I’m inclined to agree that the recent New York Times article on Amazon “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” appears pretty slanted and seems written to match a pre-conceived narrative.
I’ve never worked at Amazon, but I have former colleagues that I respect who work there. A lot of the practices described in the article are much more benign in practice (e.g. systems for peer-feedback, meetings to calibrate the evaluation of employees, etc) and are pretty common among tech companies.
For those interested in these types of things, there’s a good counterpoint to the article written by Nick Ciubotariu, a current engineering manager at Amazon, here: An Amazonian’s response to “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”
However, Nick is writing from the perspective of a recent (18 mo tenure) engineering manager who is presumably very good at his job and well-suited to thrive. Average performers, or folks in other departments such as warehousing, sales, marketing might have a very different experience. Also, on occasion Nick has chosen his words very carefully, for example:
During my 18 months at Amazon, I’ve never worked a single weekend when I didn’t want to. No one tells me to work nights. No one makes me answer emails at night. No one texts me to ask me why emails aren’t answered. I don’t have these expectations of the managers that work for me, and if they were to do this to their Engineers, I would rectify that myself, immediately.
Notice that he doesn’t address whether he actually works weekends and nights. Maybe he’s just a happy Amabot. 🙂
My final thought it that even if Amazon were as the NYTimes article described, it would be a legit approach to business:
“Amazon is O.K. with moving through a lot of people to identify and retain superstars,” said Vijay Ravindran, who worked at the retailer for seven years, the last two as the manager overseeing the checkout technology. “They keep the stars by offering a combination of incredible opportunities and incredible compensation. It’s like panning for gold.”
For more perspective, read the comments (on LinkedIn) on Nick’s rebuttal, or the NYTimes Article comments.