OM in the News: Want an 80-Hour Workweek? Try Amazon!
On Monday mornings in Seattle, recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working. They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall.” To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on laminated cards. At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late, 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.
Most of the newcomers filing in on Mondays will not be there in a few years. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” says former HR director. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly rather than given time to recover. “When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” stated one former employee. “Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving,” writes The New York Times (Aug. 16, 2015).
“You can work long, hard or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” says Jeff Bezos. If Amazon becomes the country club like Microsoft, “We would die,” he adds. The firm retains new HQ workers in part by requiring them to repay a part of their signing bonus if they leave within a year, and a portion of their hefty relocation fees if they leave within 2 years. The median employee tenure is 1 year, among the briefest in the Fortune 500. Only 15% of employees have been at the company more than 5 years.
Classroom discussion questions:
- Would the Amazon model work in the typical firm?
- Why do employees seek out Amazon jobs?