I was standing on the 11th floor of Dawson, looking down at the 10th floor kitchen that connected Dawson to Ruby.
My mom was saying something about how my boss wasn’t worth it. She told me that all of this stress would someday come to an end; the same words my psychiatrist was telling me almost every meeting; the same words that I had found on a reassuring image online and assigned to the background of my work laptop.
This too shall pass.
As I turned around, barely hearing the second half of the conversation coming through my cellphone, I considered the length and width of the blank whiteboard: the perfect canvas. As a writer, I was sure my prolific nature would lead to wall-to-wall text.
No one will know until Monday, I thought.
Doubting that even the people I had just previously observed playing ping pong ball would notice, I thought that maybe – if they were lucky – a janitor would find me. A third party employee. After an Apple Employee was found in the conference room, I thought maybe – just maybe – you and your HR team(s) might actually do something if I followed suit.
But I was too scared. I wanted the daily abuse to stop, but I couldn’t imagine punishing my husband just because my manager was a piece of shit. Besides, HR was on her side, maybe I was wrong?
So I continued – oh yes, continued – reporting my issues to HR. I continued to document everything. I continued to talk to my psychiatrist; and, I continued to increase my medication to numb the depression, anxiety, and – frankly – terror. Everyday was a fresh day in Hell for me. My co-workers told me to ignore her, but I couldn’t.
“If things don’t get better, it won’t end well for you.”
“It’s your word against mine.”
Just a few phrases from my manager, but this doesn’t even brush the surface. As I told you in my last letter – the one you solicited almost exactly a year before the date of my final encounter with my manager – that it wasn’t always what she said, but how she said it.
I was never good enough. I would answer a question, but she would push and push until I was in tears or gave up. It was more of an interrogation than anything. I hated my one-on-one meetings with her for that reason. Despite feedback from my colleagues, nothing I did – and she found out about – was ever good enough.
Towards the end, I started hiding projects from her to avoid the interrogation. I thought – for a bit – that it was getting better. End of July, 2016. But while it was getting better for me, her attention had been redirected to our recently returned colleague; the one who had been talking to HR for close to a year before (and even during) her maternity leave. Same problems; different person. My boss picked up where she had left off with my colleague, giving me only the slightest reprieve. My colleague emailed you too – after I did on September 1, 2016 – but never heard back. I told your Investigator about the issue, but he referred her back to the ineffective Ethics Hotline where she had already left at least one report. She never heard back from him either.
Now I’m writing you again because someone braver than I did something I couldnt bring myself to do. How disgusting I feel to think that but there it is. This unnamed victim did what I couldn’t. All of the days I spent on the roof of Dawson, wondering if I would be able to clear the electric fencing on my way up and over the side of the building, and admiring that having the view of Lake Union would be the most beautiful way to die.
I’m writing you again, now, because I wonder how many times this unnamed victim reached out to HR. Did he also have months of records; did he also endure the 2-hour phone call to your investigation team, only to be told his accusations were unfounded; did he also ask for someone to do something – anything – to change the policy so that it might finally condemn bullying; did he also contact the Ethics Hotline multiple times, only to be told that the report had been received, but never followed up on Amazons end? I’ll bet he did. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.
The last thing I wonder is: did his HR BP also deny his medical accommodations to work from home and/or transfer to a different position after being forced to take medical leave while determining if – indeed – the request was reasonable? Despite the documents of anxiety attacks that were being caused by the mere thought of seeing his manager? Did he consider quitting his job – mid anxiety attack – after laying on his bathroom floor crying for two hours?
As you know, I did quit. I physically couldnt work at Amazon anymore. I couldn’t take being blamed and held responsible for my manager’s behavior. I had changed everything about myself including the chemistry of my fucking brain. My colleague and I were changing everything to make sure that our manager could keep her job because – according to you – nothing she did was against Amazon policy.
All we wanted was to be transferred to one of the many, open positions available to your 20k+ people (and growing) company. Her transfer was blocked because, despite her 10+/- years of experience, it was a level up. Supposedly, she wasn’t performing well enough after being on maternity leave for almost 10 months, and then returning part-time (20 hours a week) to two, 1-hour one-on-ones a week plus meetings (and we can’t forget how much Amazon Logistics loves meetings).
But none of this mattered. No one followed up. Nothing – as far as we’ve been told – happened. In fact, the friends that remain on the team say that things have gotten worse for them. One – as I predicted in my first letter to you – has already moved on to another team; at least three others continue to look for their own way out.
What will it take, Jeff, for Amazon to fucking do something?
My diagnosed-PTSD obviously wasn’t enough; my friend’s reports of gender-based harassment and discrimination weren’t enough; when will it all be enough?
Over the past few months, I’ve read many positive stories on LinkedIn about people’s personal experiences at Seattle HQ. Each time, I am so happy that that person does not suffer the way that my colleague and I suffered. Yet, each time, I get sick to my stomach because those are the stories you share and care about. Instead of taking a Bias for Action for those affected by the (according to you) few (if any) bad managers at Amazon, you allow these positive stories to drown out the ones like my colleague and I shared.
And no, technically, you are not Amazon; but, in reality, you are. All of Amazon looks to you to know if something is wrong. Guess what? Something is wrong.
So what are you going to do about it now, Jeff; or, does the next person have to actually die for changes to be made?
PS – You know how to contact me. My email address hasnt changed since I emailed you in September.