Jeff Bezos, as he plays himself in interviews, is always giggling and acting like a general loveable goof. I find it pretty hard to hate the guy when he’s uttering folksy soundbites like, “A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last,” and guffawing every few minutes.
According to an extensive BusinessWeek profile, this “cheerful CEO” act is just part of the Bezos master plan …inside the Amazon boardroom, he has no problem verbally disemboweling his fellow executives. In fact, much like Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google, Bezos encourages head-to-head combat — he thinks confrontation brings out the true mettle in leaders, and in products.
Here are some of the craziest revelations from the BusinessWeek profile:
-Bezos is laughing at you, not with you: “You can’t misunderstand [his laugh],” says Rick Dalzell, Amazon’s former chief information officer. “It’s disarming and punishing. He’s punishing you.”
-Bezos is a master of the corporate putdown: Some of his greatest hits:
“Are you lazy or just incompetent?”
“If I hear that idea again, I’m gonna have to kill myself.”
“I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?”
[After an engineer’s presentation] “Why are you wasting my life?”
-Bezos’ biological father, Ted Jorgensen, is a former circus performer who abandoned the family when Jeff was three and now runs a bike shop outside of Phoenix, Arizona. He apparently had not thought about Jeff for the past four decades, until BusinessWeek reporter Brad Stone came to the shop last year and informed him that “Your son is one of the most successful men on the planet.”
–Amazon doesn’t give out many perks….ever. Parking costs $220 at the Seattle headquarters, and employees are reimbursed for $180. Employees also have to pay for cafeteria food, and conference tables are “blond-wood door-desks shoved together side by side.”