Good CEOs are not always good people. The ones who we really
admire can often be frightening and threatening figures in the
office. Anyone who has read the Walter Isaacson biography of
knows that as inspiring as he was to millions, even to those
outside of the business community (do people leave candles and
flowers in front of any other store when the boss dies?), he was
certainly not always fun to work for.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of
), is no different.
has a long profile
of Bezos that explores how the culture at Amazon reflects the
founder's notoriously frugal and austere character. For such an
admired (if sometimes controversial) company, people don't seem to
want to stick around at Amazon. According to the article, which is
an excerpt from Brad Stone's new book
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
, the company has very poor employee retention for a huge tech
company. Its median employee tenure is just one year. Even
), which is a notoriously bad place to work, has a median 3.3-year
), which Amazon now competes with in enterprise cloud computing,
has a 6.4-year tenure.
Based on interviews with friends and associates, Stone paints a
picture of a confrontational boss who instills fear in his
employees and has little enthusiasm for making anyone besides
customers happy, but gets things done.
Here are a few tidbits that point to why so many people burn out at
Cryptic, Panic-Attack-Inducing, One-Character
Got a complaint for Amazon? Email the CEO. It's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bezos will forward it to the right person, adding just a question
mark. The recipient has to drop everything and explain him or
herself, and that response must percolate up through management
right back to the CEO.
If you get a job with Amazon, don't expect the sorts of freebies
) doles out, like a phone and a free cafeteria.
The magazine article says that in the '90s, Amazon didn't even
offer bus passes because Bezos feared that employees would have an
excuse to rush to get the last bus every day. Parking near the
office costs $220 per month. Amazon picks up the tab, minus $40.
Even the vending machines at the office cost money.
New hires get an industry-average base pay, and a signing bonus
spread out over two years. They also receive restricted shares of a
sky-high stock that vests over four years, with a bigger payout
toward the end of the period.
A huge chunk of the company's staff works in the warehouses, where
they make an average total annual compensation of $23,852.
program, management is required to fire the worst performers in any
department of 50 or more employees. Workers live in perpetual fear,
knowing that they have to compete with their colleagues just to
keep their jobs.
How would you like your boss to ask, "Why are you wasting my life?"
at the end of your presentation? Apparently Bezos is capable of
some mortifying insults when he is disappointed. The employees who
Stone interviewed believe that Bezos lacks empathy, which allows
him to ignore the human element of management and make the most
rational decisions possible for the company.
Bezos's Frightening Laugh
One former associate of Amazon says that Bezos's laugh sometimes
instills fear. He laughs when nothing is funny. He laughs to
"punish" people for falling short of his high standards.
This is how the 20-year-old company generates $75 billion in
revenue every year, sells us everything that it can put in a box,
creates its own e-readers and tablets, streams video, provides
support and hosting for a huge chunk of the Web, and even serves
the CIA with cloud data storage. But it sure sounds like a
stressful place to work.