The Washington Post reports that employees at billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space exploration firm Blue Origin are alleging that the company has a hostile workplace culture that leads to low morale and project delays. Blue Origin Phallic Rocket (Blue Origin) Jeff Bezos holds goggles to his face (Joe Raedle /Getty) A mid-level employee departed the company in 2019 but not before sending a long memo to Bezos and CEO Bob Smith in which he stated: “Our current culture is toxic to our success and many can see it spreading throughout the company.” The memo stated that the problems at Blue Origin were “systemic,” and that “the loss of trust in Blue’s leadership is common.”
The Washington Post writes: The new management’s “authoritarian bro culture,” as one former employee put it, affected how decisions were made and permeated the institution, translating into condescending, sometimes humiliating, comments and harassment toward some women and a stagnant top-down hierarchy that frustrated many employees. As it quickly grew from a small start-up to a large corporation with nearly 4,000 employees, Blue Origin grappled with how to improve its culture. In 2019, the company fired its head of recruiting after employees complained of sexism. A consultant retained by Blue Origin conducted a review of the company’s leadership, finding that the primary challenge was Smith’s ineffective, micromanaging leadership style, said two former employees, including a top executive. One employee discussed the situation at the company telling the Washington Post:
It’s bad. I think it’s a complete lack of trust. Leadership has not engendered any trust in the employee base.
The C-suite is out of touch with the rank-and-file pretty severely. It’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what happens is we can’t make progress and end up with huge delays.
Last month Alexandra Abrams, the former head of Blue Origin’s employee communications, published an essay written in conjunction with 20 other current and former Blue Origin employees in which they stated that the company turns a blind eye to sexism, is not sufficiently attuned to safety concerns and silences those who seek to correct wrongs. Mary Plunkett, Blue Origin’s senior vice president of human resources, told the Post that the company takes “all claims seriously and we have no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. Where we substantiate allegations of misconduct under our anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policy we take the appropriate action — up to and including termination of employment.” Read more at the Washington Post (see references).
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