Before You Start Praising Jeff Bezos, Consider This

In the rush to laud the business acumen of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos following his recently released annual letter to shareholders, many business publications are missing a key fact—this is a company that was cited in 2015 by the New York Times for its toxic work culture. The only result seems to be the shameful efforts by Bezos and spokesman Jay Carney to try to find the employees who spoke off the record to the Times, little else seems to have been done to address the culture described in the article. Bezos assertion that “Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero,” does little to reassure business skeptics such as myself.

We are seeing in real time on prime time the outcome of companies that ignore the importance of psychologically healthy, safe and fair workplaces. Surely the recent fiascos with United Airlines and Uber should give leaders reason to peel back the curtain and ascertain what is really going on in the culture. All of the jargon about being a “Day 1 company” or to “disagree and commit” when team members are unsure about moving forward does little to address the most important underlying principle of business—feelings drive organizational behavior.  Companies ignore this at their own risk.

I have written about Amazon’s workplace culture before, but there’s nothing cuts to the quick quite like satire, and I highly recommend this piece by New Yorker humor columnist Andy Borowitz, “Amazon Chief Says Employees Lacking Empathy Will Be Instantly Purged.”

Photo credit: Amazon