- A woman watched her husband go through Amazon’s Pivot performance-improvement process.
- She told Business Insider it was crushing to watch her husband cry over the ordeal.
- An Amazon spokesperson said the experiences of a single employee aren’t representative.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with the wife of an Amazon corporate worker who was put into the company’s performance-management program known as Pivot. This person spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing her husband’s career. Business Insider has verified the worker’s identity and his employment at the company. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
When the performance-management process started, it was a big surprise for me because prior to that, my husband won a prize from Amazon. He was very, very dedicated to his job.
When he was in Pivot, they said he needed to do certain tasks, or otherwise he would be in the most serious step of this process. Then his boss told him, “Now you are in a different process. You have to complete a lot of tasks, or otherwise, you will be let go.”
When we were informed about this series of steps, he had the option to go further or to quit and receive a payout. But he’s very dedicated. He throws a lot of himself into his job. So he said, “No, I can try to do that.”
He had a lot of these extra tasks to do while he kept working. For about two months, he was working his regular job and then on this extra work. Sometimes, it was 16 hours, 18 hours a day. Our lives stopped because he had so many things to do.
He was very confident. And we’d keep talking about it. His goal was to finish at least a week in advance of the deadline so he could check whether more information was needed and make sure everything was OK. He did finish a week early. He was very confident about the job he did. He talked with a lot of peers about what he was doing. So he checked the work he had to do and felt he was OK. The weekend before it was due, we even took a trip. We said, “We can go to the ocean and enjoy it because everything is OK.”
When he presented what he’d done, he didn’t pass. I was worried for him; we’ve been together almost 20 years, and I’d almost never seen him cry. It’s been crushing to watch.
If you fail because you didn’t finish the job, you accept that. He had peers that didn’t finish the tasks, but he did. The process was not fair. His boss, on the same day he received his grade, asked him, “What kind of message do you want me to give your peers about your leaving the company?” It was not the moment to say that. The boss could have said there was an option to appeal, but he didn’t. My husband had to figure that out on his own. His boss didn’t say, “Let’s see where you failed, what you can do.”
In my opinion, this process is not designed to improve the employee.
My husband was one of the best in his position. He showed me the good comments he received about his work from customers and peers. All of his colleagues were surprised that he was going through this process. So a lesson for them is if he can go through this, all of you can, too.
It was like someone had died.
They give you five days to decide on whether to appeal. It was a really emotional moment for us. He wasn’t trusting his own capabilities. He told me, “I need to go through the appeal. I need to know that I tried everything until the end because I know that I did a good job.”
At home, it was like someone had died. It was very hard for him to get confident again because he’d never been fired from any job. I would accept if this had happened to me because I complain a lot in my job, but he doesn’t.
At other places he worked, he was always the best employee. So, this was very difficult for him and for me to accept that he was going through this. He was classified as one of the worst employees even after receiving praise and compliments from customers and colleagues.
After the appeal, there was a person from human resources who provided him with the final decision. She said, “Sorry. I saw your document and how much you tried, blah, blah, blah.”
I work as well. It was very difficult for me to keep focused — not just thinking about the future, but thinking about his feelings. My husband even lost a lot of weight during this time.
His income is much higher than mine. So we tried to think about what we would do. We have a child. I made a lot of calculations about how many months we could go without my husband’s job. Luckily, he is in the process of interviewing for other roles now.
My husband is a role model for our child.
I am confident it was the right decision to keep going until the final stage of this process, even though we discovered that maybe it’s not really designed to improve the performance of someone.
If he had decided to leave earlier, he might be saying, “I could still be there.” We now see the decision is not based on the work you’ve done.
My husband was a role model for our child in part because of Amazon. So it’s, “My dad has the cool job; mom has the regular job.”
When our child saw my husband’s situation — his mood, his face, how sad he was, the crying — we had to explain. My husband said that he had a lot to do for his job. So, there were weekends that he was not able to spend time with us.
We’d been planning a trip for this year. We told our child this trip was no longer on the table. That led to a lot of crying — not because of the trip but because it’s very hard for a kid to see their hero like this.
My husband has a lot of shirts with Amazon on them. Our child saw him wearing one recently and asked, “Why are you wearing that?”
Margaret Callahan, an Amazon spokesperson, told BI via email:
“Like most companies, we have a performance management process that helps our managers identify who on their teams are performing well and who may need more support. For the small number of employees who are underperforming, we use performance management programs to help them improve, and many employees do just that. Sometimes the programs result in employees leaving the company. Business Insider declined to share the information needed to verify this individual’s account, but from the questions we were asked, it’s likely this essay will contain inaccuracies about our performance management process. Using an unverified, anonymous anecdote from one person to suggest their experience is representative of the experiences of a workforce of 1.5 million is just wrong.”
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