By Carol Keers, Vice President, Change Masters
“Hello, my name is Carol and I am an Amazon Prime shopping addict.” Hate to admit it, but Amazon, you made it so easy for me to buy stuff, I fell in love with you. Hard. I have been in an online shopping relationship with you for years.
I never realized until today that there’s literally a 12-step support group and a name for this online shopping addiction – oniomania, which is an obsessive urge to buy things. I have the Amazon strain of this disease.
Oh, I justified it so many ways – “These are books that will help expand my career effectiveness”, “The only place I can get this is on Amazon”, or “With Prime, my shipping is free!!!!”. It almost always felt better to click than to receive. At times, when the boxes arrived, and with the pile of books and “stuff” steadily growing, I felt a vague nausea of guilt – “Will I ever get around to reading these? Really?”, or, “Did I really order THIS?”
But Amazon, thank you. Today, you gave me the gift of stopping my oniomania in its tracks. I’m talking cold turkey, thanks to the extraordinary cover article in the New York Times from August 16, 2015. It was titled, “Amazon’s Bruising, Thrilling Workplace”, by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld. Based on the manner in which you do bruise your employees, particularly those dealing with cancer, recovering from miscarriages, dealing with dying parents and this annoying tendency you’ve noticed that female employees give birth, I’m out. Done. Finis.
It was as though this article, in revealing your singular quest toward “purposeful Darwinism” to test how far you can push your white collar staff, gave me the dose of Amazon birth control I needed to keep from hitting the “Buy now with 1-Click” button over and over again. It was so easy, so fulfilling – until I read how your mind works, and how you treat your “Amabots”, as you call your employees.
Any organization, such as Amazon, that actively encourages employees to send “secret feedback to one another’s bosses to sabotage each other”, a culture in which “nearly every employee has been seen crying at their desks”, is creating an unsustainable, “Lord of the Flies” type of culture that violates my value system. I just don’t do business with companies whose values, demonstrated by how they treat their employees, are abhorrent to me.
Now, I’m not naïve. I get your profit margins. I understand that one newspaper article does not necessarily tell the whole story. I know how sexy an Amazon tenure can look on a resume. I understand the brass ring temptation of the big stock option payoff you’ve created for a new innovation that a superstar might create. I have been an executive leadership communications coach for nearly 30 years. I’ve seen hundreds of corporate cultures, some caring and yet still accountable and productive, some brutal and harshly punishing, particularly in a downturn. There’s no questioning the power of the data you’ve harnessed, and I respect the manner in which you have made a shopping experience so seamless. You guys are smart; brilliant, in fact.
And yet, you’re incredibly dumb, as is any organization whose median employee tenure is exactly one year long. When only 15% of your employees have been in the company more than five years, you will lose in the long run. You’ve lost me, because I cannot support a company whose philosophy is to “burn and churn”. I wouldn’t do it in a third-world country, nor would I do it in the unique air of Seattle.
Because our coaching philosophy at Change Masters, our global coaching organization of three decades, is to shrink the gap between what you intend and how you’re coming across to others. The number one statement we hear from our talented clients is, “But that’s not what I meant!” You can’t vote on your perception, but you can manage it. And that’s what we do. We help people navigate that gap very authentically. You don’t appear to care about that gap, Amazon, but it’s an extremely costly one.
Our focus at Change Masters is on increasing self-awareness of the blind spots we all have, and giving our clients tough, revealing video feedback with pragmatic approaches to be more powerful, persuasive and real communicators and productive leaders. I doubt, from this article, you’d ever bother with this type of investment in your people, Amazon. It would take away from what makes economic sense to you. I understand – I just don’t like you anymore.
You make a lot of money but you’re not a vanguard of the future. You represent what the future companies will have to navigate away from in order to be sustainable. Henry Ford said, nearly a century ago, “All I wanted was a good set of hands. Unfortunately, there was always a man attached.” We’ve seen the cost of that philosophy in companies large and small, over and over again.
So, goodbye, my sweet addiction. I think I have plenty of books to get me through my withdrawal. Efficiency is one thing – cold, calculated, bullying brutality is quite another. You won’t miss me, but then again, I won’t much miss you, either. Enjoy your drones!