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Why It's So Difficult to Climb Amazon's Corporate Ladder

Bezos occupies level 11
Bezos occupies level 11Photograph by David Ryder/Getty Images

Inside the Internet juggernaut Amazon.com, there’s near constant pressure to perform. In dozens of interviews ranging over two years for my book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, employees often sounded exhilarated as they boasted that they have never before exerted a more direct influence on products and customers. Just as frequently, they sounded frustrated and overwhelmed, beset by what they described as an adversarial culture and a grinding pace of work.

Amazon declined to comment on its internal workings for the book or the excerpt appearing in Bloomberg Businessweek. But in my interviews with rank and file employees, one common complaint I heard is that positive feedback from superiors is rare and promotions even rarer. This, it turns out, is probably by design. Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos seems to believe his managers must raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion and that only exceptional talent should progress within the organization. As he has done in so many other ways, Bezos has codified his beliefs within his company in the form of a custom called the OLR, for organization and leadership review.