“Dirty Laundry” – my issues with the Times piece on working at Amazon

Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry

“Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley


The wolves are circling around Amazon these days. Former and current employees, bloggers, columnists and your mailman’s next door neighbor are jumping on the recent article posted by The New York Times story here which goes to great pains to paint Amazon as a modern day sweat shop with Dickensian parallels. Former employees are shouting “Finally!”. Bloggers are writing about “lessons learned”. The beat goes on and on and on. Like Don Henley sang, “we love to cut you down to size”. Amazon is a wildly successful company. Any chink in that armor and the “pilers-on” come out of the woodwork like ants on a banana left on the ground – and all of this sickens me. I have no stake in this game. I have never worked there, they are not a client, and while I buy from Amazon occasionally I am Netflix all day every day for streaming. I also realize that I am about to share with you why I think this Times article is an agenda driven click bait exercise in journalism and the irony of me writing a post about it while hoping that people see what I have to say too. Normally, I would stay silent and keep my opinions to friends, but this article really seems unfair and I felt compelled to address it.

A big part of my work is employment branding – which is initially the first reason I read the article when it went live – my curiosity got the best of me. I am a HUGE believer that a great employment brand is a transparent employment brand. If you pretend to be something you are not – it is nothing but false advertising and you will drive the wrong talent to you who ultimately will feel duped and leave. However, as I read this article three main things started to make me uneasy.


1. This is the “work” of a third party – and it feels like there is an agenda at play here. For the “more than 100 current and former Amazonians” interviewed for this piece, it certainly feels like only one side of the story is being told.
2. This is sensationalist, headline driven journalism
3. I want my transparency unfiltered and genuine – straight from the horse’s mouth if you will.


Let’s discuss each three of these points in more detail.


This is the “work” of a third party – and it feels like there is an agenda at play here. For the “more than 100 current and former Amazonians” interviewed for this piece, it certainly feels like only one side of the story is being told.
Call me crazy – but if I want to know about what it is like to actually work at a company my first step is not to read a newspaper or any periodical for that matter. Nope – I would go to sites like Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, Quora, etc. Why? Because there is no filter on the message. This is real feedback and opinions from actual employees past and present at the company. If you actually go to Amazon’s Glassdoor page, they are a 3.4 rating out of 5 based on 5,8K reviews. That certainly doesn’t sound like the company I read about in the Times piece. No, it doesn’t sound like nirvana either and there are definitely some negative reviews on there (for sure) but it also has some exceedingly positive ones on there too. Yet, if you read this piece, that is not the picture they paint. Everything from mistreating cancer patients to bullying mothers is discussed in the article. I honestly was surprised to not see a story about drowning puppies the more I read. My stomach turned with every paragraph, not because what they were writing wasn’t horrible (if true) but because the article was so completely one-sided and was obviously agenda driven. Reporters cite neutrality in their code of ethics, but from my opinion this article felt anything but neutral. There seemed to be a clear agenda to take down the “big guy” and paint a horrible picture of working there while getting as many clicks as possible with the most sensationalized story they could write. As I stated earlier – I LOVE transparency and believe very much that employer brand needs to be genuine and authentic – say what you are and understand if you are truly genuine some people will hate it – but this was written by a third party with an obvious bias and opinion they wanted represented – without showing the countless others who, at least based on the REAL employee testimonial sites, think otherwise. It just doesn’t seem fair.

This is sensationalist, headline driven journalism
As I stated above – an article like this, with such a one-sided stance in spite of evidence (Glassdoor, Indeed, etc) that shows there is definitely two sides to the story, was clearly agenda driven and meant to sensationalize with the most horrible examples they could get. Like the song “dirty laundry” suggests, we as a public eat this stuff up. Guess what? The Times plan worked – big time. The article went viral, several articles have cited it, the CEO was forced to publicly respond, and zillions of clicks occurred. Consider the Times objective met – and then some. Look – I love reading the headlines on the trashy newspapers at the checkout market like anyone else. Britney’s got a new man?! But this is different. This is a targeted attack at a company that employs thousands and thousands of people and supports families around the world. Attacks like this will effect Amazon’s ability to attract talent, which ultimately will affect their business and eventually people and their families. A bit different than the latest piece on what George Clooney’s wife wore to the Oscars. Get my drift? “Journalism” like this feels really trashy and nasty in its tone.

I want my transparency unfiltered and genuine – straight from the horse’s mouth if you will.
As stated earlier, I want my transparency into the “goods” on a company without filters or spin. I want to hear from people who actually work or worked there. I absolutely love the trend in the last several years of sites like Glassdoor and Indeed gaining more and more prominence (you should see their site visitor data – INSANE). Companies these days cannot hide from the truth – which in turn forces companies to either treat their employees better or pay the price when hiring and retaining great people. This article was a complete one-side job from the giddy up – and as stated before the sites that actually give you the “goods” show that there are certainly a ton of people who think otherwise from the Times article. Funny how the post glosses over these testimonials to further the headlines and clicks (e.g. their paychecks). I am not denying or defending Amazon here – if they did these things then that truly is horrible – what I am saying is that there are far better places and ways to get your information on working at Amazon than a periodical.



You don’t really need to find out what’s going on
You don’t really want to know just how far it’s gone
Just leave well enough alone
Eat your dirty laundry
I know, I know – a bit of a rant – but this whole article and the fallout of it has really left a bad taste in my mouth. No – I don’t intend to give you “lessons learned” (those blogs give me the douche chills). I am not supporting Amazon in any way. What I am simply saying is we love our “Dirty Laundry”. If you want the real “dirt” – go to the source.

Posted on August 18, 2015 in Employment Brand, job posting, Recruiting, Social Media, talent acquisition, unemployment

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