Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has spoken to employees about a New York Times article published on 15 August that criticised the culture of the company. The NYT piece, written by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfield, is the result of interviews with 100 former and current Amazon employees who recall colleagues crying at their desk and being pitted against each other to increase productivity.
Bezos sent out a staff memo, was obtained by Geekwire, urging employees to read the article carefully. Bezos also said: "The 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."
He also urged employees to email him personally if they have experienced any of the behaviour described in the piece and says he wants to enforce a zero-tolerance attitude towards lack of empathy.
"I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay," he wrote employees. "I know I would leave such a company."
The article, which tells the stories of employees being 'managed out' and workers feeling as though their self-worth was defined by their success within the company, has caused great uproar as customers expressed their anger and even said they would stop using the service or cancel their Amazon Prime accounts.
The stories reported include those of seriously ill employees strategically being made to leave and new recruits being quizzed on company rules only days after they had started a tough induction where they are told to get rid of "poor habits".
A current 'Amazonian', which is what Amazon employees have called themselves, turned to LinkedIn to respond to the article, saying: "This particular article has so many inaccuracies (some clearly deliberate), that, as an Amazonian, and a proud one at that, I feel compelled to respond."
The employee, who is called Nick Ciubotariu and works as head of infrastructure development at the corporation, jumped to the defence of Amazon, arguing that, although it is definitely not an easy place to work, it is not the place described by the NYT reporters.
"The Amazon described in this article may have existed, in the past. Certainly, I've heard others refer to how things used to be," Ciubotariu admitted. "But it is definitely not the Amazon of today."
On Glassdoor, an online recruitment website, Amazon is given an average of 3.4 points out of 5 for employee satisfaction, with Bezos receiving an 82% approval rating.