The Point: Company culture defines what the organization stands for, who the employees work for, and how a customer base can expect to be interacted with. But perhaps all companies are not as they appear to be in public, and especially at surface level. In a scary similarity to the thought that “no one truly knows what goes on behind closed doors,” ex-Amazon employees are coming out telling of a bruised company culture consisting of backstabbing, belligerence, and bogus expectations. In this post, we’ll take a look at how Silicon Valley Sweethearts might not be so “sweet” for their employee stakeholders… Enjoy!
It Was Only A Matter Of Time
When Frederick Taylor fine-tuned the principle’s of his Scientific Management theories in the 19th century, little was known about the efficiencies that could be had in manufacturing operations specifically when it came to the human dynamics interaction. In other words, how exactly would/could you inject human capital into a manufacturing environment so as to maximize production and minimize the impact people have.
So is it really any surprise that we learn this weekend from the New York Times article titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” that the impact of people is once again being approached with little regard? When considering that Taylor in efforts to minimize the human impact on manufacturing went so far as to write detailed job-instructions on cards to be followed fastidiously without fail, why would Amazon’s culture of back-stabbing and “purposeful Darwinism” surprise? If anything, the report should lead one to instead ask “What took you so long?”
Company Culture is Created/Driven from the Top
I had a conversation with one of the leadership development program executive coaching participants. In this conversation, we discussed the concept on leaders leading. In other words, as a leader you have the responsibility to not only set direction, but pace in how that direction is accomplished. “Leaders leading” is a concept I heard of during my time working with the Executive Coaching program at the University of Texas.
So if as a leader you are leading, and setting said pace towards directed outcomes, why then is there such a “surprise” by Amazon leadership when it comes to the aforementioned articles accusations? Establishing change requires an organization to be not only in sync, but all parties collaborating in efforts moving forward. Similar to a snake making its way through a savannah, if the head isn’t pointed in the right direction goal attainment will not be accomplished. However, the tail becomes obsolete/replaceable. If a snake’s tail gets injured/damaged/chopped or chewed off, another will grow back.
The Organizational Snake?
So is your organization snake-like in its characteristics, with leadership at the head and stakeholders at the tail? Amazon’s Human Resources describes how they try to reconcile the sometimes-punishing aspects of the Amazon-workplace with what many called its “thrilling power” to create. When a recruiter at Amazon justifies turnover/employee fit problems by saying “This is a company that strives to do really big, innovative, groundbreaking things, and those things aren’t easy” could this be codeword for “As an associate here, know that you will be pushed/poked/prodded to the breaking point… Only the strong will survive!” it makes me wonder?
In the end, as a consumer of the Amazon-production-machine, I can honestly say that I love it! I love ordering books, clothing, and even food (I ordered a bag of “Double Bubble” bubble gum once for a company outing) from Amazon. Perhaps this article attempted to position Amazon as a “blood diamond” like place to work (low on ethics/moral fiber/humanitarian moments), but either way isn’t that what we love about shopping on line there?
If in Amazon’s bruising company culture they push the limits of internet retailing to new heights, don’t we benefit as consumers of their product? Inherent in all this is that we somehow/somewhere know that perhaps all is not “fine” within the walls of Amazon for their employees. But is this really that different from the minimum wage employee at McDonald’s that serves us our food? I’d love to believe that Amazon is like Google as depicted in “The Internship” with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson… But somehow I know it’s not!
In this post, we took a look at Amazon’s bruising company culture and the leadership challenge within, several leadership development executive coaching moments, and the consumer applications associated with prime choice.
PS – You may enjoy several of the other posts I’ve recently written:
- The Leadership Challenge: Competitive Advantage – 5 Tips!
- The Leadership Challenge: Orthogonal – 1 Tip
- The Leadership Challenge: Accountability – 5 Tips
- Business Valuation Services: Can You Receive More Money For Your Business?