Amazon CEO and brilliant prick Jeff Bezos seems to have lost his magic touch lately. Investors, employees, and authors are all lashing out against different elements of Bezos' business practices. Don't worry, Jeff: Amazon has just the thing to improve you.
Some of the upset, overworked, and burned out Amazon workers who sent us their stories spoke about the company's practice of placing employees on "performance improvement plans," or PIPs, if they were deemed to not be working efficiently enough. PIPs, which are ostensibly training programs designed to improve the job performance or those who can't keep up with Amazon's furious pace, were generally described as Kafkaesque zero-tolerance pretenses for pushing employees out the door.
Now, one former Amazon employee who recently left the company after going through the PIP process has sent us a rather bitter screed about her experiences there, of which she says "I would not want such a thing to happen even to my enemy." She asked, "Does Jeff Bezos have the guts to sign a PIP document himself? If so many employees are put into PIP for non performance, is that not an indication that the organization is also non performing ? In that case, the CEO should also take up the PIP challenge."
Not a completely unfair suggestion, considering the company's recent travails. Here is what this recently departed employee told us about the PIP process itself. This certainly qualifies as a letter from a disgruntled worker. It is also an interesting look at a rarely discussed part of life inside Amazon. Enjoy.
I can tell you in detail about the PIP program. In Amazon, PIP is being used as a tool to fire employees. That is, once you are into a PIP you can be sure that you would be made to quit within a maximum of 3 months.
Before going into the details of PIP, I want to share the confusion I still have regarding the eligibility criteria of PIP. As by the name, PIP stands for 'Performance Improvement Program'. But all the people who were into PIP from my team are super performers. They are all brilliant and experts in their own area of work. To be precise, they are all candidates who deserve a promotion. But it was a huge shocker to all when they were told that they need to take up a PIP.
In Amazon, when an employee is asked to sign a PIP, he or she is not allowed to disclose it to any of the team mates. In case they disclose, and if the manager comes to know of it, the employee would be terminated on the basis of 'Compliance Issue' for sharing confidential information !! So employees doesn't share it to anyone. And also in most cases they feel ashamed to share it to others. Hence the concept of PIP remains a secret to most people until it happens to them. In my case, I came to know of the program a month before it happened to me. Because it happened to my close friend who could not control sharing it to me. She shared each and every minute detail of the happenings of that 1 month to me. Exactly after a week she left, they started it to me. And I was astonished to see the same things happening to me like a replay of the incidents she shared with me. Even the dialogues of the manager and the HR people were exactly the same which she shared with me. It looked like they had memorized those dialogues and spit it out to each one !!
Now for the details of PIP. Let us assume that an employee works for Amazon for the past 5 years. In those 5 years, the employee would have at least made one mistake in his or her work. Once Amazon decides to fire that employee they would dig out that mistake and project that the employee had created a huge loss to the company because of that mistake. Then the employee would be put into what is called a 'Coaching Plan' for 2 months (The duration might differ depending on the manager) before starting PIP. While the employee is in 'Coaching Plan' he or she is not supposed to make even a single small mistake in his or her work. But the point to be noted here is, there will not be any coaching or training to the employee during this period. They will have to work just normally like others but each and every movement of them would be monitored.
In case of my friend, she did not make even a single mistake during those 2 months. But they still made her sign the PIP saying she did not follow the process SOPs correctly !! She was not at all convinced, but could not do anything against the management. So, after the 'Coaching Plan' the PIP will become mandatory. For the 'Coaching Plan' you don't have to sign any papers. But for PIP you will need to sign a document of agreement.
I will share with you a few clauses from PIP agreement. It will be rude and threatening to read through those clauses.
1) 'This is a final performance improvement plan for substandard performance'
2) 'You have been counselled and warned about your performance issues previously'
3) 'This is a final warning that your job is in jeopardy'
4) 'You continued employment is subject to you meeting the following goals and objectives'
(There will a new set of goals assigned during the PIP period, which would be much more difficult to achieve than the regular goals)
5) 'The responsibility for bringing your performance to an acceptable level rests with you'
6) 'A copy of this document will be placed in your personnel file'
7) 'If you fail to meet the above stated expectations, your employment may be terminated'
After the PIP starts, they will catch hold of any one mistake of the employee within those 3 months period and ask them to put down their papers. They will not be terminated but asked to resign.
In other organizations, PIP will be initiated for employees who waste their time during office hours, involve in gossiping or create politics. And during PIP they will be assigned easier goals than their usual goals and would be given some additional support. Only those employees who don't change their attitude even after PIP would be asked to resign, but that would be very rare.
[Photo: AP. You can email the author of this post at Hamilton@Gawker.com]