Many current and former employees of blue origin said that the company’s leadership had received many warnings, including out of control corporate culture, low employee morale, high brain drain rate, project delay, etc.
In the competition with SpaceX, blue origin often ends in failure, including bidding for NASA’s manned lunar lander contract.
These employees said that the “brotherly culture” believed by the management affected the way of decision-making and penetrated into the whole company, resulting in the formation of a top-down hierarchy.
In addition to the widespread concern about the leadership style of CEO Smith, employees also said that Bezos did not pay enough attention to the company during the critical period.
Now that Bezos has been to space and left the Amazon, he will continue to focus on the origin of blue and help him “Nirvana” in a few years.
Bob Smith, CEO of blue origin, wore a black hat and walked with Founder Jeff Bezos (middle), after the company completed its first manned space mission in the western port of Texas in July
Tencent technology news on October 12, the blue origin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos rarely won in the competition with SpaceX, a space exploration technology company under Elon Musk. Many current and former employees of blue origin believe that the “Brotherhood culture” is the culprit, which leads to mutual distrust, low morale and work delay between the leadership and employees.
In 2019, a middle-level executive of blue origin was fed up with the company. When he left, he wrote a long memo to Bezos, CEO Bob Smith and other executives. “Our current culture is harmful to our success, and many people can see it spread throughout the company,” he wrote. The memo shows that the problem of blue origin is “systematic” and “employees almost lose trust in the leadership”.
Many current and former employees of blue origin said that this is one of a series of warnings issued to the leadership of blue origin in recent years, saying that the company culture has been out of control, resulting in low employee morale, high brain drain rate, major delays in several major projects, and failed to successfully compete with the space company SpaceX under Elon Musk.
As a former employee said, the “brotherly culture” of the new management has affected the way decision-making is made and permeated into the whole company and transformed into a top-down hierarchy, including condescending and sometimes humiliating comments and harassment on many women, as well as the stagnation that makes many employees frustrated.
CEO leadership style was questioned and Bezos was accused of lack of attention
In the process of rapidly growing from a small start-up to a large company with nearly 4000 employees, blue origin has always been trying to solve the problem of how to improve its culture. In 2019, after employees complained of gender discrimination, the company dismissed the recruitment director. A consultant hired by blue origin reviewed the company’s leadership and found that the main challenge was Smith’s inefficient and micro management leadership style.
This conclusion is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former employees of blue origin and industry officials close to the company. The interview minutes and other documents reveal the widespread concerns of employees of blue origin company about Smith’s leadership style, that is, the bureaucratic style that hinders innovation and the lack of intervention by Bezos. Employees said that Bezos did not pay enough attention to the company in the critical period.
A former executive said: “the situation is terrible. I think it is a complete lack of trust. The leadership has not brought any trust to the employee group.” another employee said: “The disconnection between the CEO and ordinary employees is quite serious, which is very abnormal. It is a condescending performance. It makes people depressed. As a result, we couldn’t make progress and ended up with a huge delay.”
Last month, Alexandra Abrams, former employee public relations director of blue origin, published an article. She said it was written jointly with 20 other current and former employees, which brought the company’s cultural problems to the surface. The article disclosed that blue origin “Turning a blind eye to gender discrimination, lack of adequate coordination on security issues, and silence those trying to correct mistakes”.
In a statement in response, Mary Plunkett, senior vice president of human resources at blue origin, said that the company “Take all complaints seriously. We do not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment. When we substantiate allegations of misconduct in accordance with our anti harassment, anti discrimination and anti retaliation policies, we will take appropriate action until dismissal (including termination of employment).”
Blue origin, based in Kent, Washington, has an anonymous hotline that can provide services to employees 24 hours a day. “Any such complaints will be registered there and then investigated.” plankitt said the company also encourages employees to contact the human resources department or senior leadership to ensure that “These conversations are strictly confidential and we will listen to any complaints with compassion and concern.”.
Bezos and Smith declined to comment on the report, and shailesh Prakash, a member of the blue origin Advisory Committee, declined to comment.
When Abrams’ article was published last month, Smith wrote in an email to the company: “it is particularly difficult and painful for me to hear someone try to describe our whole team in a way that is inconsistent with the character and ability I see every day in blue origin.”
After blue origin received the notice that the report would be published soon, Bezos posted a picture of the cover story of Barron weekly in 1999 on twitter on Sunday night, criticizing Amazon and calling it an “Amazon bomb”. Bezos wrote: “listen and open your heart, but don’t let anyone tell you who you are. This is just one of many stories that tell us that we will fail in various ways. But Amazon is now one of the most successful companies in the world. It has completely changed two completely different industries.”
Can Bezos help blue origin get back on track?
Like many aerospace companies, the culture of blue origin is dominated by men, and several current and former female employees say they face condescending comments on their appearance. A former employee said: “two friends tried to persuade me not to join blue origin because it is too toxic. The company has a lot of comments on the body and appearance of employees. Working there is a frustrating and chaotic experience. This behavior has become commonplace and will not be held accountable. Young men in new companies began to imitate this behavior.” she said, She has repeatedly reported these incidents to the human resources department, but the company has not taken any action.
In 2019, blue origin hired Perkins Coie to investigate Walt mccleery, its vice president in charge of recruitment. Mcclelli is a long-term executive of the company, whose behavior has made several women uncomfortable. A former employee said that at a meeting with an external company, McCleary turned to executives and said, “I apologize for [McCleary’s] emotional. It must be her great aunt.”
According to blue origin, mcleary was fired after the investigation. In an interview last week, mcclelli denied the allegations and said that “in my opinion, these allegations are not true”.
According to several people familiar with the matter, another senior executive accepted the workplace behavior guidance of the human resources department after repeatedly calling a group of female employees “mean girls”. Even after they complained to the management, the human resources department still came to the same conclusion.
These company problems surprised many new employees. A former engineer said that in 2016, she knelt at a colleague’s desk and they looked at engineering drawings together. She said that her manager (an older man) came up and said, “you’ve only worked here for two weeks, and you don’t need to kneel down.” the former employee said that the comment was not immediately understood, in part because she thought blue origin would create a friendly workplace environment.
Of course, not everyone is saying that the corporate culture of blue origin has become toxic. An employee working outside the headquarters said she found the culture and leadership here welcome and respected. Earlier this year, she said, the human resources team of blue origin reported that another employee claimed that she had encountered “very inappropriate behavior” and took immediate action.
The company immediately launched an investigation and another employee was dismissed, which further confirmed her confidence in the company. “I never felt that I could not seek support from the leadership, nor did I feel that I could not go to the human resources department with problems,” she said
Blue origin said that it had not received any inquiry from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and had not faced any litigation of harassment or hostile working environment. A senior manager said, “many of us spend a lot of time creating a safe space for employees to share experiences and guide each other. I think we do the right thing every time we hear a complaint. When the complaint is confirmed, we will fire the employee who caused the accident.”
Blue origin also has a diversity, equity and inclusiveness program established by Smith to help companies recruit more women and ethnic minorities and provide support after they are hired. The program has nine groups designed to help specific groups, such as veterans and different ethnic groups, feel welcome. One of the teams, named “new ride”, is named after Sally ride, the first female astronaut from NASA to enter space. It aims to help “create a real, inclusive and fair culture in the origin of blue”.
An industry official said that if anyone can get blue origin back on track, it is Bezos. This company is his passion and the way to realize his lifelong dream. Now Bezos has been to space and left the Amazon. He will continue to focus on the origin of blue. “I think the origin of blue will become a phoenix here in a few years, because Bezos will transform it.”.
Hiring new executives caused corporate culture problems and dragged down performance
When Bezos founded blue origin in 2000, it was to turn science fiction fantasy into reality and realize the dream of “millions of people living and working in space”. In the first few years, blue origin was just a small start-up, more like a think tank than a space company. It would take a “step-by-step” approach to achieve its goals. For years, Bezos seemed content to move forward slowly and firmly, just like his mascot tortoise.
However, in 2017, Bezos hired Smith as the company’s first CEO to replace rob Meyerson, the company’s president who has been responsible for daily operations. Smith has a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in business from the Massachusetts Institute of technology. His selection surprised many people, especially because he was an executive of Honeywell aerospace. The latter is a large enterprise group, and its corporate culture is quite different from the “small and intimate” feeling of blue origin.
A former blue origin executive said: “when Smith was hired, everyone asked, ‘who is Bob Smith?’ no one knows who he is.” under his leadership, blue origin has made remarkable progress, with factories in Florida and Alabama, and has been promoting a series of ambitious projects, from the construction of the new Glenn Large rockets, to spacecraft that can land on the moon and even space stations.
According to current and former employees, the problem of corporate culture has led to performance problems, which is reflected in the growing gap between blue origin and competitor SpaceX. The most recent failure occurred in April, when blue origin lost an important contract to develop and build a manned lunar lander for NASA after bidding twice as much as SpaceX. The company also missed a lucrative round of Defense Department launch contracts in 2019, which were snatched by SpaceX, Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s joint venture joint launch Alliance (ULA).
Blue origin has not yet launched its new Glen rocket, and Bezos initially vowed to put its giant launch vehicle into orbit by last year. The company also experienced delays in the development of the be-4 engine, which will also be used in the new rocket being developed by Ula. As the rocket will be used to launch national security satellites, this delay has aroused the concern of the U.S. Department of defense and many members of Congress.
According to many people familiar with the matter, at the end of 2018, blue origin hired a consulting firm to evaluate why SpaceX achieved great success and what it can do to catch up. The report led to frank discussions among the leadership of blue origin on corporate culture and professional ethics, the lack of key customers and social media strategies.
According to the minutes of the meeting, one executive concluded that SpaceX “expects and gets more from employees”. Another executive said that blue origin was “a little lazy compared with SpaceX”. Another said Musk’s company won several major government contracts at low prices. One executive pointed out: “we need a stable government customer to help make profits.”
However, blue origin also has some notable successes. The company completed its first manned space flight in July this year, and Bezos personally participated in the test flight, which proved the safety of the spacecraft. This week, blue origin plans to make its second manned space flight. The members include actor William Shatner, who is best known for playing “Captain Kirk” in the original series of Bezos’s favorite childhood TV series Star Trek.
Blue originated in July when the first manned space mission was completed at the space port near Van Horn, Texas
In another memo novel coronavirus pneumonia complained about the origin of blue. Last year, a rocket test was launched at the beginning of the new crown pneumonia epidemic. “I cannot tolerate an organization that is willing to put its private mission above public safety,” the source wrote. A spokesman for blue origin said at the time: “we make safety our top priority.”
Smith and his executives, many from traditional aerospace companies, sit in an executive suite in a new office building, isolated from other employees. Although this is not uncommon for many large companies, it is unpleasant for many employees of blue origin. They are used to senior executives sitting among them and getting together with them.
With the new management in place, this obvious indifference still exists. At a company town hall meeting, the employees submitted a list of questions about the company’s future and its leadership style to Smith, but he didn’t answer any of the above questions.
Abrams said in an interview that after the company announced that it would end its long-term practice of distributing mission patches free of charge after launch, employees once expressed opposition. She was asked to tell employees that this was because the company “tried to make a profit”. Since NASA’s Apollo moon landing program, mission patches have always been a way to commemorate space missions. Employees of blue origin are angry and want to know how much these patches will cost. Eventually, the executives gave in and agreed to distribute the patch, but the incident was later called the “patch door”.
According to a former executive, worried about the authority of the company’s leadership, the HR Director hired an external management consultant. The consultant interviewed Smith and his team members in 2019 and concluded that Smith’s micro management style is often ineffective.
Will Bezos take the helm again?
The trouble of blue origin corresponds to the dramatic change in Bezos’s personal career. A former executive who left the company said: “Bezos is divorced. He is upset. The employees of blue origin are increasing, and his net assets are also increasing. He has a lot to do, such as the climate fund he wants to launch. Combined with his private life, this gives Smith a real opportunity to subvert blue origin. He is the CEO, so Bezos gives him a lot of power.”
Many people familiar with the matter said Bezos was content to let Smith run the company. A former executive said Smith “made it very clear that the only channel to contact Bezos is him, so there is no check and balance mechanism”.
A former executive said that when Bezos did visit on Wednesday (working in blue origin), the visit and its consequences could be “extremely destructive”. The company’s engineers will put forward ideas to him, and he will say that these ideas are good. Then, with the acquiescence of Bezos, they will try to make it a reality. “Bezos might like the idea, but guess what? We didn’t budget for it because it wasn’t on the agenda. He just said he liked an idea,” the person said
A former mechanic said that he accepted Bezos’s appeal to the whole company and put forward the idea of improving efficiency. But after he recommended it to Bezos and returned to the factory workshop, he said: “my two managers scolded me because I did irrelevant things behind their backs.”
In July this year, Bezos resigned as CEO of Amazon and became executive chairman. That month, he also took the suborbital spacecraft of blue origin to the edge of space. He said it was a profound moment for him, and he vowed to spend more time focusing on the origin of blue.
Several people familiar with the matter confirmed that in the past few months, Bezos has spent and is spending more money to help the company compete. He has always been deeply involved in the competition with SpaceX for the contract of NASA lunar lander. An industry official said: “Bezos is super jealous of SpaceX. He is really worried about them, which is very clear.”
A former blue origin executive said that although the company joined hands with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and draper to bid for the lunar lander contract, the failure was not surprising. “We can’t control ourselves. None of our projects meet the cost and schedule expectations. Do you think we will manage Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and draper? It’s impossible,” he said
The industry official said his advice to Bezos was to “start all over again”. If you really want to do something, you should be the CEO yourself, but basically you need to build a new senior management team and create a new corporate culture. (reviewed by Tencent technology / Jinlu)