Another week, another scathing account of Blue Origin’s dysfunctional and toxic work culture.
A new Washington Post investigation, which draws from interviews with more than 20 current and former Blue Origin employees, paints an extremely troubling picture, from rampant sexism to ineffective and condescending micromanagement by executives.
One mid-level employee sent co-founder Jeff Bezos and the rest of the company’s leadership an excoriating memo upon his departure in 2019, telling the execs that “our current culture is toxic to our success and many can see it spreading throughout the company,” according to WaPo, noting that “the loss of trust in Blue’s leadership is common.”
Those are sentiments echoed by many of the space company’s other former and present employees.
“The C-suite is out of touch with the rank-and-file pretty severely,” an unnamed former top exec told the newspaper. “It’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what happens is we can’t make progress and end up with huge delays.”
The news comes just two weeks after an essay signed by 21 current and former employees painted a similarly troubling picture of the company’s work environment. Three of those its signers were able to confirm allegations made in the essay to WaPo reporters.
It’s clear from the outside that Blue Origin has struggled to keep up with the competition. The company was planning to fly its heavy-lift New Glenn rocket last year, but we still have yet to see a prototype.
It has also faced significant delays in producing the engine meant to carry New Glenn and the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur vehicle into orbit.
Reports about Blue Origin’s toxic work culture have often centered around CEO Bob Smith, whose leadership style has done little to build a healthy work culture, according to the report.
“It’s bad,” one former top executive told WaPo. “Leadership has not engendered any trust in the employee base.”
Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in February and is committing more of his weekly schedule to Blue Origin. Whether that will be enough to reinvigorate employees and allow the company to turn a new page is uncertain.
But at this point, “you basically need a new executive team and a totally new culture” to “start over,” one industry official told WaPo.
Bezos, Smith, and Blue Origin declined to comment to WaPo, despite Bezos’ ownership of the newspaper.