I found this New York Times feature on the workplace culture at Amazon to be fascinating and I think it should resonate with anyone who is a boss. What kind of workplace environment have you established? Where does the well-being of your employees fit into your hierarchy of your concerns?
Something I got from Jim Collins years ago was that the highest-achieving organizations are great organizations to work for…if you fit. If you don’t? They can be some of the worst places to work and you simply won’t last.
The workplace environment that is depicted by this article is a brutally harsh (immoral?) and cult-like as employees are pushed to their physical and emotional limits in the name of production. Within college basketball, we have all heard the war stories of the dictator-like styles of some of the profession’s legends. Where does one draw the line on the quest to make an organization/program the best it can be?
Some of the business principles espoused by Jeff Bezos are absolutely brilliant (“my main job every day is to maintain our culture”/disagree & commit/the power of data), but the ruthlessness in which he deploys them draws questions about the morality (or even long-term effectiveness?) of his company’s methods. The remark near the end of the article about “Purposeful Darwinism”, the staggering amount of attrition at Amazon “being not a failure of the system…but rather the logical conclusion” is brilliant and troubling at the same time.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, has written a letter to Bezos in response to the Times article. It’s a piece that deserves its own post, but because of its context, I will link to it here. In the letter, Schwartz argues that Amazon, while driving to get more out of its employees, has failed to invest in them. Investing in them (which can be done in a myriad of ways) is not only the right thing to do, but will allow the employees to better serve the customer.
“When I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon you can’t choose two out of three.'” – Jeff Bezos
FULL ARTICLE (Warning: extremely long)