Jeff Bezos’s space venture Blue Origin plagued by ‘toxic’ atmosphere and ‘bro culture’, employees claim

Employees complained the workplace had become too dysfunctional to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX

Helen Elfer
Monday 11 October 2021 20:09
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Several employees have warned Blue Origin that the work culture at the Jeff Bezos-owned space venture is dysfunctional and toxic, and is holding the company back from success.

A Washington Post report, which was based on interviews with more than 20 current and former Blue Origin employees and others with close ties to the company, describes a workplace with “systemic” problems, a “loss of trust in Blue’s leadership” and a “toxic culture.”

One former employee described management as having an “authoritarian bro culture,” and reported condescension and harassment towards women. In 2019, the company fired its head of recruiting after employees complained of sexism.

Top leadership also came under fire, as a consultant reportedly found that one of the company’s key problems in improving the workplace was CEO Bob Smith’s ineffective, micromanaging leadership style.

Several current and former employees said the culture was so dysfunctional that it was leading to significant delays across major programmes and an inability to effectively compete with Elon Musk’s rival venture SpaceX.

“It’s bad,” said a former top executive to the Washington Post. “I think it’s a complete lack of trust. Leadership has not engendered any trust in the employee base.”

Another said: “The C-suite is out of touch with the rank-and-file pretty severely. 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.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, Mary Plunkett, Blue Origin’s senior vice president of human resources, said the company takes “all claims seriously and we have no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. Where we substantiate allegations of misconduct under our anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policy we take the appropriate action — up to and including termination of employment.”

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