired my Amazon Prime membership and will not be making purchases there anymore. I sent an email regarding a problem with an order and got the off-shore-zyborg-scripted-response-nothing-even-remotely-like-you-read-my-note-email-useless response that I get when I have an issue with Comcast. SEE YA BEZOS. YOU NOW SUCK AS MUCH AS ALL THE OTHER CORPORATE MONEY SUCKING MACHINES. CONGRATULATIONS.

  • jr

    totally agree bro. work twice as hard as fte lol and no job security. and then train new people? to take your place.

    my company billed me out at 70 i made 22 b.s

  • waraji

    I stopped shopping at Amazon after the
    Supreme Court ruled against worker pay for security screenings. Workers were clocked out and trying to go home, but had to stand in a slow line for this.

    I just use Amazon for research and product reviews, and then buy elsewhere, usually a small business eBay seller.

    It is pitiful that Jeff Bezos let that go to the Supreme Court. Lost all respect for him.

  • suesmaller

    I actually had the worst employment experience of my life while working as a temp for an insurance company in the PNW. I was placed onsite by a staffing agency in a temp-to-hire position. I will never again work for a staffing agency if I can help it.

    I took the job to move to the West coast where my family lived. During the interview with the staffing agency, I was virtually assured of permanent work with the insurance company. I was also told that on-call work was not a job requirement.

    It’s a long story, but I had a great six months with the insurance agency. Management was good, I was being trained, my work was appreciated to the extent that I received frequent praise from both the insurance company management and the staffing agency management. My contract was extended.

    I never liked being a contractor, which was my first experience as such. Although I was treated reasonably well by management, it seemed there was an us vs. them culture that was pervasive throughout the insurance company. We contractors were somehow outsiders and in limbo, neither permanent workers nor temp workers. Some of the permanent employees treated us horribly, refusing to work with us at all. One employee even went so far as to tell me: “We (the department) want you to leave Seattle and go back to where you came from.”

    The insurance company employees all seemed to have ties to each other outside of work. They were extremely cliquish. Unlike with most places I’ve worked, the insurance company manager didn’t help me at all with my move. He was enthusiastic about my work, but otherwise standoffish.

    Disaster struck when I was a month into my extended contract. There were some misunderstandings between the insurance company and the staffing agency. I was let go. The staffing agency did the honors, in public, and, apparently, with great glee. At least three coworkers sat and witnessed the event.

    The staffing agency was horrible to work for, and I am now looking for a way to make a formal complaint. They disseminated my medical information to coworkers, talked about the conditions surrounding my termination. All of this should have been kept private, but apparently everyone at the insurance company now knows all kinds of personal data I never talked about. It’s humiliating, degrading, and, probably, illegal.

    And it wasn’t just my private information that was disseminated. The head of the staffing agency told me about other coworkers’ medical issues in great detail.
    No one was safe from that person.

    Because of this experience, I give Seattle thumbs down as a place to work. I know that tech companies are using temp agencies more frequently, But these companies were never meant to be worked for long term. Having temp workers work alongside of permanent employees doesn’t seem to work out. It seems to be pennywise and pound foolish to use contractors in general. All that training down the drain! If there was no middle man, things might have been worked out. But all communications went through the staffing agency and to the employer. The staffing agency didn’t care about me as an employee.

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