Thinking about Amazon, “Bad Workplaces,” and Overall Business Philosophy

“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Bo Olson, worked in books marketing (at Amazon) – from the NY Times article

There’s just nothing more exciting than that genuine feeling of truly admiring the people you work around.
Kip Tindell, Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone UncontainableThrives


Here’s a question for Jeff Bezos: is it possible for a workplace to be dehumanizing? Since the answer is obviously yes, what are you doing at Amazon to guard against that happening?

We’ve got quite a national discussion going on about what kind of leader, and what kind of company, we need in this so volatile, vulnerable era. This weekend, all the buzz was about the New York Times article about Amazon. Jeff Bezos himself, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (now working for Amazon) have leapt to the defense of Amazon.

Interestingly, I had a lengthy discussion about the whole issue – “does a big-time boss have to be a ‘servant leader’ to be successful?” – with a friend late last week, before the NY Times Amazon article hit. (In fact, we e-mailed it to each other at practically the same time).

Here’s one thing we know, for sure:

There are jerks who are successful
There are jerks who are not successful…


There are nice leaders who are successful
There are nice leaders who are not successful…

That’s about all we know… There is no certain formula for success on the “niceness” end of the scale.

By the way, Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford, is coming out with a book that basically calls the “nice leaders are more successful” view a myth. His book will be published in September: Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time.

There’s another line I especially like from The Container Store CEO Tindell’s book, Uncontainable:

Our company doesn’t exist to make a profit; it makes a profit so it can exist. And it exists to bring happiness and prosperity to every life we touch. That way, in the end, everybody wins.

I definitely prefer this philosophy. But, is the only path to success – if you define success as financial success? My guess is…no.


By the way, Uncontainable is my selection for the September 4 First Friday Book Synopsis.



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