By Ipsita Barik:
When you hit the wall, there is only one solution – climb the wall. What’s this? An inspirational quote? A success mantra? Well, right now, it’s the quote that drives you right into the middle of the Amazon “workplace crisis” story. The New York Times exposé, of the “bruising workplace” by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, has led to global wariness and restrains about modern day capitalism. And yet as Stuart Heritage accounts, it will be extremely difficult for society to “castigate or chastise Amazon“, primarily because of its addiction to the convenience it delivers to our doorstep. David Holmes explains that even though the “tech companies were informed by the 60s counterculture –let’s not kid ourselves, cause the new boss is the same as the old boss!”
The Amazon workplace has surfaced practices such as the midnight work mails which must be answered, the encouragement to secret ‘Anytime feedbacks’ on tailored templates, the weekly business reviews testing employees’ mastery over voluminous metrics and data, to the ruthless sacking of the ailing and the recovering. The Amazon “work practices” have compelled a global debate on work ethics and the obscure yet rampant practice of ‘Social Darwinism’ in societies.
Bo Olson, an ex-Amazonian’s account that, “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk” is rebutted by Susan Harker, recruiter at Amazon, “When you’re shooting for the moon, for some people it doesn’t work.” The company, with a market value of $250 billion and global operations, with an impressive customer base, has an intricate confidentiality form, signed by all its employees. Now we know what Amazon attempted at hiding. The above picture might induce some to think, “you gotta be tough to reach the top!“, while others will roll, “these guys are bullies!”
The Amazon way is towards building an empire and crushing or eliminating those who come in the way. The NYT article points out that the use of data towards worker “performance measurement” on a constant and obsessive scale is a tool that is not exclusive to Amazon. The achievement ladder, and who climbs up the fastest, who lingers even the slightest and who is yet to step up, are measurements that are crucial to contemporary consumption-driven
markets. You gotta sell before the others do. It seems for Jeff Bezos, the mantra is “as long working at Amazon is excruciatingly uncomfortable for my employees, my company is swell!” Work-family balance is not encouraged and continual self-criticism and censure of fellow workers is integral to the Amazon way.
Data based management isn’t employed only on the workers. It expands into customer analysis and business models. According to the bosses, organizational transparency within Amazon and a constant scrutiny intra and inter workers, is crucial to the company’s success. While others point out that the constant feedback at the intra level is just institutionalizing office ‘scheming and gossip’. So the annual review is turned head over heels with the incessant review tools and its full throttle combat, pushing each and every to the brink of excellence or extinction. Where
weekdays roll into the weekends, the “yank and rank” practice to meet mandatory worker culling is neither performance encouraging nor compatible. Those recovering from illness or taking care of ailing relatives have automatically come under the ‘eugenics scanner’.
So the Amazon way seems to be to keep the ‘genetic stock’ at the apex. ‘Cause nothing else will work but relentless grind! And even though I hope the Flavorwire comment: “Amazon’s brand has been damaged by this NYT article, probably permanently. Many people who used to associate their name with convenience will now be haunted by the knowledge of what that convenience costs,” turns out to be true, I guess the real solution is in strengthening collective bargaining and union activism, cause society surely will stop at the “haunting and the slight discomfort” in the age of instant commerce and unhindered consumption.