Tech Wars II: The Amazon Empire Strikes Back
Writing over at Medium, Amazon SVP for Global Corp Affairs Jay Carney opens his response to the NYTimes by making an ad hominem attack against one of the ex-Amazon employees cited in the article:
If you read the recent New York Times article about Amazon’s culture, you remember that quote. Attributed to Bo Olson, the image of countless employees crying at their desks set the tone for a front-page story that other media outlets described as “scathing,” “blistering,” “brutal” and “harsh.” Olson’s words were so key to the narrative the Times wished to construct that they splashed them in large type just below the headline.
Here’s what the story didn’t tell you about Mr. Olson: his brief tenure at Amazon ended after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately.
While I can kinda sorta understand why Amazon might want to bring this up, I don’t see why it’s relevant to the story two months after the fact.
Edit: And that is assuming that this attack is true, which has yet to be proven.
One could argue that the detail about the fraud undercuts Olson’s credibility (once a liar, always a liar) and shows that he has an axe to grind, but that feels like a stretch to me. If it were relevant then it should have been revealed within days of the original story, not two months later.
Speaking of which, Carney explained away the two-month delay with the comment that Amazon had "presented the Times with our findings several weeks ago", and only published this account after the NYTimes declined to correct the public record.
That may be the case, but it would simply mean that Amazon had allowed the story to go stale. With that in mind, I think it would have been better to lead with one of the other details Carney mentioned in his piece (or better yet, not publish anything at all).
- Elizabeth Willet, who claims she was “strafed” through the Anytime Feedback tool, received only three pieces of feedback through that tool during her entire time at Amazon. All three included positive feedback on strengths as well as thoughts on areas of improvement. Far from a “strafing,” even the areas for improvement written by her colleagues contained language like: “It has been a pleasure working with Elizabeth.” …
- Chris Brucia, who recalls how he was berated in his performance review before being promoted, also was given a written review. Had the Times asked about this, we would have shared what it said. “Overall,” the document reads, “you did an outstanding job this past performance year.” Mr. Brucia was given exceptionally high ratings and then promoted to a senior position.
- Dina Vaccari, the former employee who is quoted saying she didn’t sleep for four days straight to illustrate just how hard Amazon forces people to work, posted her own response to the article. Here’s what she said: “Allow me to be clear: The hours I put in at Amazon were my choice. I was enrolled in the University of Washington’s Foster Technology MBA program while I was in charge of building three new Amazon retail categories and going through an emotional breakup when I didn’t sleep for those four days. No one ever forced me to do this?—?I chose it and it sucked at the time but in no way was I asked or forced by management to do this.”
And just to be clear, we all knew at this late date that the NYTimes piece was biased, and that Streitfeld let his grudge against Amazon influence the tone of this (and many other) articles.
Even the selective reporting had already been revealed by other sources, so it’s really not clear what Amazon thought it could gain from today’s piece.
image by Brian Searle