The story, done by reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld after conducting interviews with over 100 actual and past Amazon employees, emphasizes the survival-of-the-fittest environment which is promoted by the retailer which recently surpassed eBay in market value.
However, the details are somewhat brutal and push the boundaries between productivity and exploitation. Describing in their own words a “dystopian” environment, the reporters describe how Amazon’s working system is less about employee harmony and more like a totalitarian state, as employees informing on someone’s miscues has become standard practice. But it doesn’t nearly just stop there.
Apparently, Amazon takes to fire a number of its most unproductive or unreliable employees each year, even if its goals are surpassed – as one former employee describes, it’s just for some kind of “purposeful Darwinism”, or showing the others that slipping under the norm at any point will see them on their way out. And within this system, there’s not really any sympathy to be found – or anything at all, besides a good paycheck and an overwhelming accumulation of mental fatigue.
It’s so harrowing that it seems more alike to reality shows rather than real life employment conditions sometimes. One practice in particular would sound more like a piece of dystopian fiction – as employees turn against each other by sending feedback to each other’s bosses which, in this competitive setting, probably leads 9 out 10 times to intentional sabotage. This culture also continues in company brainstorming meetings – as employees are largely encouraged to criticize ideas from their co-workers and not recognize their merits.
This medium is certainly not for the faint-hearted, as acknowledge by Amazon recruiters themselves, who urge new employees or interns to forget about any type of lenient corporate experience. And even for those who manage to stay, the pressure seems to be taking its toll – as one former employee described how seeing people crying at their desks was just as normal as seeing them engulfed in their work. Worse even, employees are apparently picked upon for not concentrating on work because of personal issues – losing a loved one or going through a terrible disease will probably get you more reprimand rather than sympathy.
If these reports are true, it may be high time workplace regulators finally check inside Amazon’s veil of secrecy. There have been no major lawsuits or complaints against the company as of yet, but these details point towards borderline exploitation – and even worse, targeted mental exhaustion.
Image Source: Seattle Times