Amazon sets a new tone as Jeff Bezos era comes to an end

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon on Thursday added two new entries to its vaunted “leadership principles,” a list of more than a dozen business philosophies meant to guide employee decisions and goals.

Many of Amazon’s leadership principles have existed since the company’s earliest days, such as “Customer Obsession” and “Invent and Simplify,” and are the foundation of its corporate culture. The newest additions possess a distinctly different tone, adopting the theme of prominent criticisms that have been levied against the company.

The first, “Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer,” calls on leaders to “work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment.”

It’s in line with what CEO Jeff Bezos laid out in his final letter to shareholders earlier this year, wherein he acknowledged Amazon needs to do a better job for employees. Amazon has faced routine criticism from employees who say it has cultivated a brutal workplace culture, with tensions rising to a head in April amid a failed unionization vote at one of its Alabama warehouses.

Another addition, “Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility,” highlights how Amazon’s status as the world’s largest online retailer and cloud-computing company brings with it new challenges.

“We started in a garage, but we’re not there anymore,” the new principle states. “We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions.”

Amazon faces mounting pressure from regulators and lawmakers around the world over whether it’s unfairly wielding its size and influence against competitors.

Amazon hasn’t updated its list of leadership principles since 2015, when it added a 14th principle, “Learn and Be Curious.”

The decision could be one of Bezos’ last acts as CEO. He is set to formally step down as chief executive on July 5, turning the helm over to cloud-computing boss Andy Jassy. Bezos will transition to executive chairman of Amazon’s board, giving him more time to focus on “new products and early initiatives,” he wrote in an email to Amazon’s employees in February.

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