After Being Fired, Former Amazon Worker Wonders About ‘Earth’s Best Employer’


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When their phones prompted a meeting in January, a former Amazon employee was confused. The company had let them go four days earlier, but they were still receiving invitations to new meetings.

There appears to be no word of word about who was part of the wave of layoffs that included 18,000 workers across the company and 2,300 in Washington’s Puget Sound—and who had their jobs saved. the Old workerswho requested anonymity to protect future job prospects, would not be the one to tell their former colleagues.

“One thing that Amazon does is, when a process breaks, they write an article about it. This is a must in that process,” they said in a recent interview. “A lot of the leadership principles that are preached and lived every day have not been followed.”

Like many technology company, Amazon spent most of last year looking for ways to cut costs. The company began cutting jobs in November and continued in January, eventually eliminating 18,000 roles. Employees who were part of that wave of layoffs said the news came as a shock — and changed their perception of Amazon as a goal-driven company, as former CEO Jeff Bezos liked it. put it, “Earth’s Best Employer.”

In interviews and correspondence, 15 former Amazon employees contacted by the Seattle Times said their former employers mismanaged the layoff process.

Some pointed to confusion over how Amazon chose which roles to cut; Others are frustrated because they are not told in a personal way. Some look back on their time at the company and say they felt overworked and undervalued. While some said they would return to Amazon if given the opportunity, others said the layoffs had clouded their vision of the company they once aspired to work for. All 15 employees asked to remain anonymous to protect future job prospects and avoid backlash for criticizing their former employer.

One fired employee said they felt a lack of leadership at Amazon. Another said the whole process lacked empathy.

Three others said they were involved in strategic planning for 2023 when the news became available. Two others said they had received assurances from their managers that, despite pending layoffs, their team or role was safe. Ex-employees who are still receiving meeting invitations days after losing their job say a manager asked if they could take on more work to make up for the gaps that job cuts are expected to fill. create or not.

Most employees know Amazon is considering firing employees from the newsletter. In November, a number of affected workers received an unscheduled invitation for a 15-minute meeting. In January, most were discovered via email.

A former employee in human resources said: “My identity is not wrapped up in being Amazon, but other people, very similar to them. “If Amazon is looking to be the best employer on Earth, it needs to learn how to do it better.”

The process of informing employees is so objective that it feels like reading a script for a video games The former human resources officer said it was filled with “template” language.

Overwhelmed by the stress of losing a new job, another former Amazonian ended up in the emergency room over the weekend after learning their role at Prime Air had been dropped.

That employee recently moved with his family to Lockeford, California, to work on Prime Air, Amazon’s drone project. The family has been two months on a 12-month lease.

When there were rumors of layoffs in other parts of the company, former employees said, managers convened a meeting to make sure everyone’s jobs remained safe. The project and its staff are funded through 2024, former workers said they have been notified.

Days later, Amazon laid off a large portion of the operations staff for Prime Air, including some managers who told others their jobs were safe, the former worker said.

In response to employee concerns, Amazon said it prioritized clarity, focusing on getting information to affected employees as quickly as possible. In January, the most recent wave of layoffs, Amazon said it notified all affected employees in the US, Canada and Costa Rica on the same day.

The senior executive “is acutely aware that removing this role is difficult for everyone, and we do not take lightly or underestimate the impact these decisions can have on the lives of those affected.” impact,” CEO Andy Jassy wrote to employees in January.

“To those affected by these cuts, I want you to know how grateful I am for your contributions to Amazon and the work you’ve done on behalf of customers,” he continued. . “You’ve made a meaningful difference in the lives of so many customers.”

The company ensures that laid-off workers still have access to email and chat so they can connect with colleagues and find new work, on and off Amazon. As a result, Amazon is expected to have some confusion, such as stray meeting invitations that a laid-off employee still receives.

For more information on next steps, Amazon said, laid-off employees can join a personal conversation with a leader in their organization. Or, they can attend an information session or use Amazon’s internal employee app, A to Z, on their personal device.

But figuring out the next steps isn’t always easy. The app has “a lot of dead ends,” said the former human resources employee. They say a video that is supposed to help workers understand what happens next includes a slide with some links and jazz playing in the background. “And then it was cut. It was so bizarre.”

For Amazon employees, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind. News of the layoffs first broke in November. Amazon confirmed the job cuts and began eliminating roles a few days later. Jassy then told employees that the cuts would continue into the new year as managers continued to evaluate their teams.

At the start of the new year, Amazon said the total number of jobs that could be cut was 18,000, a change from the 10,000 reported. Throughout the process, Amazon has said the exact number of roles affected is flexible. Jassy said on January 4 that affected employees will know on January 18.

During that two-week gap, productivity dropped as everyone went offline, managers tried to be tolerant of deadlines, and meetings were pushed back because it wasn’t clear if everyone on the invite list was still employees. or not.

In Amazon’s devices organization, the division responsible for Alexa voice assistants, speakers, robotics and other technology, one former worker said they weren’t surprised at how the company handled layoffs. They said, “I never had any expectation that they would give any answers. Amazon is a company that thrives on secrecy and unnecessary secrecy.”

That former worker said Amazon asked them to archive the team’s work in case someone wanted to take on the project. They did, but after only two months, they said their effort might be outdated. With so many layoffs, the contacts they leave behind may also disappear.

“The specific story they gave us was that part of a company that was growing too fast… and they were purging areas that they thought were growing too fast,” they said. “I feel like we’ve just been thrown away.”

Another laid-off employee, who used to work in Amazon’s Stores division, said they felt exhausted after just eight months at the company. At Amazon, “everyone cares about themselves,” they say. “People just want to kill time Monday through Friday.”

Amazon has offered to help employees find new roles, both internally and externally, but several workers who spoke to The Seattle Times said there aren’t many in-house jobs. From the outside, they are facing hiring freezes and layoffs at many other tech companies.

“There are thousands of my colleagues who have been laid off,” said a former employer at Amazon who was affected by the incident. job cuts. “There’s a bunch of us on the market.”

At Amazon, that employer expects the impact of layoffs to be lasting. They underwent four months of training. They say, “If (Amazon) opens a position today, you are talking six months before the person starts working” in finding candidates for new positions. “It’s a huge delay.”

A current employee of Amazon Web Services, a division of the company that hasn’t been hit hard by the layoffs, said for some who remain at Amazon, “survivors’ remorse” began to appear. Some couldn’t help but wonder why their friends lost their jobs, and they didn’t. When they hear about a colleague who needs that job for a visa, they wonder why not them.

That employee, who is a manager, said internal surveys showed job satisfaction was suffering. Their team members are still asking two key questions: Is the layoff over? When will Amazon lift the hiring freeze imposed last November?

Since Amazon announced it would be cutting jobs, AWS employees say they feel as though their jobs are being scrutinized. As teams feel the impact of staffing shortages, they expect managers will have to decide between asking Amazon to lift the hiring freeze and hiring more people to shoulder the workload—or accept it. acknowledge that some goals for the year will not be achieved.

2023 Seattle Times.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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