Is Amazon's Work Environment as Toxic as NYT Says?

The New York Times' says that Amazon's work culture is horribly Darwinian, it's a place where everyone cries and people get fired for dealing with their own health or family issues. Amazon cries foul, and the internet wants to know: Who's the liar?

My instinct here is that everyone is telling the truth as they see it.

Most of us are trained to suck it up. Our inner voice tells us that everyone at work has their own problems, no one has the time to deal with yours, and managers don't want to be bothered. It's hard to ask for help, and a well-paying, potentially exciting, fast-moving role in a highly competitive workplace is all the more reason to clam up and try to get through it until you just can't. People who are happy working at Amazon are likely to either have less strenuous outside-work needs, or have mastered the art of asking for help.

It's also likely that Amazon managers aren't evil people who derive glee from their reports missing their kids' ball games and their parents' funerals. But they also might not have the internal ability, maturity, or support to be the best people managers they can be in what is acknowledged to be a high pressure environment. 

It is the job of a manager to catch the subtle cues that something may be amiss with a colleague. But it's almost definitely easier to 'see no evil', at least in the short-run, and especially when you're at a company where people want to work, thus making employees relatively replaceable. Denial and self-deception are the tools of stressed out people everywhere.

Amazon's reputation in the industry is close to the portrayal in the NYT article, but the practices and underlying goals described therein are widespread in the tech world. Deeper and broader analysis of labor issues in the tech world is most welcome, and I for one would like to see more of this reporting.