Amazon CEO says 'it’s probably not going to work out' for employees who defy return-to-office policy

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon employees have been pushing back against the company’s return-to-office policy for months — and it seems CEO Andy Jassy has had enough.

During a pre-recorded internal Q&A session earlier this month, Jassy told employees it was “past the time to disagree and commit” with the policy, which requires corporate employees to be in the office three days a week.

The phrase “disagree and commit” is one of Amazon’s leadership principles, and was used often by the company’s founder and current executive chairman, Jeff Bezos.

“If you can’t disagree and commit, it’s probably not going to work out for you at Amazon,” Jassy said, adding it wasn’t right for some employees to be in the office three days a week while others refuse to do so.

His comments were first reported by Business Insider, and later shared by Amazon.

The current office attendance mandate, which was announced in February and went into effect in May, is a shift from Amazon’s previous policy that allowed leaders to determine how their teams worked. But the company said Tuesday it rejects the notion that the prior policy was supposed to be the norm, and pointed to a blog post from 2021 where Jassy noted Amazon would “continue to adjust” things as more information rolled in.

When announcing the updated policy earlier this year, Jassy wrote in a memo to staff that Amazon made its decision after observing what worked during the pandemic and talking to leaders at other companies. He said the company’s senior executives, known internally as the S-team, concluded employees tended to be more engaged in person and collaborate more easily.

But many workers haven’t been convinced. In May, hundreds of Amazon employees protested the new policy during a lunchtime demonstration at the company’s Seattle headquarters. At the time, an internal Slack channel that advocated for remote work had racked up 33,000 members.

Some employees have also been pushing the company to supply data that support Jassy’s claims. During the session, Jassy said the company's leadership looked at the data it has available and among other things, he said they didn’t feel that meetings were as effective from home as they were before. He added there are a lot of scenarios where the company has made some of its biggest decisions without perfect data, pointing to examples like Amazon’s decision to pursue an online marketplace for sellers and AWS, its cloud computing unit.

In July, Amazon also rolled out a policy that requires some workers in smaller offices to move to main offices located in bigger cities, according to multiple media reports.

Amazon employs 1.4 million people worldwide but does not indicate how many of those work in office settings, as opposed to working at its warehouses and other sites.