The usually reticent Jeff Bezos let loose this weekend in a memo to Amazon employees after a harsh New York Times article described an often-toxic workplace where workers are regularly thinned through "purposeful Darwinism"; callous managers prioritize work over employees' serious illnesses, parental obligations, and family tragedies; and ultra-competitiveness is nurtured to the point of obsession—an ex-marketer there says employees "learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus." A former HR rep adds to the narrative, telling the paper she had to put a woman who had just had a stillborn child on a "performance improvement plan" (aka probation) for not working up to speed, the paper notes. Another ex-employee says people weep regularly. "You walk out of a conference room and you'll see a grown man covering his face," he tells the Times. "Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk."
In Bezos' memo, acquired by GeekWire, the CEO first encourages all workers to read the Times article, as well as a LinkedIn post by a happier employee who disputes the negative Times commentary. Then Bezos gets into the nitty-gritty. "[The article] claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard," he writes, taking great issue with that assertion. "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 Times would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company." He ends his missive by imploring any workers who feel they've been treated as the Times article suggests to email HR or even his personal email. "Even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero," he writes. (Other than that, Bezos is doing pretty well.)