Amazon.com (AMZN) has been in the headlines lately, but not for the right reasons. Sure, AMZN stock has been going like gangbusters in 2015, with shares up over 70% year-to-date … but a recent New York Times report on the company pains the e-commerce king in a rather unfavorable light.
If you’re haven’t read it yet, a weekend NYT piece highlights the high-pressure and high-stakes work culture at AMZN. As with such pieces, the article was disputed by Amazon.com and the company claims it was misrepresented. But the New York Times is a pretty respected outlet, and Amazon has long been in the crosshairs for unfavorable work practices — particularly at its warehouses — so it’s hard to put this genie back in the bottle.
The good news for AMZN stock holders is that the story hasn’t had much of an impact on Amazon shares. Amazon continues to defy gravity, thanks in part to a recent bump in profitability and the high growth rate of its Amazon Web Services divisions.
Investors may quibble with the valuation, but it’s hard to argue with management and growth history if you’re looking at AMZN stock from an investor’s perspective.
I don’t expect the NYT story to do much to Amazon, to be honest. The company has already repudiated the report and in a matter of days it will be back to business as usual. Donald Trump will steal the nation’s attention once more and everyone will go back to buying cheap stuff on Amazon.com with more concern for their savings than some anonymous employees who may have had an axe to grind.
For his part, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos is going on the offensive and not letting this story rest undisputed. Here is the full text of an email attributed to Bezos, according to MarketWatch.com, which says it has obtained a copy:
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give this (very long) New York Times article a careful read:
I also encourage you to read this very different take by a current Amazonian:
Here’s why I’m writing you. The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at email@example.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.
The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.
I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.
But hopefully, you don’t recognize the company described. Hopefully, you’re having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way.
Again, it might not matter whether the New York Times reality matches that of Amazon.com employees. Perception is its own reality — and consumers and investors in AMZN may have already made up their mind, some of them long before the NYT piece came out.
Fortunately for AMZN stock holders, the narrative they’ve bought into is one of growth and success, and this article won’t change that anytime soon.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.
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