STUMP » Articles » On the Amazon-torturing-its-white-collar-workers-boo-hoo piece » 17 August 2015, 01:41

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

On the Amazon-torturing-its-white-collar-workers-boo-hoo piece  


17 August 2015, 01:41

Oh save me:

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

AUGUST 15, 2015
SEATTLE — On Monday mornings, fresh 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, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar” — the company’s proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions.

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), 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. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Many of the newcomers filing in on Mondays may not be there in a few years. The company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

Okay, let me make a list of quintessential abused non-manual-labor workers:

  • medical residents
  • investment bankers
  • grad students
  • adjunct instructors
  • production assistants
  • people trying to break into acting
  • musicians
  • professional athletes
  • “student” athletes
  • political campaign interns
  • pyramid scheme… sorry, Multi Level Marketing
  • any sales position
  • tax accountants
  • auditors
  • bloggers, I guess, if we got paid to blog
  • I am too lazy to extend this list

Why the fuck are we supposed to care about these “abused” Amazon workers?

The kinds of people working these positions have options. Like the option of NOT WORKING AT AMAZON.

I have worked at an undeniable toxic employer in a previous position. It involved multiple execs handing in their resignations within a one-month-period including my direct boss, who resigned effective immediately on a Saturday, on a holiday weekend, where I (and a few others) had shown up in the office to try to meet a regulatory deadline.

(SPOILER ALERT: said deadline was not met)

Now, if I were an investor in Amazon, I might be concerned as to the sustainability of growth, but this is not something I can get any sympathy up for.

For a quick rebuttal, here is one Amazon worker and his opinion. I’m not excerpting it, not because I think the NYT is more credible, but there’s no particularly good pull-quotes, which one wouldn’t expect in trying to pull from an engineer’s writing.

(not that my own writing is all that pithy when I don’t have the benefit of a professional editor)

Disclosure (I think, but I’m not digging through my emails): I’ve been contacted by Amazon in the past (probably years ago) to try to recruit me… for what, I have no fucking clue. It seemed to me they had no idea why they were talking to me, either.

Look. If I were 20, I might be excited, but having had one nightmare working experience that actually had to do with my expertise, I’m not all that eager to jump into a possible-nightmare-situation where my expertise is not really relevant in any special way.

But hey, let’s check what the NYT article says about recruitment:

The process begins when Amazon’s legions of recruiters identify thousands of job prospects each year, who face extra screening by “bar raisers,” star employees and part-time interviewers charged with ensuring that only the best are hired. As the newcomers acclimate, they often feel dazzled, flattered and intimidated by how much responsibility the company puts on their shoulders and how directly Amazon links their performance to the success of their assigned projects, whether selling wine or testing the delivery of packages straight to shoppers’ car trunks.

Whatever. I still have no clue why any of them contacted me. It didn’t get past a phone screener, partly because the entire convo wasn’t me trying to “prove myself” or whatever, but because it was mainly “why the hell are you talking to me?” to which the person had no answer.

I’m going to pick a quote out of context:

He added that he usually worked 85 or more hours a week and rarely took a vacation.

Hey, you know who else works those sorts of hours? =peering up at my earlier list=

The only group of workers I have an issue with being overworked are medical residents. They fuck up, people can die.

Not so much if a PA doesn’t intercept a local walking through an on-location set. (Yes, I did that a lot when I lived in Manhattan)

Employees, human resources executives and recruiters describe a steady exodus. “The pattern of burn and churn at Amazon, resulting in a disproportionate number of candidates from Amazon showing at our doorstep, is clear and consistent,” Nimrod Hoofien, a director of engineering at Facebook and an Amazon veteran, said in a recent Facebook post.

Again, not unique to Amazon. It can be a problem in trying to find replacements (and I’m going to write about academic workers in a future post…again).

Ed Driscoll at Instapundit mentions that the NYT had similar issues. Or still do have.

Oh hey, here is a story from the NYT: trying to clean cooling towers is straining the crews doing the work.

And then here is the antithesis: Glenn Reynolds (aka instapundit) on why markets work and bureaucrats don’t.

Look, people have choices. Nobody has to work for Amazon. Just leave.

Here, lifehacker has a flowchart for you:

I’ve got a simpler flowchart:


Yes: stay
No: leave

It’s not that difficult.

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