New York Times recently ran a shocking “expose” on Amazon with the ominous title “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” and the even more scary sub-heading “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions”. The article is worth reading. There are stories of people crying at desks, of employees seen to “practically combust” (not sure what that is, but I think I get the general drift), and then this:
A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.
A former human resources executive said she was required to put a woman who had recently returned after undergoing serious surgery, and another who had just had a stillborn child, on performance improvement plans, accounts that were corroborated by a co-worker still at Amazon. “What kind of company do we want to be?” the executive recalled asking her bosses.
To counter this corporate PR disaster, Jeff Bezos then sent a note to his employees, where he referenced a LinkedIn post of an employee who wrote a rebuttal. While taking issue with some nominal factual inaccuracies, what the Amazon-employee says isn’t radically different from what the New York Times article tried to put forward. Ezra Klein in his excellent post on Vox explains why he thinks that’s the case [Link] (I agree) but here is my very personalized TLDR.
The Amazon employee, if you go through the note, is not really challenging the basic premise of the story. All that the man is saying, and many would agree with him, is this.
“Yeah these sissies are complaining cause they were not good enough to work in the greatest company on the world (To quote: Not everyone is qualified to work here, or will rise to the challenge. But that doesn’t mean we’re Draconian or evil. Not everyone gets into Harvard, either, or graduates from there. Same principles apply) but there are many people who are great at their work here, are motivated to work nights and weekends, and feel adequately compensated by it. Take the heat or get out of the kitchen. Booyakasha”.
Without judging the tone and tenor of his post, or sentences like “Yes. Amazon is, without question, the most innovative technology company in the world” (Psst Tesla) , I find the employee’s very alpha-male response extremely honest, as it pretty much lays out the world view of those that “win” in our present corporate environment.
James T. Kirk: Why would a Starfleet admiral ask a three-hundred-year-old frozen man for help?
Khan: Because I am better.
James T. Kirk: At what?
Yeah. That kind.