Archive for August, 2015

The Story about Amazon’s “Bruising” Workplace and Young Goodman Brown

Through-The-Looking-GlassThoughts on the NYTimes story about Amazon’s alleged “bruising” workplace.

Do you know the story of Young Goodman Brown?

Nathaniel Hawthorne tells us the story of Young Goodman Brown in this fable set in 17th century Puritan New England.

“Young Goodman Brown journeys into the forest one evening to find his town folk cavorting with the devil. He wakes up the next morning and doesn’t know if he had a dream or a real life experience.

He can’t look at his family or friends the same ever again, suspecting good Christians of duplicitous behavior. And he dies a gloomy man.”

My take: Once you have witnessed an alternate reality, it is hard to look at someone the same again. That’s how I feel after learning of the issues at

It’s soul-crushing to read a negative story about one of my “heroes”. Maybe “hero” is too strong of a word since I’m referring to web giant Amazon, but nonetheless, I felt deflated after reading the NYTimes article describing the “horrible bosses” environment over at “Day 1” central.

My Sunday morning check-Twitter, drink-espresso ritual got me mired in the original article. My network was buzzing about the story. Wow, NYTimes front page coverage. What’s going on?

“Could this really be true?”

I delved deeper, reading follow-up blog posts from current and former employees who verified the articles’ core truths and then counterpoints that refuted with a pro-Amazon point of view. Many commenters to the original article declared they would abandon Amazon because of this reveal. That seemed drastic. But what is the truth, and does it really matter?

From my exploration, the reality is there were probably examples of bad stuff happening, but I think that’s the exception and not the rule. It’s a company with nearly 100,000 people and operating at breakneck speed.

Amazon and AWS play big parts in my life. My company came to existence alongside AWS’ stellar growth. I wouldn’t be doing “this” if AWS never happened. My life has Amazon woven into almost every aspect: entertainment (most of my TV budget is either Prime Video or Netflix), shopping (Amazon is my “mall”) and now my household helper (Echo: “Alexa… remind me to buy milk.”)

I know many people at AWS who have been there for years and seem to thrive. But I also saw a revolving door of people cycle through various roles, only to leave for another gig “pretty quick.” But I never thought the environment was toxic. I still don’t think it is, but once an allegation is made, even baseless, it’s hard not to think “what if?”

This is an example of an increasingly common occurrence these days. The “masses” learn about the messiness behind the curtain when a popular brand with great luster is tarnished by a big negative reveal, and all is not as it seemed (or we had hoped.) Apple had a PR problem with stories about iPhone factories and horrible working conditions. The public scrutiny seems to have helped the workers in the factories. iPhone prices didn’t skyrocket, and we assume workers are treated better. Another example is Lance Armstrong, a “brand” built on the themes of strength and perseverance. Now we know the real truth and it

Consumers want quality and innovation AND low prices. But we don’t want to know all the inconvenient details about how low prices are achieved.