Talent and HR News Weekly Roundup: Amazon Commentary

This week's New York Times article about the Amazon work culture really shook the working world. Maybe it was unexpected that a super-size tech company - an industry known for its perks, better-than-standard benefits, and quirky offices - manifested such a toxic culture. Or maybe it was CEO, Jeff Bezos, response to the article. With something like this, I don't think outsiders will ever really know the truth. Like any job, there are probably people who love it there, and you'll always find haters. Either way, the article stirred lots of buzz on the Internet, so we're sharing some of the most interesting commentary we could find in this week's Talent and HR News Weekly Update. Happy weekend!

1) The Subtext to That Amazon Story: We're Afraid Our Work is Killing Us, and We Are Right from Fortune

"For a story that was filled with largely mundane descriptions of workplace practices at a large technology company, a recent New York Times feature on Amazon  AMZN -1.09%  has touched off a raging forest fire of responses. Why? Is it because so many people care about how white-collar middle managers are treated at an online retailing company? That seems unlikely. I think it’s because the article tapped into a deep-seated, almost existential fear that runs through many of our lives — not just in the technology world, but elsewhere too: Namely, the fear that the ways we work now are harming and/or killing us."

2) Amazon's Brutal Workplace Risks Walmart-style PR Disaster from New York Post

"Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has built the world’s No. 1 retailer by relentlessly lashing workers. Now, he risks becoming a whipping boy himself. The 51-year-old exec is fending off a scathing report that Amazon’s success is built on a brutal work environment — an allegation that also has dogged the e-tailer’s longtime rival, Walmart. Over the weekend, an expose portrayed Amazon’s Seattle headquarters as a “bruising workplace.” One former exec claimed that “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Others said their standing with supervisors took a hit after they or family members were diagnosed with cancer or other grave illnesses."

3) Why We're So Obsessed with Amazon's Work Culture from Fast Company

"The recent New York Times exposé of Amazon’s white-collar Hunger Games-esque work culture struck a particular nerve with my group of tech friends in a way that, say, the terrible working conditions at McDonald's—or even at an Amazon warehouse—could not. We talked about it on the beach on Sunday and on Slack on Monday. A friend and I wondered out loud whether working at Amazon was like being stuck in a shitty relationship. And the firestorm of hot takes that flooded my Twitter feed hinted that basically everyone else who works in media and tech was doing much the same thing. What made the story of Amazon’s alleged psychological abuse of its employees so entrancing to the tech community? Anyone who's worked in the field—or in an office, for that matter—can identify with the story at some level. But I think a bigger reason for all the hubbub is the shared sense that in order to accomplish anything really spectacular, we'resupposed to be working as hard as the poor Amazonians supposedly are."

4) My Amazon Story by David Lee from LinkedIn

"I received a couple of press inquiries asking me for insight into Amazon. One “staff writer” proudly proclaiming how they have already published a story today “from a former employee explaining how people even worked while on the toilet.” Thanks for the offer to share my story anonymously but that isn’t how I do business.  I worked for Amazon from March 2012 to March 2014 and I did not experience a company as bad as the one described by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld (or people working on a toilet) but I do think there are things Amazon can do better, just like any other company. To be transparent, I never met Jeff Bezos in my time at Amazon and I never had the opportunity to visit a fulfillment center so I won’t discuss any stories that have come out about those locations. I wasn’t a senior executive so my insights are limited."

5) An Amazonian's response to "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace" by Nick Ciubotariu from LinkedIn

"As I woke up ready to start the weekend (without the slightest inclination to work, I might add – much more on this later), I glanced at my iPhone to appease my Facebook addiction and see what my friends were up to. Much to my surprise, a New York Times article describing Amazon had polluted my feed. Amazon is a big company, and gets referenced often. I’ve read many articles that describe us. Some are more accurate than others. Sadly, this isn't one of them. This particular article, has so many inaccuracies (some clearly deliberate), that, as an Amazonian, and a proud one at that, I feel compelled to respond."

6) Amazonians Who Have to Work Too Much Like Amazon More from Wired

"Working at Amazon is hard, according to a powerful exposé published by The New York Times over the weekend. The pieceby reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld describes a bruising, data-driven workplace culture that chews up white-collar workers. Backlash to the piece was swift and came not just from Amazonians but media critics who questioned whether the piece relies too much on anecdote. But one company claims it can flesh out those anecdotes with some data. Luminoso, a text-analysis startup spun out of the MIT Media Lab, sifted nearly all of the almost 1,800 reviews posted by Amazonians on Glassdoor, the site where employees dish about what life is really like where they work. What they found: Amazon employees who complained about the work-life balance at the company actually tended to give Amazon a higher rating."

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps organizations build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale and grow the right way.

Related Posts