Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin isn't doing so great. Sure, it's fired a rocket. Competitors are already spending days in space. Yes, it's got a NASA contract. However, it's only doing risk assessment for SpaceX’s actual project. On top of that, the company is allegedly just downright awful.
Revealed in a letter on whistle-blower forum Lioness, Blue Origin is allegedly an extremely toxic environment. Written by 21 current and former employees, the post explores the company’s numerous flaws, from crushing work culture to rampant sexism.
Blue Origin employees speak out on toxic culture and suicidal thoughts
The letter expresses that the 21 employees behind the letter are ”terrified of the potential consequences for speaking out against” Jeff Bezos. Nevertheless, the group continue to detail “dehumanising” experiences they encountered at Blue Origin.
For starters, the space company maintains a boys club environment. The letter claims the 3,600 employee multi-country company is “is mostly male and overwhelmingly white.” Furthermore, “one-hundred percent of the senior technical and program leaders are men.”
This predominantly male environment has led to rampant sexism, much like similarly male-dominated companies like Amazon Web Services or Activision Blizzard. The company's CEO’s inner circle has allegedly been “reported multiple times to Human Resources for sexual harassment”. That individual then became “a member of the hiring committee” for HR.
Other Senior members are described as being “condescending and demeaning” to women as well as being generally inappropriate. A recruiter was an infamous sexual harasser who groped women, but was “protected by his close personal relationship with Bezos”. Another senior leader told a group of female employees, “You should ask my opinion because I am a man.”
Hostile working and plummeting mental health
The damming letter continues to discuss the company's hostile working outside of its rampant sexism. Blue Origin is said to prioritise speed in order to catch up to SpaceX and others. Alleged memos “reveal a desire to push employees to their limits”. Employees are expected to see crushing deadlines as a “privilege to be a part of history”.
Employees have “experienced periods of suicidal thoughts” with veteran aerospace scientists calling the company “the worst experience” of their life. Horrendous deadlines were made even worse as Richard Branson planned to go into space. The entire company revolved around Jeff Bezos as “competing with other billionaires... [took] precedence over safety concerns that would have slowed down the schedule.”
Blue Origin employees are described as being terrified of the company's quality. The letter states that employees “say they would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle”. This is because the company prioritises “execution speed and cost reduction over the appropriate resourcing to ensure quality” as projects need to “be careful with Jeff’s money”. Over 1000 reported issues on the company's rocket have not been addressed.
The letter ends with the writer wanting the company to change for the better. Citing the company's “utopian” space colony ideals. While a great idea, the company's current standards of hostile work and exist environments make that utopia impossible.
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