Amazon Worker Quit After Being Ranked Among ‘Least Effective’ in Team

  • A former Amazon drone engineer said he quit after being told he was among the “least effective” members of his team.
  • He told Bloomberg he received cryptic feedback from a manager that sounded “like a fortune cookie.”
  • He’s now aiding lawmakers who want to pass a bill to force employers to fully disclose employee personnel files.

A former Amazon drone engineer who quit the company after being told he was among the worst-performing members of his team is working with lawmakers who want to force companies to open up their employee-ranking systems.

Pat McGah told Bloomberg that in February last year, managers told him he was one of the “least effective” members of his team. When McGah asked managers why he was ranked so low, they didn’t provide details, he said. 

McGah, who had worked at Amazon for 18 months, was told he could either submit a 30-day performance plan or accept severance, Bloomberg reported. McGah said he chose severance because he didn’t understand the feedback from his manager, who suggested McGah learn to create “structure in ambiguous situations,” among other things.

“What does that even mean?” McGah told Bloomberg, adding: “It sounds like a fortune cookie.”

McGah is now planning to give testimony on Amazon’s employee ranking system to lawmakers in Amazon’s home state of Washington. Senator Patty Kuderer introduced a bill in January last year that would force employers to disclose employees’ personnel files, including details of where they sit in internal rankings.

McGah told Bloomberg that when he requested his personnel records from Amazon, the company refused.

An Amazon spokesperson said that the company provided McGah “with their personnel file along with other documents, as required by applicable law.”

McGah has created an online petition urging the Washington State Legislature to pass the bill. It had attracted 120 signatures at the time of writing.

The bill is currently stalled but several tech workers including McGah are planning to testify on its passage in the upcoming legislative session, Bloomberg reported.

The Amazon spokesperson said: “At Amazon, we work hard to ensure that all employees have the support they need to be successful in their roles and to develop themselves and their careers. We try to understand who our best performers are and to find ways to recognize those people. We also understand that there are people who aren’t meeting performance expectations.

The spokesperson continued: “Like most companies, we offer coaching and other support to employees who are not meeting the bar to help them improve their performance. We regularly review our performance rating process and other people processes to ensure they are fair and effective for employees and managers and to find ways to improve them.”

Insider’s Eugene Kim and Ashley Stewart reported last year on Amazon’s complex employee-ranking system. Interviews with sources and leaked documents showed the company expects managers to rank 5% of employees at the lowest tier of performance.

Insider also reported that Amazon uses a metric called “unregretted attrition rate,” or URA, for employees it’s happy to leave the company. Some managers including senior executives have URA targets of as much as 6%, Insider reported. 

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