Blue Origin’s defense of its ‘toxic’ culture was absurdly horrific

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Like most other geeks, I enjoyed William Shatner’s space trip and have to commend Jeff Bezos for finding a great way to promote space tourism. That stunt aside, however, Blue Origin’s public image has taken a few hits.

Most poignant was Elon Musk’s emoji tweet (a # 2 ribbon) to celebrate BO’s inaugural launch, but that’s nothing compared to the exhibit recently published in the Washington Post. Here is the title:

Inside Blue Origin: Employees say the toxic and dysfunctional “brother culture” has led to mistrust, low morale and delays in Jeff Bezos’ space business. It’s condescending. It is demoralizing. a former senior executive said of the conditions prompting many to leave the company.

And that was the positive part. Seriously, though, Bezos’ business ventures aren’t exactly known as worker’s havens, but if there was one part of his empire where you thought it might be fun to work, it would be in a company that is essentially a life-size hobby rocket model.

But that’s apparently not the case, if the Post (which Bezos owns) can be believed. The article quotes the former CEO of Blue Origin’s “The culture rests on a foundation that ignores the plight of our planet, turns a blind eye to sexism, does not listen enough to security concerns and silences those who seek to right the wrongs.”

Another former employee reportedly said: “The C suite is pretty severely disconnected from the grassroots. It’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what happens is we can’t move forward and end up with huge delays. “

The Post’s article is not the type of criticism that can be overshadowed with the kind of ‘we work hard and play hard’ verbiage that tech companies tend to trot when their cultures turn out like snake pits. (Python?).

No, the Post’s article is a big part of linking bad management practices to mission failure. It is an attack that demands a strong response. However, the best Blue Origin could offer this weak beer:

“In a statement to The Post, Mary Plunkett, senior vice president of human resources at Blue Origin, said that the company (…) this nature is recorded and then investigated.”

Listen, anyone who has frequented the corporate political bloc more than once knows that “anonymous” complaints are almost always recorded, and if the complaint is about a senior executive, that recording will be released for that executive, who will immediately recognize voice and will punish accordingly. .

Even if, by chance, it is not recorded, in order for an “anonymous” complaint to be investigated, it should contain enough information so that the offender (who will certainly be informed of the content of the complaint). the complaint) immediately know who left the complaint. And again, punish accordingly.

The worst part of Blue Origin’s response is the idea that having a conversation with HR or “senior management” will result in something other than, you guessed it, the complainant will be punished as a result.

The purpose of HR is not to represent the best interests of employees. The goal of HR is to prevent the business from being sued. As such, complaining to HR that you’ve been harassed is like giving your future ex-spouse’s lawyer a detailed list of all the times you’ve been unfaithful.

Having a conversation with senior management is even dumber. There is no political advantage in a senior leader doing anything about such complaints. But there is a huge political advantage in telling your boss that he has a staff cookie. It’s a real “hey, you owe me, bro!” moment.

In conclusion and in all honesty, I think it might not be a stretch of the imagination that there is a “brotherhood culture” in the company whose product looks like … well, you know.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.


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