Report: Blue Origin has Stagnant, “Authoritarian Bro Culture”

Jeff Bezos

The Washington Post has a story examining the dysfunction at Jeff Bozos’ Blue Origin space company. It’s not a pretty portrait of the company under CEO Bob Smith.

The new management’s “authoritarian bro culture,” as one former employee put it, affected how decisions were made and permeated the institution, translating into condescending, sometimes humiliating, comments and harassment toward some women and a stagnant top-down hierarchy that frustrated many employees.

As it quickly grew from a small start-up to a large corporation with nearly 4,000 employees, Blue Origin grappled with how to improve its culture. In 2019, the company fired its head of recruiting after employees complained of sexism. A consultant retained by Blue Origin conducted a review of the company’s leadership, finding that the primary challenge was Smith’s ineffective, micromanaging leadership style, said two former employees, including a top executive.

The interviews and documents obtained by The Post reveal wide-ranging employee concerns about Smith’s leadership style, a bureaucracy that hampered innovation, and a lack of intervention from Bezos, who employees said was not giving the company enough attention during a crucial period….

Not everyone says the company culture has grown toxic. One employee who works outside the main headquarters said she has found the culture and leadership welcoming and respectful. Blue Origin’s human resources team took immediate action when she reported a claim of “highly inappropriate behavior” from another employee earlier this year, she said.

The company started investigating right away, and the other employee was terminated, further confirming her confidence in the company. “I’ve never felt like I couldn’t go to our leadership for support,” she said. “I’ve never felt like I couldn’t go to HR with a problem.”

The story appears to confirm many of the claims made in an open letter published by Blue Origin’s former head of employee communications Alexandra Abrams and 20 former and present company employees.