Amazon employees slam its Clubhouse-competing app in internal meeting following abrupt leadership change: ‘This place is becoming a circus’

  • Amazon’s Amp live radio team has a new leader.
  • Amp employees expressed their frustration about leadership and direction of the business in questions submitted for an all-hands.
  • Amp has been struggling to meet internal goals and fired half of its team last year.

This week’s abrupt leadership change at Amazon’s Amp live radio division elicited a raucous response and pointed questions from employees, reflecting the growing hostility within the failing business.

According to internal emails obtained by Insider, the Amp team announced on Tuesday that one of the team’s existing senior leaders, Matt Sandler, would take over the business following the promotion of John Ciancutti, who is now in charge of Amazon Music’s consumer product and technology division. According to the emails, Ciancutti will take over for Alok Verma, who stepped down as Amazon Music’s VP of consumer product and technology this week.

Employees submitted a long list of questions for leadership at an internal town hall meeting scheduled for Wednesday shortly after the announcement. According to screenshots obtained by Insider, the questions ranged from concerns about Amp’s business outlook to a lack of trust in the leadership team and allegations that the internal work culture has become “toxic.” It’s unclear how the leadership responded to those questions.

“Amp has become yet another toxic Amazon company.” “This work culture promotes directionless leadership,” one of the questions stated. A request for comment from Amazon was not returned.

Amp, which debuted last year, is a live radio app that allows users to broadcast their own shows and content, similar to the original Clubhouse. However, despite having shows with celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, Amp has failed to live up to expectations, falling short of internal goals and firing roughly half of its team last year, as previously reported by Insider.

It’s the latest sign of trouble for Amazon’s more experimental bets, following the company’s drastic cost-cutting measures that resulted in 27,000 job cuts this year. As a result, multiple teams, including the 400-person Amazon Care health division, several robotics ventures, and bold research initiatives, have been decimated. Employees have expressed concern about the company’s new return-to-work policy.

‘Failing to lead Amp to success’

Many employee questions concerned the general direction of the Amp business.

One person inquired about Amp’s financial outlook for next year, noting how projects are being put on hold and budgets are being cut. Another person mentioned that the Amp team had fallen short of some key performance indicators, such as monthly active users. A third person questioned whether the team planned any “big rocks” future initiatives or if it would simply keep the lights on for existing users, dubbed “KTLO” mode internally. A few people inquired about Amp’s hiring plans for the coming year.

“When will [we] have real clarity on how we should proceed?” one person wondered.

Employees were also skeptical of the leadership team. Employee turnover and a lack of new hires, according to one source, are failing to instill trust in the organization. Several people chastised Amp’s new CEO, Sandler, for “political scapegoating,” for creating “one of the worst forms of toxic work culture,” and for failing to “deal with your team directly.” “Why is John being promoted to another leadership position after failing to lead Amp to success?” one critic asked of his predecessor Ciancutti.

Some questioned the general appeal of the live radio industry, questioning whether the “voice only platform” is still a viable market. During the pandemic, live audio apps like Clubhouse grew in popularity, inspiring the creation of similar apps like Twitter Spaces. However, Clubhouse’s popularity has waned, and the company has recently shifted to a group audio messaging app.

They also wondered if Amazon Music was willing to collaborate more closely with Amp to expand its audience.

Others appeared to be more concerned about their job status at Amazon. One person inquired whether Amazon had quietly placed Amp employees on a performance improvement plan without informing them, while another inquired about severance pay, assuming that everyone will “get cut from this team” eventually.

“This place is becoming a circus,” one person wrote.

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