What's it like to work at Amazon? Depends on who you ask.
In a report published Sunday in the New York Times, writers Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld outline a work environment that's hostile and grueling. According to the report, employees at the online retailer are expected to compete with one another, work nights and weekends, report on colleagues they feel are underperforming, and face probation if illness or family matters are perceived as affecting their performance.
One Amazon staffer was put on the company's "performance review plan" after giving birth to a stillborn child, according to the report.
In the story, the former human resources manager who put the staffer under review says she protested the action.
If so, that's exactly what Jeff Bezos wants, according to a statement he sent to staff Monday that was obtained by Geekwire. Amazon's founder and chief executive says that the New York Times report misrepresents his company's workplace environment. "The article doesn't describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day," Bezos writes. "But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR."
If Amazon's culture is as reported -- relentlessly competitive, deliberately hiring and firing at high volumes -- will it change anytime soon? Probably not, if Matthew Yglesias at Vox is right. He makes the case that Amazon is still in start-up mode. There's something to that argument. The company, while being America's most-highly valued retailer on the stock market, has yet to turn much of a profit.
But it is still a company doing business, and it's a major force in publishing, where its demands on publishers can be as severe as what the New York Times says are its demands on its employees.
"This NYT story...," bestselling author John Green tweeted about the Times piece, "made me cancel my Amazon Prime subscription. Worst cult ever." Green, the author of the YA hits "The Fault in Our Stars" and "Paper Towns" will still see his books sold by the site, he explained to readers, because he can't control where his books are sold.
Meanwhile, the travails described in the Times that apparently are faced by white collar workers may pale in comparison to those working in Amazon's warehouses. A report by the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., described Amazon employees working in extreme heat with high quotas. Last year, OSHA opened investigations into two deaths at Amazon fulfillment centers, one in Pennsylvania, where a woman was crushed to death, and one in New Jersey, where a man died after being dragged by a conveyor belt.
Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on Twitter