Blue Origin’s recent loss of several senior personnel came amid calls for all employees to return to the office, as well as allegations of a toxic, misogynistic, and hazardous work environment.
According to multiple sources, the departures directly resulted from CEO Bob Smith’s effort to eliminate remote work across the organization. The plan for all employees to return to work in September, dubbed “Blue Back Together,” ruffled feathers. Sources said that the company’s attrition rate exceeded 20% this year.
According to a Blue Origin spokeswoman, attrition “has never exceeded 12.7 percent” on an annualized basis, which takes into account employee departures over the last 12 months. Blue Origin’s annual turnover rate is typically between 8% and 9%, according to persons familiar with the issue.
“We are seeing attrition rates comparable to those reported by other companies as part of what many are calling ‘The Great Resignation,'” the spokesperson said.
Many left in the weeks following founder Jeff Bezos’s space flight, Insider report revealed. Steve Bennett, SVP of New Shepard, Jeff Ashby, Chief of Mission Assurance, and Crystal Freund, senior director of recruiting, all left the space company.
Several of the departures were notable for their timing. They came after SpaceX was given a $2.9 billion contract to build a moon lander for the Artemis missions.
Hundreds of employees signed a petition urging the company to at the very least establish a more flexible work program, but Smith never addressed the plea.
According to CNBC, 21 current and former employees of Blue Origin wrote an open letter alleging a toxic, misogynistic, and hazardous work environment. According to Insider’s Sinéad Baker and Grace Kay, the letter also accused Bezos of putting the safety on the line in order to win the billionaire space race.
Alexandra Abrams, who worked on Blue Origin’s communications team, is now a whistleblower, revealing what she and others allege is a toxic culture. She and 20 other unnamed Blue Origin employees published a critical essay on September 30. They describe a workplace that condoned misogyny within a clique of top officials loyal to Bezos, cut corners to achieve deadlines, and beat other space entrepreneurs to space, discouraging employees and jeopardizing the project’s safety.
“In this environment, safety is not an option, even if we repeatedly state that it is our highest priority,” one departing engineer wrote.
The US Federal Aviation Administration, which governs commercial spaceflight, has said that it will investigate safety concerns at the company, which is now planning a second voyage with passengers on October 12, including two technology entrepreneurs. William Shatner, the original Star Trek television series Captain Kirk, is reported to be joining them.