Amazon exposé: "Nearly every person I worked with I saw cry"

Amazon exposé:

Amazon has come under fire recently for its treatment of employees, after a report published in The New York Times detailed horrific working conditions.

One former Amazon employee who had given birth to a still born child explained how she “just experienced the most devastating event in my life” and was then told by her manager that she would be put on a “performance improvement plan”. This scheme, she told The New York Times, was “to make sure my focus stayed on my job”.

The HR executive who was required to explain the situation to the distressed worker claimed that she too questioned what she was doing, asking her superiors: “What kind of company do we want to be?”

The report went on to claim that staff in the Pennsylvania warehouse had to endure temperatures in the high 30s (Celcius) with bosses keeping ambulances outside in case a worker should faint.

Staff in Seattle spoke of 80-hour weeks, constant emails from managers whilst they were at home or on weekends, and a total disregard for personal crises.  

Molly Jay, who worked on the Kindle team, explained how she was always given exemplary performance reviews up until her she had to start caring for her father who was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. Jay was told by her manager that she was a “problem”, was forced to take unpaid leave and did not return to Amazon.

She said: “When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness.”

Another worker who suffered a miscarriage of twins was made to go on a business trip the day after her surgery, when her boss turned to her and said: “I’m sorry; the work is still going to need to get done. From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”

Jason Merkoski, a former Amazon Engineer, explained the Big Brother culture that emanates from the Boardroom and is reportedly spurred on by Jeff Bezos, CEO of the company. Merkoski claimed: “The sheer number of innovations means things go wrong, you need to rectify, and then explain, and heaven help if you got an email from Jeff. It’s as if you’ve got the CEO of the company in bed with you at 3am breathing down your neck.”

Bo Olson, who worked at the company as part of the book-marketing division, said that he constantly witnessed employees bursting into tears. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face. Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

Former HR executives explained that to be successful there “you learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus,” calling the company culture a blend of “purposeful Darwinism”. One employee explained how the staff body called people who thrive at Amazon “Ambots”, whilst those who move to new roles there “Amholes”, due to their competitive and aggressive nature.

In a reply to the devastating exposé, Bezos wrote in an internal memo: “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.

“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 recognise the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way."

This is not the first time that Amazon has been embroiled in negative publicity. In 2013, Channel 4 News found GPS tags were fitted to Amazon employees and that employees talking to each other could lead to dismissal.

Furthermore, Amazon's attempts to create a positive employer brand through a recent recruitment video promoting the Seattle Amazon HQ became the target of mock parody videos and harsh spoofs. 

Have you enjoyed this piece?

Subscribe now to myGrapevine+ and get access to our comprehensive knowledge portal.

Comments (1)

  • jacqui
    Tue, 18 Aug 2015 11:24am BST
    That's it! I am no longer using them.. There was a documentary here in the UK about their office in Wales and the same conditions applied. Truly shocking!

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.