Labor

Amazon Worker Jumps off Building After Being Put on Big-Brother-Like 'Performance Improvement Plan'

Amazon employees live in terror of these performance plans.

Photo Credit: Robert Scoble / Flickr Creative Commons

An Amazon worker was injured in a suicide attempt after jumping off a 12-story company building in Seattle, reports Bloomberg.

Authorities did not release the identity of the man, but the story indicates he wrote an email before he tried to kill himself. The email was visible to hundreds of other Amazon workers, and to company CEO Jeff Bezos. The man had recently requested a move to a different department, but was put on a deceptively harmless-sounding "performance improvement plan" or PIP.

In 2014 a former Amazon employee wrote to Gawker about these euphemistic corporate tools. "I would not want such a thing to happen even to my enemy," wrote the worker, who broke down the details of PIPs:

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....

Amazon's image suffered a serious blow last year when a New York Times story on the company revealed a cutthroat culture that pushes employees to the brink. "Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk," a former employee told the paper.

In response to the report, Jeff Bezos sent out a memo to all employees. "The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day," he declared, "But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly... Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."

Michael Arria is an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editorFollow @MichaelArria on Twitter.

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