"There's So Much Stress On Campus": Amazon Cuts 100s Of Jobs At Seattle Headquarters

Despite launching a bold new initiative to compete with ground carriers like UPS and posting openings for thousands of jobs in the Seattle headquarters, Amazon is taking the unusual step of laying off hundreds of corporate employees, what the Seattle Times describes as a "rare" cutback as the company continues to grow at a rapid clip.

Amazon tried to spin the cuts as necessary culling after an explosive hiring spree - its Seattle headquarters has gone from 5,000 employees to more than 60,000 since 2010, leaving several departments overstaffed and over-budget, according to the New York Times.

According to several employees, the rapid growth of the last two years left some units over budget and some teams with too much staff for their work. Amazon had implemented hiring freezes in recent months across several groups, a move that reduced the company’s open job listings in Seattle to their lowest level in years.

In a statement, Amazon acknowledged the cuts.

“As part of our annual planning process, we are making head count adjustments across the company — small reductions in a couple of places and aggressive hiring in many others,” a spokesman said. “For affected employees, we work to find roles in the areas where we are hiring.”

Some employees have already been informed of the elimination of their roles, and layoffs are expected to be completed in the next few weeks, one of the people said.

But others see a more sinister motive...


As readers might recall, Amazon was the subject of an unflattering New York Times bombshell back in 2015 that described a workplace culture where employees were constantly pitted against each other, and managers were expected to be on call day and night. The culture reportedly emanated from Jeff Bezos himself, who has frequently pushed for the company to cull inadequate performers.

Amazon denied that story, but the Seattle Times says managers are under pressure from Bezos to weed out the lowest-performing employees...

A manager in one unit making cuts said his team was briefed that Bezos and the Amazon brass wanted to put more pressure on managers to weed out lower performers and enforce spending discipline after the rapid growth of recent years.

"People are in terrible shape," he said. "There is so much stress on campus."

The company has also recently instituted a mandate that managers who oversee other supervisors must have at least four people reporting to them. The aim, the company says, is to reduce layers of redundant management and keep the company flexible and fast-moving.

Typically, the company has several strategies for "managing out" weak performers without resorting to layoffs...

In addition to the company’s annual planning and budgeting process, the first few months of the year also bring Amazon’s employee performance reviews and, for some, notices that they need to improve or face consequences.

Such performance improvement plans, dreaded among Amazon’s rank-and-file, come with a requirement that employees demonstrate improvement over a set period of time. Last year, Amazon introduced a career coaching program, called Pivot, described as a tool to help lower performers make it through such programs.

Employees put on notice can also choose to contest their manager’s determination that led them into the improvement plan in the first place, or opt not to participate at all and take a severance package to leave the company.

Some current and former employees say that some managers wield improvement plans to trim the size of teams without resorting to layoffs.

“It’s a well-loved strategy” to cut employees, one former Amazonian said, adding that during his time at the company he saw several talented employees “managed out” that way.

The Times also notes that the company has recently been laying off people at its various subsidiaries, which are based around the US. Cuts at Zappos, Createspace and Quidsi have cost nearly 500 jobs.

According to its Q4 earnings report, Amazon's total global workforce stood at 566,000 in December, up 66% from a year earlier.

Counting only corporate jobs outside of its warehouses, the company has a total of 12,500 open jobs.

As the company's recent Super Bowl ad might suggest, managers are continuing to approve job openings at Amazon Web Services and the unit working on Alexa.

Amazon denies that its "improvement plans" are used to achieve tacit job cuts. But considering all the job openings, if none of the employees who are being laid off instead of relocated - well, that looks suspicious, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the company is still actively searching for a location for its second headquarters - said to be a full equal to the Seattle office. It has recently narrowed its list of host city candidates down to 20.


Bastiat lloll Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:52 Permalink

Bezos eats people up.  You can't treat people who interact with customers like warehouse workers--that's why Whole Foods has gone to hell.    If you want to see how unconstrained corporate machinery likes to treat its "labor inputs" check how pigs are treated in a factory farm.  Large corporations are intrinsically sociopathic (see "The Corporation" documentary).  Sometimes leadership with ethical vision can subvert that, but the larger (and less local) the corporation, the less likely.  Whenever I can I avoid Amazon, I do--use it to research products then see if I can buy them direct or from a local vendor.

The real NWO is corporate--that's the real point in undermining nations and local polities. 

In reply to by lloll

Okienomics ffed Mon, 02/12/2018 - 16:12 Permalink

The reports about the Amazon culture remind me very much of the culture at Enron in its prime.  Enron culled the staff every year, creating a very cutthroat culture that thrived on people with a "We're bigger, smarter, better and we will crush you" attitude.

In reply to by ffed

Conscious Reviver Okienomics Mon, 02/12/2018 - 21:10 Permalink

Amazon is the NWO Frankenstein. They are always liquid. Never need to make a profit. Their share price is always bid. The plan is that in the future there will be only one retail outlet for everything, the better skim pennies and squeeze the public with zero slternatives. If retail was a marathon, they'd be the Rosie Ruiz, but unlike Rosie, never disqualified.

In reply to by Okienomics

Theosebes Goodfellow Conscious Reviver Tue, 02/13/2018 - 00:02 Permalink

~"...managers are under pressure from Bezos to weed out the lowest-performing employees..."~

I've seen this shit happen dozens of times. Every so often a company will look around and find the dead wood and cut it off. If this was a real "purge", (and I've seen a few of those too), the ones that were not dead wood but "underfoot" would get sent to the Anchorage branch or equivalent. This is a necessary evil for the company to stay competitive.

This is very different that the shit companies like Disney pulled outsourcing their IT department, (though some could argue it isn't). Cost-cutting is part of staying afloat. It hurts when you do it but it smartens up the remainder. Bear in mind, in 20 years I would venture at least half of those who remained will find their jobs gone to a robot anyway, (because that shit's coming down the road too).

In reply to by Conscious Reviver

Hal n back semperfi Mon, 02/12/2018 - 13:18 Permalink

walmart has been ripped apart for decades over how it treats its employees, and Amazon treats its employees, and independent contractors like crap, and gets away with it, even something like this and issues at Whole foods, and amzn  never gets blown up for terrible employees relations not so many H1B workers.

How much would amzn be losing if it had just a decent HR policy and had to pay H1b a normal rate.

In reply to by semperfi

Creative_Destruct Clueless Economist Mon, 02/12/2018 - 15:19 Permalink

"...employees were constantly pitted against each other, and managers were expected to be on call day and night. The culture reportedly emanated from Jeff Bezos himself, who has frequently pushed for the company to cull inadequate performers."

Quite the kind Progressive, ain't he? 

Sound's like a vicious Robber Barron, with a diverse bunch of wage -slaves.

That being said, no doubt the vast majority of this likely Millennial-Progressive entitled work force NEEDS culling! 

In reply to by Clueless Economist

Goodsport 1945 Bastiat Mon, 02/12/2018 - 13:23 Permalink

Treatment of American workers will not improve until the government levels the playing field and stops strangling the job creating middle class and small business.  This nation is short over 15 million jobs, regardless of what the Bureau of Lies and Statistics reports.  Until then, the laws of supply and demand will not provide workers with the leverage they need to demand better treatment from their companies or the exit options fed up employees require to tell the Amazons of the world to go to hell.  I pray for the day when the slaves finally get up the courage to storm the castles.

In reply to by Bastiat

Meat Hammer GreatUncle Mon, 02/12/2018 - 15:24 Permalink

Meh, I would love to read each of these freshly-unemployed people’s last few performance reviews. Roughly half of any large organization’s work-force is either simple overhead and/or their job is obselete, especially upper management. To really get to the bone and explain it, the 80/20 rule applies...20% of the workforce provides 80% of the results. I guarantee that the jobs of those 20% are secure. Everybody else better have an updated resume.

Nobody owes you a job. If it’s so horrible to work at Amazon, then quit! Pussies.

In reply to by GreatUncle

hondah35 Goodsport 1945 Mon, 02/12/2018 - 15:33 Permalink

Most of those jobs aren't coming back no matter what government does or does not do. The problem is that we had a temporary need for extra labor starting in the 1970s that brought millions of women into the workforce. That temporary need has been slowly fading since the last recession weeded out inefficiencies. Am i saying that women have to head back to the kitchen? No, but America is going to have to go get used to the way it used to be with a lot more single-earner families. This is why the divorce rate is so damaging to society....it creates more single parent households meaning that person has no choice but to work and therefore dilutes wages for everyone else.

In reply to by Goodsport 1945

overbet Bastiat Mon, 02/12/2018 - 13:24 Permalink

Make yourself more valuable. Many of these people have less skills than a pig. At least a pig can fend off a Muslim and I can get value from eating it. I'll take the pig. It's a stronger producer.

People who work like this have a poor philosophy. They think what am I getting here instead of what can I get from this experience that I can grow myself into a better person and move on or up. These are the people that will put much more effort into demonstrations, protest and complaining than into improving themselves. Zero sympathy. 

In reply to by Bastiat

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL overbet Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:44 Permalink

LOL cue all of the clueless ZH union-haters. 

Hate to tell you folks but it's the grudge match of all time, same one down through the ages: Capital versus Labor. In case you didn't notice Capital is winning in a walk (or should I say an absolute throwdown with corpses in the streets).

So here's your choice:

A.) go to battle by yourself. Go to that "manager's meeting", you alone versus an awesome behemoth corporation headed by the richest man in the world. Bend over and spread 'em.

B.) Get over your butt-hurt propaganda about how "unions are bad, so bad". Recruit the guy next to you and the guy next to him who have everything in common against a common foe. Oh, look: there are much more of you than there are of them. But only if you follow military strategy 101: concentrate and coordinate your strength.

OK, cue the haters, "unions are corrupt", etc etc. Have fun living in your Mom's basement. You know who's corrupt, on a scale that makes union corruption look like a blip? CORPORATE AMERICA

In reply to by overbet

nuerocaster overbet Mon, 02/12/2018 - 17:23 Permalink

Check out the next article on government projects and civil service workers and unions.

It'll be all where's the competition and efficiency, down with overpaid slackers.

But if small business is pretty much like mom and pop puttering around selling homemade ice cream........

Note to Big Pharma: More psychotropics please.

In reply to by overbet

MoralsAreEssential Bastiat Mon, 02/12/2018 - 13:50 Permalink

There is no doubt that Amazon's tight fit into Hitlery's NWO holograph of an Income and Participation Awards for Lifetime Incompetence, Bezo's outing of real management behavior by firing unnecessary people and having "cruel and unusual" demands of staff is moving into another Phase of Amazon World for Snowflakes. Most business areas are downsizing their "Professional" or midlevel staff (Banking doing a massacre especially in the EU; they especially do not need the "analysts").  You think "you can't treat people who interact with customers like warehouse workers."  I sincerely HOPE you're right, but I won't hold my breath.  Look at the "indignities" most of us already put up with on a daily basis when shopping or most of the time when looking for a "professional" in the healthcare area including MDs, veterinarians and vet techs, trades, don't even mention financial areas.  I live in metro DC and I have incidences of complete fraud and Snowflake-level incompetence, rudeness and "values" in all those areas.  TPTB are acclimating all of us to way lower expectations.  When you can't avoid it, JUST WHAT do you do?  I can tell you protesting in an appropriate way even when effective in making one's point about the incompetence, fraud or whatever DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to either change the behaviors and they do NOT care if you don't come back. 

In reply to by Bastiat

Anonymous IX MoralsAreEssential Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:00 Permalink

I find your critique absolutely accurate.  We are, indeed, being and have been adapting to a world with extremely lower performance and expectations.  The number of Americans who can't answer simple, lower-grade-school questions appalls me.

Btw, my local news station just announced the Grand Minimum occurring in 2050.  I think, from Adapt 2030, that the Ice Age will come sooner, but when the age begins and food depletes, people just may become concerned enough to ask questions and demand answers.  Of course, none will be forthcoming as the Elite fly to their South American compounds leaving behind bitter cold.

In reply to by MoralsAreEssential

Antifaschistische Bastiat Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:19 Permalink

" You can't treat people who interact with customers like warehouse workers"

yes you can, and some people do...and they never change.

note #2. Whole Foods now wins the award for having the worst website on the planet.  It is the most impossible, unfriendly, cumbersomely absurd website anywhere in the retail space.   They do sell their own 365 brand of goods....good luck ever buying it online.   I noticed Amazon has started to sell the brand.....but ONLY if you buy a prime membership.

ps.  I will never EVER buy a "prime" membership.

In reply to by Bastiat

Bastiat Antifaschistische Mon, 02/12/2018 - 15:47 Permalink

What I meant is that you can't treat people like that without consequences for your business.  Especially retail.  But the consequences depend on the customers reactions and not all markets are the same.  Whole Foods was a sort of premium place nicknamed Whole Paycheck for good reason.  The customers came to expect perfect products well displayed and pleasant staff.  They were generally pretty cheery bunch, if a little too full of themselves sometimes.  I think it got on some list of best places to work at one point. 

In reply to by Antifaschistische