IMO this is less about Amazon and more about a person who needs help. I hope she or he gets it.
I want to see how this industry responds. Maybe software engineers will surprise me (pleasantly) and there’ll be protests at Amazon’s main campus, and that they spread to the other “Big N” tech companies, and so forth.
People have started revolutions and wars via literal self-immolation. I hate to see things get to this point– individually, it’s a tragedy– but now that it has happened, society can use the opportunity to reflect and change direction.
What precisely are we supposed to be complaining about? My father dug ditches and shoveled snow until he dropped dead from a heart attack. My mother worked plastic factories and ran a molding machine for wages that would make the average tech worker blanch.
We all lead lives of luxury. Is the job intense? Sure it is. But please don’t try to tell me that we’re some kind of under-privileged oppressed under class, because we’re not. Far, far from it.
This is a person who has mental health issues. Full stop. The only kind of revolution this article should start is the one where we take care of ourselves mentally and physically, and put work in the proper perspective with the rest of our lives.
I won’t dwell on the rest of the comment, because I think michael did a good job with it, but this:
This is a person who has mental health issues. Full stop.
Reminded me too much of an article I read a while ago so I will just copy-paste it here:
For some […], suicide is never political. It’s simply a “mental-health issue,” and mental health exists in a sphere hermetically sealed from social actuality. If you crack up under the pressures of working life and the indignities of poverty, well, you just need the spirit whipped back into you by mandatory work for a starvation wage, and if that doesn’t sound like health to you, don’t worry. It soon will.
Source: Laurie Penny, The New Inquiry
My father dug ditches and shoveled snow until he dropped dead from a heart attack. My mother worked plastic factories and ran a molding machine for wages that would make the average tech worker blanch.
1000 years ago, most of my ancestors lived in freezing one-room huts with their animals and it was normal to shit directly into your water table.
How bad things were is not relevant.
Which his (or her) employer aggravated, to the point where he almost died, by blocking his transfer even though his manager didn’t want him, and then putting him through the psychological game of a PIP. Yes, this person was (and probably still is) sick in a way that wasn’t entirely the employer’s fault, but which the employer aggravated, and is now gravely injured.
Most people who are catalysts for change have “mental health issues”. Deviations and extremes are often what drive history. And even though, in retrospect, we don’t put Lincoln or King in “teh crazy bucket”, people in their times did. Let’s be honest; you have to be slightly deviant (possibly in a good way) to try to change anything in this world. Therefore, your observation that this person was severely ill is correct but also irrelevant.
I don’t know enough about Amazon’s personal improvement plan system, but ALL knowledge work involves some level of psychological game, is there something specifically insidious and destructive with the PIP process at Amazon? The employee wasn’t happy, the employer didn’t want to transfer them as requested. What should be done in that situation? They could be summarily fired, but would that be more or less of a catalyst for suicide attempts?
I agree with feoh’s root comment, which is that the individual needed help, and I hope they get help, but I’m not sure I see it as a company or industry-wide issue with the information I have about it.
If you read between the lines of this story, and know how these companies work, it’s likely that he was PIP’d because he tried to transfer. I’d give it 5-to-1 odds that that’s what happened.
In a stack-rank culture, that’s typical. The manager has a certain number of good and bad scores that must be given out, and the bad scores lumped on the “disloyal” employees who seem liable to transfer, because that’s how these things work.
This is the Welch Effect: the people who get hurt by stack-ranking are usually junior members of underperforming teams (who are least likely to be responsible for the team’s underperformance).
What should the company have done? Allowed the transfer. This wasn’t someone who was underperforming in bad faith, someone who just didn’t care. This was someone who wanted to make himself useful to the employer and was trying to do the honest thing and say, “hey, I need another manager/team/project”.
I really don’t see how this is note-worthy.
Some person attempted suicide. He happens to work at one of the biggest tech companies.
What’s next? Debbie who works at Google gave birth to a son?
It’s noteworthy because a PIP is a psychological game that tech companies use to get people to go away with zero or minimal severance. To save money on firing people, tech companies break people down.
It worked and a person almost died.
Username checks out
Showing lack of empathy is the worst thing to do for libertarianism, capitalism and anything not government-regulated and -run socialism.
Amazon’s one of those companies, it seems :(
They’ll just install Foxconn-style suicide prevention nets and/or take a hint from Japanese companies that prevent stressed employees from accessing higher floors without a security detail.