This weekend’s must-read story from the world of tech is this lengthy New York Times report on the working culture. (Go ahead and read it if you haven’t yet.)
Described as a “bruising workplace,” authors Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld interviewed over 100 current and former Amazonians, pulling together a story full of horrific anecdotal tales of staff mistreatment on the basis of family bereavement, personal health issues and more.
Given Amazon’s prominence as a leading technology company, the story rightly caused controversy. It’s hard to imagine a more toxic working environment than the one described in the New York Times story, irrespective of whether the piece is accurate or not. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see that many of the tech industry’s top names — former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, and VCs Marc Andreessen and Keith Rabois — came out to dismiss the details as merely part of what makes disruptive companies disruptive.
Notably, though, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — a tech mover and shaker himself — isn’t one such apologist.
“The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day,” Bezos wrote in an internal memo obtained by GeekWire, the tech blog based in Seattle, Amazon’s home turf.
“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,” Bezos added in the note, which urged staff to contact him personally with evidence of staff mistreatment in line with the story.
“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,” the Amazon boss wrote, signing off his memo.
It’s rare for Bezos to respond directly to news or a report, as GeekWire notes, which makes this internal email blast all the more tantalizing.
Could it be that journalistic license, a pre-defined story plot, or overzealous former employees keen to grind an axe, might have colored the New York Times story? Or is Bezos just making a desperate PR move given the explosion that the story caused?
One Amazon employee already spoke out rejecting the report, and it’ll be interesting to see whether others attached to the company now or in the past come out in public, and, if so, what they have to say.