There seem to be some different opinions on working conditions at Amazon.
In his final letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged reports about how employees are treated at the company, calling allegations of poor work-life balance “not accurate” at the company’s fulfillment centers, while touting a company-wide survey that some appear to not be buying, according to a new report.
Troubled “Connections” at Amazon
Recode recently interviewed Amazon employees and managers about the surveys — dubbed by Amazon as “Connections” — which is often used as information for public statements that seems to be a bit skewed.
It’s the survey that Bezos, who will step down as Amazon’s chief operating officer this year, cited from fulfillment center employees survey in his letter that said 94% of workers said they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work, before going on to defend the working environment for workers.
Workers said that they feel pressured to tout Amazon in these surveys because they don’t believe that the information is truly anonymous, while others fear repercussions if they give “negative feedback,” according to Recode.
These employees told Recode that many Amazon employees do not answer Connections questions honestly because they fear their responses are not truly anonymous, and they fear retaliation if they give negative feedback. Others told Recode that some managers, both in warehouses and in corporate offices, pressure their staff to answer questions favorably. A warehouse manager and employee also said workers often just choose the top answer to more quickly get on with their day.
These surveys — a “pet project” of Amazon’s HR head — question employees about their manager to things like bathroom cleanliness, according to Recode. It was designed to be a daily check-in on employees, but workers said they feared that their answers wouldn’t remain anonymous.
Managers coaching employees on the right way to answer
That had workers often choosing the top answer, which would normally be the most positive answer, Record reported, citing sources. Additionally, the report said that managers somewhat coached employees on how to answer surveys correctly, that way it didn’t reflect poorly on them.
An Amazon spokesperson told the outlet that answers remain confidential and that employees can bypass answering questions. Managers cannot tell their employees how to answer questions, the report said.
Bezos’ rebuttal in the letter comes after workers compared themselves to robots and not having their complaints taken seriously at one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama also recently voted against forming a union at one of its warehouses, which caused a stir on social media.
“Employees are able to take informal breaks throughout their shifts to stretch, get water, use the rest room, or talk to a manager, all without impacting their performance,” Bezos explained in the letter. “These informal work breaks are in addition to the 30-minute lunch and 30-minute break built into their normal schedule.”
On the surface, these seem like pretty rudimentary rights that workers should expect in any work environment. But then there are stories about workers urinating in bottles (which Amazon first called “incorrect” before issuing an apology) and other noise about Bezos being behind a Twitter army of “ambassadors” that defended the company against anyone who pointed criticism to Amazon’s treatment of workers at its warehouses.