Amazon’s Workplace

1061 words | 4 page(s)

In order to explore the influence tactics being utilized at Amazon, it was first necessary to conduct a review of Kantor and Streitfeld’s (2015) article published in the New York Times. Through the review of this article, it became possible to identify the tactics used as motivational tools and the means through which these tactics are used to promote Amazon’s corporate culture. The effectiveness of the tactics employed by Amazon’s leaders can be assessed from this information, and in so doing, it becomes possible to offer up recommendations that can be used to improve the tactics and culture of Amazon.

The main premise of Kantor and Streitfeld’s (2015) article is the discussion of the workplace culture at Amazon through a review of different aspects of the company culture, focusing primarily on the completion of job duties and the hiring and firing practices present within the organization. In an effort to shift the focus of Amazon employees from that of the traditional workplace environment to the practices desired by Amazon, the company provides a laminated card listing the fourteen leadership principles, or tactics, espoused within the organization, promoting the use of these tactics at every possible chance (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015). The manifestation of these tactics within the Amazon environment includes a focus on high levels of productivity, an emphasis on creating a “bias for action,” a desire for disagreement, fostering disharmony, promoting innovation, and a focus on taking on as much responsibility as possible (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015, p. 1).

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The manifestation of these tactics are used to promote the corporate culture at Amazon by working to create an environment that is almost robotic in its application (Kantor & Steritfeld, 2015). Employees are chastised if they do not respond to communications after work hours; they are pushed to continue working, making the company their primary focus; encouraged to blur the lines in an appropriate home and work balance; tasked with fulfillment of duties regardless of the cost to the employee; and encouraged to call out their coworkers on ideas that are ill thought out, creating an environment that could be construed as cutthroat.

The effectiveness of these leadership tactics should not be called into question; on the contrary, such tactics are so effective as to suggest that Amazon may become the “first trillion-dollar retailer” (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015, p. 1). A company does not generate that much revenue if its tactics are not effective. The question, however, becomes not whether or not these tactics are effective, but whether or not such tactics are sustainable. The fact of the matter is that such behaviors do result in high turnover for the organization, with many employees not lasting more than one or two years at most (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015). Some of the employees quoted in the Kantor & Streitfeld (2015) article cited the reasons they quit as the culture of the company and the behaviors of their managers, arguing that the practices implemented by Amazon were “unfair” (p. 1). However, the fact of the matter is that fairness is not a requirement within the workplace setting and “employees commonly cite their managers’ behavior as the primary reason for quitting their jobs” (Reina, Rogers, Peterson, Byron & Hom, 2018, p. 5). Thus, disagreement in perspective is not a reason to argue that the company is ineffective, but rather a common occurrence within the business world. Yet, at the same time, the high turnover rates put forth a problem of their own.

Researchers have noted that high turnover within organizations often occurs as a result of discrepancies with embeddedness, referring to the degree to which the individual feels a part of the organization (Peltokorpi, Allen, & Foroese, 2014). As Kantor and Streitfeld (2015) noted, Amazon is an ideal place for overachievers to go to feel poorly about themselves, yet those who were overachievers thrived within the workplace culture, up until the point where they experienced an issue in their personal lives. Due to the disproportionate amount of time they were devoting to the company, the company had come to expect that additional amount of work from them, resulting in a perceived slacking in work when a normal amount of effort was devoted to work within the company (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015). It was this disproportionate response that resulted in burn out, and yet, at the same time, it was this disproportionate amount of work that enabled the organization to thrive; overachievers do well in Amazon. As a result, it could be argued that those who are not typical overachievers serve as the bulk of the high turnover within the organization, a supposition in alignment to current literature on turnover in general and voluntary turnover specifically (Peltokorpi et al., 2014; Reina et al., 2018).

This idea that certain people will do well within Amazon’s organizational culture and certain people will do poorly, combined with the realization that there are a finite number of individuals within the world who are of an age to work, and, still further, a finite number of those who can work at Amazon company locations within the U.S. leads to several suggestions that can be made to work to address current organizational churn in light of the preexisting leadership tactics and corporate culture. The first suggestion is to design hiring practices around the identification of individuals whose personality is in alignment with the demands of Amazon’s workplace; if the company can target employees who will thrive within that environment, it will increase its efficiency while at the same time working to decrease training costs, thereby increasing overall profit margins. Similarly, it is recommended that the company work to facilitate increased retention within those individuals who thrive in such an environment; the organization does not have to go as far as Google or Facebook in providing lunches and snacks and the like, but the provision of babysitting services could decrease the amount of time lost due to familial concerns, thereby increasing the streamlined nature of the organization as a whole.

  • Kantor, J., & Streitfeld, D. (2015). Amazon’s bruising, thrilling workplace. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://bi.galegroup.com
  • Peltokorpi, V., Allen, D., & Froese, F. (2014). Organizational embeddedness, turnover intentions, and voluntary turnover: The moderating effects of employee demographic characteristics and value orientations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(2), 292-312. doi: 10.1002/job.1981
  • Reina, C., Rogers, K., Peterson, S., Byron, K., & Hom, P. (2017). Quitting the boss? The role of manager influence tactics and employee emotional engagement in voluntary turnover. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 25(1), 5-18. doi: 10.1177/1548051817709007

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