Insiders reveal what it’s really like working at Amazon when it comes to hiring, firing, performance reviews, and more

Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy surrounded by images of workers and robots in Amazon warehouses
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy. David Ryder/Getty Images; Isaac Brekken/AP Images for NFL, File; Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images; Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images; Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images; Ohannes EiseleAFP via Getty Images; Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Insider
  • Insider is investigating Amazon’s workplace amid a major effort to unionize the company.
  • The e-commerce and cloud giant has a complex performance-review system some employees say is unfair.
  • Amazon is investigating allegations of gender bias in its Prime division after Insider reporting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is the second-largest US employer and still one of the fastest-growing in the country. It offers income and benefits to well over 1 million people, and it’s been a source of jobs and shopping convenience during the pandemic.

With that level of influence, Amazon’s operations have come under intense scrutiny, which has prompted a nationwide unionization effort. The following covers everything you need to know about what it’s like to work at the company.


How Amazon culls its workforce

Andy Jassy
Under outgoing CEO Andy Jassy, Amazon’s cloud unit has built up an impressive roster of cloud security partners – but they often also work with competitors Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Reuters/Richard Brian

Insider is investigating Amazon’s system for improving, or ousting, employees deemed underperformers. Once managers label workers as struggling, they are put on a “Focus” coaching plan. If they fail there, the workers are moved to another program called “Pivot,” and then finally to an internal company jury that decides their fate at the company.

The system has been criticized by some current and former employees, who say it is unfairly stacked against them and can encourage managers to give bad reviews to good staff. Amazon says it gives managers tools to help employees improve and advance in their careers. “This includes resources for employees who are not meeting expectations and may require additional coaching. If an employee believes they are not receiving a fair assessment of their performance, they have multiple channels where they can raise this,” a company spokesperson said recently.

Amazon has a goal to get rid of a certain number of employees each year, which is called unregretted attrition. Some managers at the company told Insider they felt so much pressure to meet the target that they hire people who they intend to fire within a year.

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The company has been hit with allegations of bias

Amazon logo

There’s been a rash of lawsuits filed against Amazon alleging gender and racial bias. In May, five current and former female employees sued the company Amazon, claiming “abusive mistreatment by primarily white male managers.”

In February, Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon manager, filed a suit alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And last year, a high-profile female engineer called on the company to fix what she saw as a “harassment culture,” Insider reported.

“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “We immediately investigated Ms. Newman’s sexual harassment claim and fired her harasser.”

The investigation resulted in “corrective action and additional training requirements for those in her reporting line,” the spokesperson added. “We also reviewed Ms. Newman’s interview process, leveling and onboarding, and determined that she was properly placed in her role at the company. We are currently investigating the new allegations included in the lawsuit.”

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Amazon’s warehouses churn through workers

Robots in a UK Amazon warehouse
Robotic Amazon warehouses use robots to ferry shelves of items around the warehouse floor. Above, a photo taken in an Amazon warehouse in the UK. Isobel Asher Hamilton/Insider

The company’s fulfillment centers employ hundreds of thousands of people, offering pay and benefits that are competitive versus other retail-industry jobs. But the work can be grueling, some staff don’t stick around long, and there are growing efforts to unionize this modern blue-collar workforce.

Amazon warehouses are partly automated, using robots that zip around the shop floor fetching pallets of merchandise and bringing them to employees who pick the correct items and pack them for shipping. The company hires thousands of extra temporary workers each year to support a surge in orders during the holiday shopping period.

During the pandemic, online orders have jumped at an unusual time for Amazon. It prompted an unprecedented hiring spree last year but caused tension with workers concerned about entering warehouses that could spread the virus. These issues came to a head earlier this year, when employees at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, voted on whether to form a union. The effort failed, but there’s a bigger union push gathering steam.

In his final shareholder letter as CEO earlier this year, Jeff Bezos defended Amazon’s working conditions, but said the company needed “to do a better job for our employees.”

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Amazon’s delivery network relies on thousands of drivers

Amazon delivery drivers pee bottle 4x3

The company partners with UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service, but it also operates a massive fleet of in-house delivery vehicles. These vans are driven by a combination of employees, third-party courier services, and contract workers.

Amazon is known for imposing strict time constraints on drivers and tracking how many times they stop and how fast they drive. While the company factors in break times – a 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks – some drivers say they either can’t or don’t want to take them.

Earlier this year, a US lawmaker tweeted that Amazon workers have to pee in bottles. The company denied this, but multiple drivers confirmed it was part of the job. Amazon later apologized and said drivers have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic and being on rural routes, adding that the issue has been exacerbated by closed public bathrooms during the pandemic.

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How to get a job at Amazon

Amazon job fair 2017
Job seekers line up to apply during ‘Amazon Jobs Day’ at a fulfillment center in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 2017. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Amazon remains an important employer that is growing quickly. Unlike some of its Big Tech rivals, the company offers a range of positions, from highly technical roles to blue-collar jobs. It’s recruiting methods range from massive job fairs to tough one-on-one interviews.

The company ranks among the top employers among technical students. In a survey published last year, Amazon came 10th in a survey of engineering students, beating out Intel and IBM but trailing Tesla and SpaceX.

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