The Real Question We Should Be Asking About Amazon

Flickr / hirotomo t
Flickr / hirotomo t

Think your workplace sucks? Be thankful you don’t work at Amazon.

An account of the retailer’s workplace culture was recently published in the New York Times. The piece, entitled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”, reported a company culture rife with unhealthy competition, a revolving door of employees and grueling workweeks upwards of 60 hours.

Naturally, the piece has already garnered negative attention and raised questions regarding the Times’ reporting. But the real question we should be asking is, “What is all this hard work for?”

Amazon essentially automates the mundane tasks of every day life, giving otherwise self-sufficient Americans fewer and fewer reasons to leave the couch. While highly innovative, is automation really changing our society for the better?

A Culture Of Competition

Led by CEO Jeff Bezos, a groomed group of nearly 8,000 “Amazonians” work long hours to perfect and elevate the retailer giant’s $250 billion corporate machine.

Guided by the 14 leadership principles, including 1) Customer Obsession and 13) Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit, Amazonians work in a culture of competition in the Seattle-based, 4-million-square-foot headquarters.

Those who succeed in incorporating the 14 principles into their daily lives are called “Ambots,” signaling complete commitment to the Amazon ethos. Those who fall victim to daily distractions, such as child rearing and sleep, are often “managed out,” or leave the company after a relatively short tenure.

Amazon’s practice of weeding out the weak is termed “purposeful Darwinism,” which is substantiated by their goal to hire and develop the best.

The Silver Lining: Innovation

Make no mistake; Amazon’s business model is an impressive one. From creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, driving competition, fostering innovation, engendering a strong work ethic and offering customers affordable prices, the “Amazon Effect” is a powerful one.

Between Amazon, Amazon Prime, the Amazon Dash Button, the piloted Amazon Drone and many more, Jeff Bezos and company have positioned themselves as industry leaders and lucrative innovators.

But the question remains: Is the superfluous goal of automating daily life actually benefiting society? In reality, Amazon products streamline customers’ to-do lists and increase leisure time rather than overall economic productivity. The products themselves do not create more jobs and further push the envelope; they give you little reason to leave your house.

As an avid Amazon user myself, I appreciate their role in aiding my laziness. But do I want a sea of workers chained to their desks on Christmas Eve because of my love of discounted books? Absolutely not.

With Amazon’s alleged high-pressure work environment, lack of benefits, insane hours and admittedly “unreasonably high” expectations, you’d think they were curing cancer over there, not developing a button for on-demand laundry detergent.

Our Take

Amazon’s innovative products and revolutionary business model are undoubtedly positives for our economy. But, some of Amazon’s business practices seem to prey on the “always on” mentality common to the modern workplace. When putting the real impact into perspective, is all that work really worth it?

For the full read on Amazon’s workplace culture, head on over to the New York Times. Feel free to add your two cents in the comment section below. TC mark

This post originally appeared at GenFKD

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