AMAZON AS AN EMPLOYER

AMAZON AS AN EMPLOYER1 PLEASE DELETE THIS DOCUMENT AFTER SUBMISSION. Jyotsna Bhatnagar and Shweta Jaiswal wrote this case solely to provide material for class discussion. The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The authors may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality. This publication may not be transmitted, photocopied, digitized or otherwise reproduced in any form or by any means without the permission of the copyright holder. Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights organization. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact lvey Publishing, lvey Business School, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, N66 0N1; (t) 519.661.3208; (e) cases@ivey.ca; www. iveycases. com. ‘ht©2 1 Mana ementDevel entlnstit e u onandR’ rdlve h fr? he Fond tionVe ‘n:2 1 7 Amazon was the biggest Intemet—based retailer in the United States and had fiequently been featured in Fortune magazine’s Elite List of the World’s Most Admired Companies, ranking second in 2014 and fourth in 2015.2 However, in 2015, controversy erupted on social media when an article in The New York Times portrayed Amazon as a company that was “conducting an experiment in how far it [could] push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.”3 Many leading technology wizards, such as former Twitter chief executive officer (CEO) Dick Costolo, as well as venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Keith Rabois, dismissed the criticism, arguing that such practices were part of what made “disruptive companies disruptive.”4 The New York Times article focused on the unconventional office culture promoted at Amazon. Particular attention was paid to the practice of encouraging employees to be ruthlessly critical of each other’s ideas in meetings and to surreptitiously send feedback to each other’s bosses.5 The article also mentioned the physical stress of Amazon’s workplace. Employees were expected to put in long hours and were reprimanded when they failed to respond to emails that arrived at midnight. This was the inevitable by- product of a policy that demanded that all employees work overtime, effectively forcing employees to work harder and faster until they quit, collapsed, or were terminated.6 As a result of its workplace policies, turnover at Amazon was high: most employees did not stay for more than a few months.’r Nonetheless, Amazon had climbed the ladder of achievements and accomplishments in an unrelenting, expeditious manner. It had surpassed Walmart as the most highly ranked retailer in terms of market valuation.8 The company was as continuously innovative as a new start—up.9 Amazon was on the verge of opening several new multi-floor offices in diverse locations, which would expand its operating capacity to approximately 50,000 employees.10 The question that arose at this critical juncture of its growth was whether Amazon would be able to attract and retain the engaged talent it required to fill these vacancies despite The New York Times exposé. Would Amazon’s demanding corporate culture continue to lead to innovation?

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