A Challenge to Amazon

Any media outlet considering itself important has felt the need to report on the NYT’s article describing what’s it’s like working for Amazon. As the Title reveals—Inside Amazon: Wrestling Ideas in a Bruising Workplace—it isn’t a picnic, but a high pressure, competitive, even brutal environment. The instance that was so ugly to me was about co-workers leaving messages on a worker’s supervisor’s voice mail containing some negative comment about that person, and by the language used in the article, messages articulated as nothing short of mean and sneaky. Anyone who has worked in a high pressure corporate environment when fear of not succeeding, performing or measuring up is a constant companion will know how devastating this kind of behavior can be. The day after the article came out Jeff Bezos, the founder and head of Amazon, issued a statement containing a memo he’d sent to his staff asking them to directly contact him (*protected email*) if any of the instances described in the article came to a given employee’s notice. He also stated that this wasn’t the Amazon he knew. Please note no denial, formal or otherwise. There is evidence that workplaces are trying to improve their environment, and perhaps as a result of the article changes will occur at Amazon. Meanwhile the thousands of comments the NYT has received on this article seem to have opened up a general conversation about the workplace.
Amazon has been a leader in online retailing all the while innovating a new business model. They are successful financially and are now part of our culture. The NYT article isn’t the first time their work environment makes it to print, the conditions of workers in their warehouses has been written about, but the first time with such details in a major news source including a report focused on the corporate environment of managers and other professionals. Why then can’t Amazon be a leader in personnel relations? Why can’t they issue new norms and establish standards in the workplace that others would want to emulate. And along the same line, why not invite the NYT to do a follow up in a year or so and see if anything has changed.

One thought on “A Challenge to Amazon”

  1. Thanks Danielle, Yes, the corporate workplace could use scrutiny and an upgrade, as well as the conditions for those who do more manual work. It is good to see that exposure of these conditions via the media can lead to positive change. The NYTimes does a service here and your idea of annual follow-up is excellent.

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