Yesterday I read The New York Time's article Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace and was, quite simply (and shockingly for me), left speechless. And so, when a brand of such recognition is in the media around something that's in our arena, I think everyone needs to read it, so please, I urge you all to take a look. 

My thoughts? I just cannot fathom how a company as amazing, or so I thought, as Amazon, can treat its employees so badly. My main question is - with such great customer service, how can its employee relations be so dreadful? Putting your customers first at the expense of your employees is bound to have a detrimental effect on business eventually.

Amazon parcel

A few corkers from the article

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Amazon employees are held accountable for a staggering array of metrics, a process that unfolds in what can be anxiety-provoking sessions called business reviews, held weekly or monthly among various teams. A day or two before the meetings, employees receive printouts, sometimes up to 50 or 60 pages long, several workers said. At the reviews, employees are cold-called and pop-quizzed on any one of those thousands of numbers.

A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Her account echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.

It's hard to imagine a working culture in the 21st Century that's so far away from where the developed world is going. We all know what it's like to be under pressure, but there is no reason not to be a caring employer, not now, or ever. Surely your internal culture needs to reflect your brand these days. Treat your employees well and they will put their customers first naturally and say good things about the business - doesn't that sound better?

Shamefully I am too invested in Amazon's brilliance, from 1-click ordering to my vast and inexpensive Kindle library, to boycott them and cancel my accounts - mainly because I know I'll be the only one that suffers. I am caught up in Amazon's indispensable empire.

I've since read a flurry of contradictory blogs, including an article from the BBC where Jeff Bezos (Amazon's founder and chief executive) defends his company's culture vehemently and other 'Amazonians' have stood up and proclaimed 'rubbish!'. So, as my dad says about relationships, who really knows what's going on behind closed doors. Maybe they are trying to shift an old stigma. One thing's for sure - Amazon do put their customers first. But just as its reputation can cost a company its employees, at what point will it start costing them their beloved customers?

Amazing Amazon?

Amazon, I used to think you put the 'amaz' in amazing, but now it sounds like you've taken the 'zing' out of so many people. Amazing Amazon? I think  not.