Is Amazon a Mess, or Exactly on Track?

You’ve seen it by now, I’m sure. But just in case, here’s the short version of the latest news cycle centered on Amazon:

Both articles agree that Amazon is a demanding workplace that embraces conflict, long hours, and candid, robust feedback. So much so that they developed a tool specifically to allow employees to give anonymous reports to each other’s managers.  While some might consider that “snitching,” they consider it an important part of their culture.  Amazon believes it increases the amount of raw feedback a manager receives about their team, and does so in near real time.  The result is a more competitive (or combative, if you prefer that term) environment which they believe makes them a stronger company.

This idea, along with views on time off and the relative importance of work and family, has been labeled unfair, toxic and even abusive by their detractors (including numerous former employees). Critics point to the median tenure of one year as proof that their culture is not sustainable long term. Supporters though, point to business results and stock prices as proof that something is working, even if it isn’t clear what that might be.

Image Credit: Scott Lewis/Flickr
Image Credit: Scott Lewis/Flickr

The truth is the Amazon culture is a horrific experience that is so bad, it might convince workers to give up on full time employment and move to Iowa and take up macramé. Or at least that’s the truth for some people. For others, it’s a great place that pushes them to be their best, to overcome their limitations, their fear of failure and achieve more than they ever thought they could. It feels like home, and is the best workplace they could imagine being a part of.  So how do we reconcile such radically different opinions of a workplace?

This is a perfect example of the importance of finding the right workplace for you and your work style. Every culture is the right one for someone, but none of them are right for everyone. Amazon is right for some people, and they are the ones that stay and succeed. Others burn out, fade away or just quit to seek greener pastures elsewhere. And I’m sure Jeff Bezos would say that’s okay.  He has worked to build an organization with a very specific cultural footprint, which means filling it with the right kind of person.  Other companies offer unlimited time off, free beer or all day back rubs to attract talent. Their companies are focused on delivering a specific experience to their employees, and probably also to their customers. But they aren’t Amazon, and their successful applicant is of a different profile.

The importance of matching the candidate to the right job AND the right culture should be evident, yet it is often overlooked in the hiring process. The company often believes they can make talented professionals fit in, or that what the company really needs is someone different than they normally hire in the name diversity.  Candidates often look past the workplace and convince themselves that the job and the money paid for doing it are the only things that matter.  The truth is that there are 16 dimensions of cultural compatibility that can help determine whether or not there’s truly a fit between an employer and employee, including:

  • Balance:  How well does the company provide the means for employees to balance work and personal life? 
  • Stability:  How secure do employees feel in their positions? 
  • Cohesiveness:  How well does the company promote cooperation and unity among employees? 
  • Predictability:  How consistent are the employees’ daily routines and tasks? 

It isn’t that Amazon has a broken culture, but the profile they value is vastly different from the one most people expect, and therefore is seen as disruptive or combative.  The truth is they have built a culture that works just right for the kind of company they want to be, thankyouverymuch.

In the end, the right person in the right culture can change the world, while the wrong pairing changes little but an organizaton’s turnover metric and the number of employers on your resume. Finding the right match should be the primary job of the hiring team, and as a job seeker, you must have the resolve to ask interview questions that ensure value fit and the fortitude to walk away from the right job in the wrong place.  Neither is easy, but they are both critical to joined success.

 Job seekers are more than the keywords represented in resumes.  To learn more about how Elevated Careers can help you find your professional happy place, click here

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