Amazon Layoffs: Inside a Week of Turmoil When Thousands Lost Jobs – Business Insider - eComEmpireStore + Brought to You By: Robert Villapane Ramos

Amazon Layoffs: Inside a Week of Turmoil When Thousands Lost Jobs – Business Insider

On October 18, Jeff Bezos tweeted that companies should “batten down the hatches” in the face of a likely recession. For Amazon, the company he founded, the painful adjustments were just beginning. A series of internal messages from the past two months, obtained by Insider, show Amazon managers scrambling to identify low-performing employees and force them out […]

On October 18, Jeff Bezos tweeted that companies should “batten down the hatches” in the face of a likely recession. For Amazon, the company he founded, the painful adjustments were just beginning. 
A series of internal messages from the past two months, obtained by Insider, show Amazon managers scrambling to identify low-performing employees and force them out using performance improvement plans, or PIPs. 
In late September, a compliance manager instructed colleagues to “identify your lowest performer please and get back to me before 10 am tomorrow.”
By mid-October, the company had shut or shrank several teams, including in its robotics department
Soon after, a senior AWS manager ordered colleagues to stop hiring and “stack rank your team members asap,” referring to the practice of pitting employees’ performance against each other and trying to force out the lowest-ranked workers. “I know it may sound like a mixed msg but we need to hire fast and also identify 3-4 employees we think aren’t suited for our growth ambitions.”
The next day, Amazon announced a companywide hiring freeze. It was still not enough.
By Tuesday, November 15, Amazon began the widest-reaching corporate layoffs in its history, reportedly slashing about 10,000 positions.
Amazon has been a powerful engine of job growth for more than a decade, building a vast network of warehouses run by hundreds of thousands of workers, while spinning up a constant stream of ambitious projects, such as live radio platform Amp; video game streaming service Luna; a travel division, Explore; a satellite constellation Project Kuiper, and consumer electronics like the Astro home robot, the Halo fitness tracking band, and the Glow children’s tablet. 
This week marked the end of that incredible run. Many of those ambitious initiatives are now dead or, at best, limping. A pandemic-era online shopping boom has crashed to a halt, leaving the company sub-leasing unused warehouse space. Hundreds of recruiters are gone, signaling a sustained dip in hiring. 
Amazon slashed headcount from multiple Alexa teams, including those working on making Alexa sound more like a human, acquire new skills and respond more creatively to questions. Amazon also made deep cuts to Luna, and offered voluntary buyouts to recruiters in the US and India. 
Later in the week, employees in Amazon’s retail business unit learned they would face layoffs as well – once the peak holiday shopping season was over.
The abrupt change — from hiring machine to severe layoffs — seems to have caught Amazon leaders by surprise. While Amazon CEO Andy Jassy confirmed layoffs will continue into 2023, executives remained shockingly quiet this past week, sharing little in the way of concrete details with their workforce. That left employees grasping for any snippets of information they can find. The information vacuum has been filled by anxiety, anger, and doubt about the future. An Amazon spokesperson referred Insider to a Thursday blog post by Jassy describing the layoffs.
After the New York Times reported Monday that Amazon planned to lay off 10,000 people, employees in Amazon’s devices division — which houses the Alexa virtual assistant; as well as Luna — received cryptic calendar invitations to meetings with executives and HR.
In internal Slack messages and on social media, employees asked frantically whether receiving such a calendar invite meant they would be laid off. “Is this what I think it is?” one employee asked, according to messages seen by Insider.
By Tuesday morning, employees had created a Slack channel to share information about the layoffs and compile a list of affected divisions, as well as a “Safe List” of teams that seemingly avoided major job cuts. In the absence of communication from leadership, the channel rapidly grew to nearly 20,000 members.
Making use of a feature allowing them to post anonymously, laid-off employees openly discussed their feeling of devastation. Immigrants worried about finding another employer to sponsor their work visa to avoid being forced to leave the U.S., in some cases uprooting their families. Some Amazonians shared they had been laid off while gravely ill or pregnant. Over and over, employees asked if anyone knew whether their team was safe.
“I just don’t know how to tell this news to my kids,” one employee wrote. “They are once very proud of their father to be an employee of Amazon Alexa. But now, I have to worry about if I have to back to my home country.”
Other employees wielded humor as a shield. A series of satirical posts poked fun at ill-designed Amazon products or features.
“I got laid off from the Amazon Photos app — I was the one who developed the feature where your photos will only back up when you have the app foregrounded and not at a useful time like 2am when connected to the wifi,” one employee joked.
“I got fired from the Ring Mobile Org :(. I was the one who developed the notification that gets sent to you when a dog went missing in some town miles away from where you live,” another wrote.
“I got laid off from the Alexa Devices org,” a third chimed in. “I am the developer who created the feature where when you ask Alexa a simple question she’ll give you a suggestion to something you are not interested in.”
The most prevalent sentiment in the channel was anger, directed straight at Amazon’s top executives.
“Meta at least got a message from Zuck himself,” one employee wrote, referring to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s memo to employees announcing that the company would lay off 13% of its workforce. “We get news articles on Monday. Radio silence from Everyone and severance emails late Tuesday night. Very upsetting from our S team. Lead with empathy, or lead with greed.” 
“When is the next all-hands where we get to submit questions for the S-team? I have a few,” another employee wrote, referring to Amazon’s top executives. “Chief among them: How do you intend to earn back the trust you so thoroughly destroyed in November?” 
“At some point we have to stop calling them leadership,” another employee wrote.
Employees also reassured and supported one another. Some passed around a “Freak-out Incident Response Form,” a one-page document developed by an Amazon product manager intended to help manage moments of crisis. Others promised to share laid-off colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles with their networks.  
Starting Wednesday, Amazon executives began confirming what many of their employees already knew, from media reports or the Slack channel: The Devices unit had been eviscerated, and more cuts were on the way.
In a memo to employees, Amazon’s devices chief, Dave Limp, pinned the layoffs on an adverse economic climate.
“Having gone through times like this in the past I know that when there’s a difficult economy, customers tend to gravitate to the companies and products they believe have had the best customer experience and that take care of them the best,” Limp wrote. “Historically, Amazon has done a very good job at this.”
The teams responsible for working on Alexa’s artificial intelligence systems, natural language understanding, and conversational abilities were among those hardest-hit by the cuts, according to a growing number of LinkedIn posts from laid-off Amazon employees. 
The cuts suggest that Amazon envisions moving forward with a significantly more pared-down Alexa. The company has reportedly known for years that customers primarily engage with Alexa to play music, control lights, and set timers. Amazon, though, has continued to pour resources into developing ever-greater capabilities for the virtual assistant, contributing to billions of dollars in losses.
In Amazon’s sprawling retail division, some employees learned Thursday morning that layoffs would likely hit their unit after the holiday shopping rush, leading one employee to wonder whether they should continue showing up at their job.
“No motivation to work at all,” the employee said. This person, and others who talked with Insider, asked not to be identified discussing sensitive topics.
And Thursday afternoon, Jassy confirmed in a companywide memo that layoffs would continue into 2023, and affect the retail and human resources divisions. In the letter, he struck a note of contrition.
“I’ve been in this role now for about a year and a half, and without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we’ve made during that time,” he wrote. “It’s not lost on me or any of the leaders who make these decisions that these aren’t just roles we’re eliminating, but rather, people with emotions, ambitions, and responsibilities whose lives will be impacted.”
Indeed, some Amazon employees had already reached a breaking point. On Thursday, some staff urged colleagues to join a public Discord server to continue discussing job cuts anonymously after the internal layoffs Slack channel was effectively disbanded by Amazon’s HR department.
On Discord, a small group of Amazon employees began broaching a taboo topic: Unionizing. Though the number of employees discussing organizing was small, the fact that they were doing so openly was a surprising development at a company renowned for its aggressive stance against labor activism.
“The only way to have any job security is through organizing,” one worker wrote.
Work at Amazon? Got a tip? Contact reporter Katherine Long via phone or the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-206-375-9280) or email (
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