9 wild stories that reveal the brutally competitive side of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

He once reportedly told an employee, “If I hear that idea again, I’m gonna have to kill myself.” Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Amazon is known throughout the business world for being a ruthless competitor — and is on track to become the first trillion-dollar company .

• Reports from Brad Stone’s ” The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon ” to the New York Times’ 2015 feature story indicate CEO and founder Jeff Bezos can be a demanding boss, too.

• It’s been alleged Bezos has barked out questions like “Are you lazy or just incompetent?” at employees, and referred to the publishing industry as a “sickly gazelle.”

Amazon’s brutal workplace culture is no secret.

And, if reports like Brad Stone’s ” The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon ” and the New York Times’ 2015 feature story on the company are true, this culture flows from founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

From comparing businesses to exotic octopus dishes to banning Powerpoint outright, the tech mogul has acquired something of an intense reputation in the industry.

Here are several wild anecdotes that illustrate Bezos’ competitive side.

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Bezos’ devastating workplace tirades are infamous

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

When people mess up at Amazon, Bezos has historically not been one to mince words.

Brad Stone’s ” The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon ” outlines a litany of barbs Bezos allegedly has hurled at employees :

• “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?”

• “Are you lazy or just incompetent?”

• “I trust you to run world-class operations and this is another example of how you are letting me down.”

• “If I hear that idea again, I’m gonna have to kill myself.”

• “Why are you ruining my life?”

Stone’s account indicates the Amazon CEO doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

He is especially difficult to impress — and easy to agitate — during presentations

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Bezos is apparently a tough critic during employee presentations.

Back in 2011, programmer and ex-Amazon employee Steve Yegge published an account of his time at Amazon. In particular, he spoke of going in to present to the CEO, an experience he likened to being in “a gladiator movie”: “Presenting to Jeff is a gauntlet that tends to send people back to the cave to lick their wounds and stay out of the sunlight for a while.”

Yegge said Bezos ended up liking his presentation, which surprised his coworkers. “One VP told me privately: ‘Presentations with Jeff never go that well,'” he wrote.

But don’t try to wow him with Powerpoint.

Business Insider reported a leaked email from the Amazon CEO accuses the program of encouraging people to “gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance, and ignore the inner connectedness of ideas.” It’s apparently banned from Amazon’s campus, according to Yegge.

Bezos reportedly once yanked transportation perks at Amazon, because he didn’t want workers to leave the office

Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

In ” The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon ,” Stone writes the Amazon CEO declined to give employees city bus passes in the early years of the company “because he didn’t want to give them any reason to rush out of the office to catch the last bus of the day.”

He told prospective employees back in 1997 that ‘it’s not easy to work here’

Ted S. Warren/AP Images

In the early days of the company, Bezos was reportedly upfront about the intense environment with job candidates.

The New York Times reported on Bezos’ 1997 letter to shareholders , in which he said he told all potential hires “it’s not easy to work here” and “you can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three.”

Bezos advocated Amazon go after publishing houses like a ‘cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle’

Malene Thyssen / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Amazon has been accused of taking an almost predatory view of other companies over the years.

Business Insider previously reported Bezos himself once suggested at a meeting that “Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle” when negotiating with publishing houses.

Bezos reportedly established secret tech teams working against one another to keep everyone on their toes

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former Amazon senior developer David Loftesness told the New York Times he had been working to improve the site’s search capabilities for years before he discovered the CEO had “greenlighted a secret competing effort to build an alternate technology.” He said he ended up quitting over the company’s work environment.

He compared one acquisition to an exotic octopus dish

Andrew Toth / Stringer / Getty Images

Bezos once compared a potential acquisition to a rather unusual meal when he sat down with Woot founder Matt Rutledge over a breakfast of octopus with potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and eggs.

“When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had,” Bezos said, according to Business Insider . “I must have the breakfast octopus.”

Bezos hired a top industry expert — and then allegedly ignored everything he said

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Yegge wrote Bezos is an “infamous micromanager” who drove away computer scientist Larry Tesler after poaching him from Apple.

Yegge said, instead of working with Tesler, Bezos “ignored every g—— thing Larry said for three years.”


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