18 months after being deployed, Amazon’s program for underperforming employees might be doing more harm than good | Tech News

  • Last year, Amazon implemented a program for employees at risk of being fired, but the process is causing some resentment among employees, according to Bloombgerg’s Spencer Soper.
  • The most controversial part of the program, the option for a head-to-head video confrontation between the employee and their boss in front of a jury of peers, is seen as unfair in its current state.
  • As a whole, the program was intended to provide transparency and guidance to employees, but 18 months later, employees don’t feel like Amazon is providing the unbiased support they need.

Amazon is a notoriously demanding workplace. So to go easier on employees at risk of being fired, Amazon last year launched a program called “Pivot” to help underperforming employees get back on track.

But 18 months after Pivot was launched, the program is creating some resentment among employees, who question how fair the hearing process actually is, according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Spencer Soper.

Employees who find themselves on the performance improvement plan (PIP) – Amazon’s version of probation – have three options as of January 2017:

1. Quit and receive severance pay

2. Spend the next few weeks proving their worth by meeting certain performance goals

3. Go head-to-head against their manager in a courtroom-style videoconference with a panel of peers serving as the jury

These options were announced as part of Amazon’s Pivot program, which was deployed amid complaints that Amazon wasn’t responsibly handling its growing workforce.

“It’s a kangaroo court,” employment lawyer George Tamblyn, who helped a former Amazon employee appeal her case, told Bloomberg.

In this videoconference trial, the employee defending their case reportedly doesn’t hear any of the defense against them and gets only partial say in the jury – ultimately, the panelists are chosen by Amazon.

And employees who choose the trial-by-jury option have to deal with the stress regardless of whether they win or lose. The reported 70% who lose these trials get to choose between the first and second options listed above – quitting, or spending the next few weeks trying to improve – and those who win still have to face a fairly awkward workplace scenario.

Amazon didn’t share metrics about its “uniquely Amazonian program,” but told Bloomberg in an email statement that it’s happy with where it’s headed. “Just over a year into [the] program, we’re pleased with the support it offers our employees and we’re continuing to iterate based on employee feedback and their needs.”

See Bloomberg’s story for more details.

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