The Polar Opposite Amazons

I really don’t understand these types of articles and the inevitable, vehement counter-points – you might have read or heard about them, if you’re in the tech sphere, over the past two days.

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

And the counter-points:

An Amazonian’s response to “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”

As with any organizational experience, there will be those who have it good and those who can’t wait to get out. Both sides hyperbolize the reality, particularly gathering and extrapolating the few data points they have into something much grander. I live in the Seattle region, and yes, I know many folks who currently or have previously worked for Amazon. And you know what, I hear both types of stories and everything in between! Imagine that!

The NYT found some disgruntled ex-employees, having gone through hell, while Mr. Ciubotariu is clearly a well-respected, high-performer, working in a team filled with rainbows and unicorns. I believe both of the experiences. For most, reality is likely somewhere in between.

More later.


3 Replies to “The Polar Opposite Amazons”

  1. Isn’t there some kind of minimum standard required for treatment by employers, not just legally, but morally too? Obviously it requires more than just bare allegation or accusation before any reasonable person should believe them, but the “disgruntled ex employees” stories have been corroborated by others, have they not? I think the interesting questions here are: “can poor treatment of employees be justified by success/productivity?” and “Can we demonstrate that poor treatment is actually required to generate productivity?”

    I think the answer to both questions is no, thereby making Amazon’s mistreatment of its employees both arbitrary and unnecessary…or perhaps a product of laziness in motivating employees; the stick is easier than the carrot. Which leads to another question: Why are people so willing to kill themselves working to produce billion dollar profits for Amazon? I don’t think I’ll ever understand that.

    1. First, I’m going to set the Amazon warehouse workers topic aside, as that’s a completely different can of worms. I’ll talk to the office workers, some of whom I know, many others whose stories I’ve heard, second hand.

      My perspective is that some have not found their balance between expectations and reality. Amazon is known for paying their engineers very well and enticing them with significant restricted stock packages. I’ve seen many Microsoft employees go across the lake to “greener” pastures, so to speak. But there is no free lunch – the expectation that goes along with that bump in compensation is hard(er) work. This becomes more straightforward when we acknowledge the ultimate goal of these companies, which is to reward owners, in this case shareholders. Tactics behind treatment (poor is a relative statement, in the case of Amazon) are grounded in that goal – treat them as poorly or well as the employee base will bear and what is most effective.

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