If you love your job at Amazon, be proud. Nothing is more fulfilling than believing in the job you’re doing and being excited about getting out of bed in the morning. I’ve been there. It was absolutely awesome, and a source of great pride.
I caution – do not be willing to immediately dismiss the horror stories you have heard about Amazon. From my observation during my twelve-year tenure, bad leadership practices are not something that happen on every team, every department, or every organization. But they do happen. When HR gets involved, the employee’s best interest is not always the priority.
I say this as a former HR professional. Human Resources has changed over the years, cultivating into the position of HR Business Partner. That’s right – an HR position that emphasizes a partnership with the business rather than being a genuine resource for humans. In this partnership, one of HR’s functions has taken center stage – protecting the company from getting sued. Think about that any time you hear stories of people who were given money to leave their positions with the requirement of signing a non-disclosure document. Why can’t they not talk about the terms of termination unless it’s something that could potentially be a PR nightmare for the company? However, those former employees are talking, at least anonymously and without giving specifics. It’s a story I’ve heard about multiple former Amazon employees. HR’s standard response to this is if you can’t give specifics, they can’t investigate. Well, that’s the crux, right? With a signed document, if someone does talk they are setting themselves up for litigation that they are not likely to financially afford. Without those specifics, the company can poo-poo the issue and say it doesn’t exist. Where’s the metrics, where’s the data, right?
It does exist. I resigned after I found myself in a position with a team that had quickly turned into a toxic environment with a boss who not only had no business being a people manager, it seemed that she couldn’t remember basic elements in a standard leadership 101 book. Even worse, the director of the organization appeared to have had an almost pathologically blind support of her. Why? In my opinion and from what I saw, she delivered to the higher ups, and that’s what mattered – regardless of how she trampled the people below her.
Notice that I emphasized “had quickly turned.” The Independent Publishing team at Amazon wasn’t always like that. It definitely wasn’t when I first joined the team.
Simply, does it exist on every team, every department, every organization? No. But in the places where it DOES exist, action is desperately needed. For those of you who are still employed as successful Amazonians, I would think that it is your duty – with your commitment to continuous improvement – to support shedding light on these instances that are creating a dismal atmosphere in some areas of the company. By not addressing it, it’s like saying the behavior is okay, unquestioned. That mentality spreads, possibly encouraging other leaders to attempt these egregious approaches to people and team management.
Take Uncle Jeff at his word. Don’t tolerate this behavior, even when it’s not happening to you specifically. That’s the biggest mistake I made. I didn’t start speaking out until I found myself in the rot. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t accept that any manager who behaves like this is good for the company. Do something before you’re the one in HR’s office trying to explain and get support as to why a manager’s behaviors are toxic for the team. Remember, toxicity can be contagious, infectious, and deadly – and killing a team’s morale is the antithesis to “Having Fun.”