Advertisement

Amazon sparks tech workplace debate

Amazon sparks tech workplace debate
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, seen in 2012, has rebutted a recent New York Times article that describeshis company as harsh and demanding. (Los Angeles Times)
In the tech industry, some companies rely on taskmaster bosses and long hours to beat out competitors. Others nurture employees with flexible schedules and perks like free food and ping-pong tables.
What’s the better approach is a lively subject of debate on Twitter and elsewhere following a recent New York Times article that painted a harsh, demanding environment at Amazon, the world’s largest retailer. The article called Amazon’s workplace "an experiment in how far [the company]  can push white-collar workers."

“Most companies that are rushing to create something big bold and new for the world have intense cultures,” Josh Elman, a partner at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, wrote on Twitter. “This Amazon article seems to critique a culture that is in many ways winning and innovating.”

“I'm just not feeling the outrage,” he continued. “Friends at lots of companies, startups and big … all work intensely.”

Peder Ulander, an executive at Cisco, wrote his friends at Amazon "love it." "Kudos for not creating a 'C+ work is acceptable' culture," he posted.

Former Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo said the article was “taken out of context.”
Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen commented that the article didn’t ring true. "I've talked with hundreds of Amazon vets, men and women, over 20 years,” he wrote. “Not one didn't think it's a good place to work."

Jay Carney, an Amazon senior executive and former White House press secretary, said in a CBS interview Monday that Amazon employees, who are in high demand, would quit if they didn’t enjoy the company’s environment.

But other Silicon Valley insiders are predicting a backlash that could harm hiring efforts.

“Monday will be a tough day for Amazon recruiters,” Venky Ganesan, managing director at Menlo Ventures, wrote on Twitter. “Love what Amazon has done but some of these stories are awful.”

Meanwhile, the site for business magazine Inc. said Amazon should release a “corporate strategy” detailing its plans to “treat all employees as human beings.”

Tech professionals joined the debate by posting opinions on the online version of the New York Times article, which has attracted 4,200 comments.

“I have a few friends at Google, and they complain they are not challenged enough,” wrote one user, called OSS Architect. “They came from cultures like Amazon and they are bored at Google.”
But other readers shared stories that mirrored anecdotes reported by the New York Times.
“It's a red badge of courage to outlast and outwit those who quit or are ‘managed out,’" wrote one commenter, called TechRecruiter, adding that four years working with the company drove him to work so hard that his marriage suffered.

A Reddit comment thread also filled with stories of Amazon staffers working under pressure.

Chief Executive Jeff Bezos is "definitely out of touch with the experience of his employees," wrote a commenter with the username Toxictoy. Bezos rebutted the New York Times article on Sunday, saying he would never tolerate a "callous" environment.

The tech world has long pondered the work-life balancing act. In 1989, a Seattle Times article evaluating Microsoft’s work culture commented: “There is a difference between having fun and venting nervous energy, between riding an adrenaline high and running on empty, and insiders say the demanding pace and push of the high-tech fast lane eventually extract a heavy toll on workers' well-being.”
Then there is customer well-being. Some Amazon shoppers -- even owners of Amazon products like the Kindle -- have responded to the New York Times article by saying they plan to seal off their wallets to Amazon.

“The Amazon workplace revelations make me uncomfortable ordering from Amazon,” wrote Karen Kline on Twitter.

There's no way to know, as yet, how many others agree.

Twitter: @dainabethcita

ALSO:

Advertisement
Advertisement