For staff at Amazon.com 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" email.
Bezos, whose email 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 emails 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 ? emails) 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.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker)