At What Price?

By now, most of you have surely read or heard about the controversial New York Times article about Amazon’s workplace culture, along with the ensuing article from the Guardian and defense statements from Amazon and its supporters.

In the piece, the writers describe an environment in which perpetual and precise measurement of employee contributions, and around-the-clock dedication to the job are prized above all else. It’s portrayed as a place where only the brightest, most competitive, most painstakingly driven survive. Former employees share accounts of Amazon’s purportedly draconian take on work-life balance. Could this be really happening at a workplace that should value its most important resource: people?

Whether or not the article paints the truth about Amazon’s values and management style is not for me to say, but its implications for the future of the global workplace are palpable. The company is successful. There was no doubt shed on that. After reading the story, I wondered, Is this where we’re headed?

In nearly every industry, including health care, competition is becoming exponentially more intense. Whether your company has progressive work-life policies, or constant contact during weekends and holidays are the norm, the need for people who are passionate about innovation will not change as the global economy evolves.

So, either way, it’s up to us as individuals to mine uncharted paths—to make the breakthroughs of tomorrow and innovate in our chosen fields. One day, for all kinds of companies, anything less just won’t be good enough. But let’s never adopt management styles that take away respect and the opportunity for our most valuable resource, our people, to recharge and innovate. Give them some leeway. The dedicated ones will serve the company well the more that you empower them.

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