Last month, Amazon informed its managers that employees up for promotions must adhere to the company's return-to-office policy, necessitating a minimum of three weekly office visits. Failure to comply will necessitate VP approval, as revealed in internal announcements, emails, and Slack messages. If not approved, promotions will be blocked.
"Managers own the promotion process, which means it is their responsibility to support your growth through regular conversations and stretch assignments, and to complete all required inputs for a promotion. If your role is expected to work from the office 3+ days a week and you are not in compliance, your manager will be made aware and VP approval will be required," said the internal announcement about promotions, reported Business Insider.
In correspondence shared with Insider, Amazon communicated via email and Slack to a manager regarding an individual employee's attendance record. The company took the step to block the proposed promotion due to the individual's failure to meet the office attendance prerequisites.
A separate email conveyed, " If you do not plan to promote the builder, 'Reject' the Approval and update the builder's Proposed Promotion Quarter (PPQ)." Amazon employs the term "builder" to denote engineering staff, aligning with Jeff Bezos' philosophy emphasising builders as those who materialise the ideas of visionaries.
Amazon's spokesperson, in an email to Insider, stated that adherence to the company's return-to-office policy is among the numerous factors taken into consideration prior to an employee's promotion.
"Promotions are one of the many ways we support employees' growth and development, and there are a variety of factors we consider when determining an employee's readiness for the next level. Like any company, we expect employees who are being considered for promotion to be in compliance with company guidelines and policies," the spokesperson said.
It all began in August when the company issued an ultimatum to Amazon employees: either complied with the company's in-office work requirements or considered seeking new employment opportunities. According to a report from Insider, CEO Andy Jassy had conveyed a message to employees who had been working remotely, indicating that continued remote work might not align with their situation. Additionally, Amazon had requested certain employees to relocate to a central hub.
“It’s past the time to disagree and commit. If you can’t disagree and commit, it’s probably not going to work out for you at Amazon because we are going back to the office at least three days a week,” Jassy was quoted saying.
Reportedly, Jassy had offered clarification that employees who found it challenging to adhere to the company's guidelines were welcome to consider departing. He further mentioned that this decision had been based on a "judgment call."
In May, the company had elaborated on its perspective, stating, "It was easier to learn, model, practice, and strengthen our culture when we were in the office together most of the time and surrounded by our colleagues."
In accordance with the company's directives, remote employees were anticipated to transition to the central hub by the first half of 2024, as reported by CNBC. These designated hubs encompassed prominent locations such as Seattle, Arlington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and others.
Rob Munoz, an Amazon spokesperson, had disclosed that the company extended relocation benefits to all employees who were required to make the transition.
"It wasn't a one-size-fits-all approach, so we decided that the best thing to do was to communicate directly with teams and individuals who were affected to ensure they got accurate information that was relevant to them. If an individual felt like they didn’t have the information they needed, we encouraged them to talk with their HR business partner or their manager," Munoz told CNBC.
Contrarily, according to a report by Insider, last month, Amazon informed managers that they now held the discretion to terminate employees who declined to adhere to the return-to-office policy, as previously reported by Insider. Employees in line for a promotion were directed to initiate a discussion with their managers regarding their non-compliance. Subsequently, if the promotion was blocked due to ongoing failure to meet office attendance requirements, managers were empowered to terminate the employee.
Since its announcement in February, Amazon employees have been actively protesting the Return-to-Office (RTO) mandate to no avail. This mandate stipulated that corporate employees must physically attend the office at least three times a week, commencing in May.
Over 30,000 employees signed an internal petition, and earlier this year, a significant number staged a walkout in opposition to this directive. These employees have argued that some were initially hired as fully remote workers during the pandemic. They perceive this mandate as a departure from prior guidelines that permitted individual managers to decide the working dynamics of their teams.
Throughout that year, Amazon had executed a significant workforce reduction, resulting in more than 27,000 job cuts on a global scale. In a memo, Jassy had disclosed that this marked the most extensive layoff in Amazon's history.