Corporate culture is often hard to create and even more difficult to define and maintain as companies grow – especially when they swell to tens of thousands of employees.
That is evident as ecommerce giant Amazon , which eclipsed Walmart with a $250 billion valuation recently, has been in the press a lot last week and exposed for its treatment of employees.
The stories about Amazon’s unreasonably high expectations for its tens of thousands of employees stems from a New York Time article called Inside Amazon: Wrestling with Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.
According to the NYT 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.”)
There were also allegations of nearly employees crying at some time, sick employees being fired and more.
There have been a lot of comments on that articles, subsequent articles. comments for former employees venting about working conditions and corporate culture. I’ve been following this pretty closely – not just because Amazon is a such a huge force in online retailing, but because as a business owner – even if we are a smaller but growing agency – i think corporate culture is an important component of business operations.
One of the best response I have read so far came from someone who left, voluntarily 6-months ago.
“Amazon is an optimistic and adaptable company. When confronted with hard realities – be it systems that don’t scale, or confusing customer experiences, Amazon doesn’t shy away from putting smart and dedicated people to work on fixing these big problems. And on the whole, they’re pretty good at it. I’d go so far as to say it’s the biggest reason for the company’s success. So here’s the deal ultimately – there’s nothing that is wrong with Amazon that can’t be fixed by what is right with Amazon.”
After all the Amazon bashing, it was refreshing to hear what I consider a balance response to the allegations.
There are always so many sides to any story – especially when there are that many people working at a company.
Founder and Chairman, Jeff Bezos is well-known for his very specific business ideas “to resist the forces he thought sapped businesses over time — bureaucracy, profligate spending, lack of rigor. As the company grew, he wanted to codify his ideas about the workplace, some of them proudly counterintuitive, into instructions simple enough for a new worker to understand, general enough to apply to the nearly limitless number of businesses he wanted to enter and stringent enough to stave off the mediocrity he feared,” the NYT wrote.
When Bezos founded the company in 1994, he developed leadership principles, the articles of faith that describe the way Amazonians should act.
I have no insider information about whether or not these principles have evolved, been corrupted or remain in tact. However, I do know that having a plan that outline business principles and attempts to cultivate a corporate culture from the start is important. It’s not an easy task and maybe evolves over time but it starts from the top down.
I believe that I have tried over time to be consistent about eAcccountable’s values – hiring people that mesh with our desire to be ethical, strive for excellence, have a deep knowledge about the market, perform professionally, and truly care about client satisfaction.
This hubbub about Amazon is a great reminder that regardless of size, businesses need to take a close look at their corporate values, employee satisfaction and hiring practices on a regular basis to ensure they are all consistent and on track.