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Businesses

Amazon Worker Jumps Off Company Building After Email Note (bloomberg.com) 387

An anonymous reader writes: An Amazon employee was injured when he leaped off a building at the company's Seattle headquarters in what police characterized as a suicide attempt. The man, who wasn't identified by authorities, sent an e-mail visible to hundreds of co-workers, including Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, before the incident occurred, according to a report on Bloomberg. The man survived the fall from Amazon's 12-story Apollo building at about 8:45 a.m. local time Monday and was taken to a Seattle hospital, police said. The man had recently put in a request to transfer to a different department, but was placed on an employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing company personnel matters. More than 20,000 people work in multiple buildings at Amazon's headquarters.

Amazon Worker Jumps Off Company Building After Email Note

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  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:27AM (#53384867) Homepage

    employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved

    Whoever invented "employee improvement plan" needs to die.

    • Whoever invented "employee improvement plan" needs to die.

      It will have been someone in Human Remains

    • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:48AM (#53385107)

      Your recent post on the Internet has flagged you for the employee improvement plan...

    • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:50AM (#53385143)

      I believe it is one of the first steps in the universally-recognized process of "managing someone out". This can be required if an employee shows signs of initiative, curiosity, creativity, or resentment at horrible working conditions and excessive demands on her time.

    • by Paul Carver ( 4555 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:52AM (#53385157)

      employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved

      Whoever invented "employee improvement plan" needs to die.

      Sure, wouldn't want to actually let the employee know why they're getting bad performance reviews, just fire them.

      That was sarcasm, by the way. I know nothing about Amazon's employee improvement plan, but the general idea of giving extra assistance to employees who aren't performing as well as their peers is absolutely a good idea.

      It's utterly naive to think that everyone can be in the top X% or that all employees will perform so equally that better or worse can't be distinguished. As long as some employees perform worse you only have three choices:

      1) Do nothing. Just keep paying them for doing worse than their peers
      2) Fire them. Hire somebody else that you hope will perform better.
      3) Help them to identify why they perform worse than their peers and try to help them improve

      I can't see any reason why option 3 is worse than option 1 or 2.

      Unless you dispute my assumption that there exist some employees who perform worse than others, it absolutely makes sense for companies to have a goal and plan for improving their lowest performing employees rather than firing them or ignoring them.

      Obviously if someone is utterly hopeless then you have to just get rid of them to prevent them from contributing negative value (i.e. creating problems for their peers to fix to the net loss of the company's productivity) but if they're just "ok but not great" then actively working to improve them benefits everyone. Maybe Amazon's plan is broken, I wouldn't know, but the general concept is a good one.

      • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @11:01AM (#53385249)

        The problem is that there are many cases where companies use the employee improvement plan process to fire people who aren't actually bad at their jobs but the companies want them to leave for other reasons and don't want to lay them off with the associated unemployment costs.

        They put the target on said plan in hopes they take the hint and just leave. If not, the employee will be judged to have not sufficiently improved, no matter how they actually perform, and at the end of the EIP deadline they are let go for cause.

        • If not, the employee will be judged to have not sufficiently improved, no matter how they actually perform, and at the end of the EIP deadline they are let go for cause.

          One of the companies I worked for tried that with me here in Virginia when a new manager came in and replaced people. The unemployment application form had the following question: "Were you performing your duties to the best of your abilities?" I checked "Yes" (which was true). Got my unemployment benefits.

        • by keltor ( 99721 ) *
          I'm not saying that there aren't some large companies that somehow do that, but the various large companies I've worked at EIPs are not used to fire someone, nor used to avoid unemployment costs, actually every single place I've been was the same, first follow the state laws for severance, second, offer them additional severance to agree not to claim unemployment, third if they don't take that, fine they file, we don't fight the unemployment. Bigger companies are MUCH more worried about being sued, because
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        It's utterly naive to think that everyone can be in the top X% or that all employees will perform so equally that better or worse can't be distinguished

        Isn't that how 6-Sigma at GE supposedly worked? They routinely expected to sack anyone whose metrics were below some arbitrary number? Keep jacking the number they have to hit up and when they stop making it, you jettison them like an empty rocket stage.

        • by anegg ( 1390659 )
          Process improvement methods like 6 Sigma https://www.isixsigma.com/new-to-six-sigma/getting-started/what-six-sigma/ [isixsigma.com] are not intended to drive individual people to perform in the top x%, they are intended to identify and eliminate defects in processes. That said, methods like that can be misunderstood and/or misused by management, especially when said management thinks the method is a tool that you just bring in and swing around in order to reap the benefits of "improved processes," more productivity, etc.
          • If worked with a few people that could be fairly called: 'defects in process'.

            What do you call a 'programmer' that comes to you with a piece of dynamic SQL that fails, utterly lost. The string contains concatenation operators from the language building the SQL? He has, again, forgotten that there is such a thing as a SQL console, good for seeing meaningful errors and query plans. (Of course, Brahmin. Yes I am a Casteist, never hire Brahmin.)

        • Isn't that how 6-Sigma at GE supposedly worked? They routinely expected to sack anyone whose metrics were below some arbitrary number? Keep jacking the number they have to hit up and when they stop making it, you jettison them like an empty rocket stage.

          You're thinking of "Stack Ranking", used by Microsoft to foster hatred and backstabbing between their employees. And boy did it work.

          • You're thinking of "Stack Ranking", used by Microsoft to foster hatred and backstabbing between their employees. And boy did it work.

            Indeed. This kind of shit is also used by incompetent and utterly useless managers to keep themselves in jobs and get promoted. The good people are otherwise to pre-occupied. It's all fire and motion, as ironically Joel Spolsky once said.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )

        That was sarcasm, by the way. I know nothing about Amazon's employee improvement plan, but the general idea of giving extra assistance to employees who aren't performing as well as their peers is absolutely a good idea.

        That depends one what "improve" actually means in Amazon compared to other workplaces. Amazon is well known for micromanaging its workers and treating certain employees (e.g. those in warehouses) extremely badly. It's not hard to see how they could abuse employees - making them work beyond what is reasonable, or pushing them out the door - under the guise of an "improvement plan".

      • It's worse than that.

        Basic group psych, Most people will lower their work standard/output to match the lowest performing co-worker that 'gets away with it'.

        Internally motivated individuals are uncommon, even they mostly 'get over it' after some period of watching co-workers continue to 'get away with it', especially if the co-workers getting by are actually ranked/rewarded better.

        There is nothing that can wreck a team faster than some mouth breathing ass kisser getting a big promotion, raise and bonu

      • Sure, wouldn't want to actually let the employee know why they're getting bad performance reviews, just fire them.

        That was sarcasm, by the way. I know nothing about Amazon's employee improvement plan, but the general idea of giving extra assistance to employees who aren't performing as well as their peers is absolutely a good idea.

        It's utterly naive to think that everyone can be in the top X% or that all employees will perform so equally that better or worse can't be distinguished.

        Errrrr, that's their line manager's call, or at least it should be.

    • Is an "employee improvement plan" literally just a euphemism for the fast track to termination everywhere, or are there places where it's taken seriously and efforts are made to actually improve an employee's performance?

      It sure seems like EIPs only really exist as a way to get rid of an employee -- set unreachable goals, make them pariahs who other employees would keep at arm's length, flag them for increased scrutiny of metrics generally ignored for other employees, basically create the cover for terminat

    • Why? Why is simply firing someone a better solution than giving them exactly what they are doing wrong and what they need to change if they want to keep their job?
      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
        Why? Why is simply firing someone a better solution than giving them exactly what they are doing wrong and what they need to change if they want to keep their job?

        Simple: The person about to be fired has already demonstrated that they failed to perform their duties. If you hire a new person, you get the change of hiring someone who can do things right the first time. If not, you're not worse off than before.

        • Because bringing on someone new and training them has no cost associated with it.

          Maybe the issue is something going on in the employee's life, and working with them and getting consoling resolves the performance problems.

          Or maybe the issue is something else internal that working through the improvement plan reveals.

          Bottom line, finding, hiring, and on-boarding someone is a long and expensive process. Retaining the talent you have is normally better for the bottom line and moral.

    • employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved

      Whoever invented "employee improvement plan" needs to die.

      Nonsense. Improvement plans are a good thing. I'm sure it's unpleasant to be put on one, but much better than getting fired straight off.

      I've never been put on a plan, but I know many who have, and I have been fired. I'd much rather be put on a plan. Getting fired is really stressful. It leaves you job hunting on a tight, financially-driven timeline and with some serious disadvantages. In contrast, if you're on a 3-6 month improvement plan, that means worst case you have 3-6 months to look for a job, and

      • by boskone ( 234014 )

        If someone gets put on a plan, their best advice is to do three things

        1. financially/family prepare as if you're going to lose your job. Cut spending, pump up savings, etc.
        2. job hunt like a mofo, in case the PiP doesn't work
        3. (and this is important) - throw yourself into the PiP and do everything you can to lean in and improve. Even if you think it's worthless, unfair, even if you are sure you'll have another job in a week. Lean in and do your damndest to improve. this gives you the chance that you'll

        • Throwing yourself into 3 is usually a waste of time, especially if you know you're doing all you can and are having to meet arbitrary targets cooked up by some moron. They've identified the people they want to get rid of and an improvement plan gives them an excuse to do it - and they can get a few months of exceptionally hard work out of you before they do it ;-).
        • If the place is hell to you and you're just not a fit, don't 'lean in', waste of time. Their definition of 'improve' is likely questionable at best.

          The thing you do want to do is respect your coworkers right to the end, fuck the PHB. Former coworkers are the network that makes your life. They also have realistic understanding of who actually gets things done. They aren't PHBs with useless, easy to game metrics.

          The last reason to respect your coworkers, is so you can subsequently run an employee raid on

    • As frequently said... the beatings will continue until morale improves.

    • Well, that would probably be people who didn't like being fired capriciously. Personally, I'd rather my company tell me exactly why they weren't happy with me and what I could do to rectify it.

  • by Durrik ( 80651 ) <pwright@ryksyll . c om> on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:29AM (#53384887) Homepage

    This seems to be very common at Amazon. Going by the FACE [google.com] site, it shows a clear pattern of abuse, and I'm not surprised that this hasn't happened before.

    Granted the FACE site is posted to those who are usually pissed at Amazon, but with so many postings and so often it shows that there is a clear pattern of employee abuse.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      While I absolutely agree that these issues should be addressed, there aren't "so many postings". There's what, 100? 200? Amazon was at over 200,000 employees in 2015. One complaint per thousand employees isn't particularly unusual, hell I'm pretty sure there are way more than this that just never get out of Amazon.
      • You tend to find it's the tip of the iceberg when you have extremely bad reviews. Most people don't post to such boards.
    • This seems to be very common at Amazon. Going by the FACE [google.com] site, it shows a clear pattern of abuse, and I'm not surprised that this hasn't happened before.

      Granted the FACE site is posted to those who are usually pissed at Amazon, but with so many postings and so often it shows that there is a clear pattern of employee abuse.

      Hey look at this post [google.com] from a friend of an Amazon employee! Maybe this person can start a support group? Doesn't sound like Amazon is going to start one.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:34AM (#53384941)

    was placed on an employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved,

    Stepping off a 12 story building seems like kind of a harsh "improvement plan".

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      The alternative is to "trust" that the coworker standing behind you will catch when you fall backwards. At some places I worked at, stepping off a 12-story building is easier.
      • The alternative is to "trust" that the coworker standing behind you will catch when you fall backwards. At some places I worked at, stepping off a 12-story building is easier.

        The problem is, if you're falling backwards off a 12 story building, the guy behind you is 12 stories down! I'm as trusting as the next guy, but that's taking it a little too far.

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @10:35AM (#53384971) Homepage Journal
    HOW THE HELL does the submitter miss the headline:

    REPLY ALL nearly KILLS man

    ?!!!

  • Workplace suicides are on the rise [aphapublications.org] — why is one at Amazon considered particularly newsworthy? Are not Bloomberg and Slashdot encouraging some poor slob to do it, by promising them a bit of post-mortem glory, however fleeting?

  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @11:09AM (#53385325) Homepage Journal

    One of my former co-workers from the porno business got a job at Amazon. She quit within a week and told me "I'd rather go back to the porno shop, at least there they bother to give you lube for when you get fucked."

    That alone tells me all I need to know about Amazon, and I'll never shop there. If one of my co-workers from a very tough industry couldn't hack something supposedly so simple and benign as Amazon warehouse work when she had no problems sorting and packing and selling boxes of DVDs and lube and sex toys, there's something seriously fucking wrong with Amazon's management and policies and procedures.

    • If you only listen to people who quit from working at company, of course you're going to hear it's a terrible place to work. If they didn't think so, they likely would still be working there.

      To get a balanced view of what working at the company is really like, you need to sample (hear testimonials from) both people who quit working there, and people who are still working there. Maybe Amazon is evil incarnate. Or maybe the things they did are perfectly normal, it just tickled one of her pet peeves that
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @11:10AM (#53385341)

    ... but was placed on an employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved, ...

    Won't look good on his performance report. "Employee fails to complete tasks in a timely fashion."

  • From the 4th floor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wookie Monster ( 605020 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @11:39AM (#53385601)
    The jump wasn't from the 12th floor, which is why he survived. He only fell about 20 feet. http://www.seattlepi.com/local... [seattlepi.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Paul Carver ( 4555 )

      Ok, I'm sorry for being insensitive, and maybe Amazon is a horrible place to work, but maybe this guy wasn't entirely a stellar performer who was unfairly underrated.

      If you attempt suicide by jumping from the fourth floor of a twelve story building and you don't even double check that you've got a full four floors to fall, what conclusions might we draw about your ability to plan and complete your assigned tasks?

      Ending your own life is a pretty important decision and not something you should just handle in

    • by Volanin ( 935080 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @02:54PM (#53387483)

      20' is 2D6 falling damage. He's badass.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @11:56AM (#53385783)

    If you get 20,000 people together for ANY reason, you are going to get at least a few who are not mentally well. The US has 12.1 suicides per 100,000 people annually. That means that in a random group of 20,000 people in the USA you would expect 2-3 of them to try to (successfully) commit suicide in a given year and presumable some number more to attempt it. One guy in a company that large does not justify drawing any deeper conclusions than he was one of those 2-3 people.

  • You don't want make judgments bases on single cases without comparing rates at Amazon against rates at other companies.

    Of course, in the not-too-distant future, we will All be working at Amazon, so comparisons of that type may be hard to make.

  • Every day 117 people commit suicide. (avg)

    Where did the other 116 people work?

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