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Bezos at a naturalization ceremony on June 14, 2016
Journalist Nellie Bowles of The New York Times has described the public persona and personality of Bezos as that of "a brilliant but mysterious and coldblooded corporate titan". During the 1990s, Bezos earned a reputation for relentlessly pushing Amazon forward, often at the expense of public charity and social welfare. Journalist Mark O'Connell criticized Bezos' relentless customer focus as "very small" in terms of impact on humanity as a whole, a sentiment technologist Tim O'Reilly agreed with. His business practices projected a public image of prudence and parsimony with his own wealth and that of Amazon. Bezos was a multi-billionaire who drove a 1996 Honda Accord. Throughout the early 2000s, he was perceived to be geeky or nerdy.
Bezos was seen by some as needlessly quantitative and data-driven. This perception was detailed by Alan Deutschman, who described him as "talking in lists" and "[enumerating] the criteria, in order of importance, for every decision he has made." Select accounts of his persona have drawn controversy and public attention. Notably, journalist Brad Stone wrote an unauthorized book that described Bezos as a demanding boss as well as hyper-competitive,and opined that Bezos perhaps "bet the biggest on the Internet" than anyone else. Bezos has been characterized as a notoriously opportunistic CEO who operates with little concern for obstacles and externalities.
During the early 2010s, Bezos solidified his reputation for aggressive business practices, and his public image began to shift. Bezos started to wear tailored clothing; he weight trained, pursued a regimented diet and began to freely spend his money. His physical transformation has been compared to the transformation of Amazon; he is often referred to as the metonym of the company. His physical appearance increased the public's perception of him as a symbolically dominant figure in business and in popular culture, wherein he has been parodied as an enterprising super villain. Since 2017, he has been portrayed by Kyle Mooney and Steve Carell on Saturday Night Live, usually as an undercutting, domineering figure. [better source needed] Bezos eats exotic foods, such as octopus and roasted iguana. In May 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation named Bezos the "World's Worst Boss", with its general secretary Sharan Burrow saying: "Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the North American corporate model.", while in 2019, Harvard Business Review, which ranked Bezos the best-performing CEO for 4 years in a row since 2014, did not rank him even in the top 100 citing Amazon's "relatively low ESG (environment, social, and governance) scores" that reflect "risks created by working conditions and employment policies, data security, and antitrust issues."
During the late 2010s, Bezos reversed his reputation for being reluctant to spend money on non-business-related expenses. His relative lack of philanthropy compared to other billionaires has drawn a negative response from the public since 2016. Bezos has been known to publicly contest claims made in critical articles, as exemplified in 2015 when he sent a memo to employees denouncing a New York Times piece.
"Day 1" Management Philosophy
Day 1: start up
Day 2: stasis
Day 3: irrelevance
Day 4: "excruciating, painful decline"
Day 5: death
Bezos has stated "it is always Day 1" to describe his growth mindset.
Bezos used what he called a "regret-minimization framework" while he worked at D. E. Shaw and again during the early years of Amazon. He described this life philosophy by stating: "When I'm 80, am I going to regret leaving Wall Street? No. Will I regret missing the beginning of the Internet? Yes." During the 1990s and early 2000s at Amazon, he was characterized as trying to quantify all aspects of running the company, often listing employees on spreadsheets and basing executive decisions on data. To push Amazon forward, Bezos developed the mantra "Get Big Fast", establishing the company's need to scale its operations to produce market dominance. He favored diverting Amazon profits back into the company in lieu of allocating it amongst shareholders in the form of dividends.
Bezos uses the term "work–life harmony" instead of the more standard "work–life balance" because he believes balance implies that you can have one and not the other. He believes that work and home life are interconnected, informing and calibrating each other. Journalist Walt Mossberg dubbed the idea that someone who cannot tolerate criticism or critique shouldn't do anything new or interesting "The Bezos Principle". Bezos does not schedule early morning meetings and enforces a two-pizza rule—a preference that meetings are small enough for two pizzas to feed everyone in the board room. When interviewing candidates for jobs at Amazon he has stated he considers three inquiries: can he admire the person, can the person raise the common standard, and under what circumstances could the person become exemplary.
He meets with Amazon investors for a total of only six hours a year. Instead of using presentation slides, Bezos requires high-level employees to present information with six-page narratives. Starting in 1998, Bezos publishes an annual letter for Amazon shareholders wherein he frequently refers to five principles: focus on customers not competitors, take risks for market leadership, facilitate staff morale, build a company culture, and empower people. Bezos maintains the email address [email protected] as an outlet for customers to reach out to him and the company. Although he does not respond to the emails, he forwards some of them with a question mark in the subject line to executives who attempt to address the issues. Bezos has cited Jeff Immelt (of New Enterprise Associates), Warren Buffett (of Berkshire Hathaway), Jamie Dimon (of JPMorgan Chase), and Bob Iger (of Walt Disney) as major influences on his leadership style.
Bezos is known for creating an adversarial environment at Amazon, as well as insulting and verbally abusing his employees. As journalist Brad Stone revealed in his book The Everything Store, Bezos issued remarks to his employees such as "I'm sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?", "Are you lazy or just incompetent?", and "Why are you ruining my life?". Additionally, Bezos reportedly pitted Amazon teams against each other, and once declined to give Amazon employees city bus passes in order to discourage them from leaving the office.
Wow! More interesting things to learn from Bezos tomorrow....