Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, speaks during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017.Joshua Roberts/Reuters

For staff at Inc., the departure of CEO Jeff Bezos may spell the end of one of the company’s unusual and, for some managers, frightening practices: the “question-mark” e-mail.

Bezos, whose e-mail address is public, receives customer complaints that he then forwards to a relevant executive whose team is responsible for fixing the problem. Sometimes landing overnight, these e-mails from the world’s second-richest person had no salutation, no commentary or thank you - just a single question mark.

Or worse, said one former manager.

“‘This can’t be true’ was a bad one. ‘Fix this’ was another,” the manager said on condition of anonymity. “By the morning, I better have a damn good resolution to whatever this is.”

Amazon said Bezos sent question-mark emails occasionally to manage the volume of customer messages he received.

It was an effective tool: efficient for Bezos - who juggled oversight of retail, technology, media and space businesses - and motivating for employees who feared for their jobs, the former manager said.

Bezos will step back from the company he founded 27 years ago and become executive chairman this summer, Amazon said Tuesday.

Some recall the practice with nostalgia. Sean Scott, a vice president of autonomous delivery who recently left Amazon after nearly 15 years, said working with Bezos was rewarding but stressful.

“Meetings with Jeff were always an unbelievable amount of work in prep during the lead up (as were the ? e-mails) but the dialog and the Q&A during the meeting would remain with the team forever,” he said in a LinkedIn post Tuesday.

No one can predict how incoming CEO Andy Jassy will govern in his boss’ shoes. The cloud computing head cares just as much about fixing customers’ problems.

But three executives who worked with him said the single question mark is not his style.

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an editorial error

Report a technical issue

Tickers mentioned in this story

Study and track financial data on any traded entity: click to open the full quote page. Data updated as of 16/04/24 2:18pm EDT.

SymbolName% changeLast

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe