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Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos responded to a piece in the NYT, asking employees to report issues that they see at the company.

The cruel and back-stabbing environment described by The New York Times in a report this weekend on the workplace culture at Amazon.com has struck a nerve with Jeff Bezos. In a memo to employees this weekend, obtained by GeekWire, Bezos says he doesn’t recognize the company described in the article.

RELATED STORY: Amazon employees on ‘ludicrously comical’ NYT story: ‘Some people don’t belong here, maybe’

In the memo, Bezos encourages Amazon employees to read the report, and requests that anyone seeing the type of abusive culture described in the piece should report it immediately to human resources or directly to him.

“The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day,” Bezos writes. “But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”

He adds later, “I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.”

And he concludes, “But hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.”

It is rare for Bezos to respond so directly to a news report. Faced with criticism throughout its history — whether dealing with book publishers or diversity issues — Amazon’s approach has been to stay quiet. Amazon authorized “a handful of senior managers” to talk with the Times reporters for the article, but declined to make Bezos or other top leaders available for interviews, according to the story.

But the reporting clearly has Bezos’ attention now.

The New York Times piece — based interviews with more than 100 current and former Amazon employees — cited several cases of alleged employee mistreatment, depicting managers who were unsympathetic to employees even when they were faced with illnesses or family issues. Reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld describe a hard-charging environment at Amazon where employees often are pushed to the point where they nearly “combust.”

Here’s the full memo from Jeff Bezos, as obtained by GeekWire:

Dear Amazonians,

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give this (very long) New York Times article a careful read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

I also encourage you to read this very different take by a current Amazonian:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians-response-inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-nick-ciubotariu

Here’s why I’m writing you. The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.

I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.

But hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.

Thank you,

Jeff

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