Bezos v. Jassy Meets Caring Leadership

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Amazon, the customer, then the Employee-Is it Worth it?

Jeff Bezos, the business tycoon and founder of Amazon, stepped down as CEO on July 5. The reins are now in the hands of Andy Jassy. I recently was a guest on the Bloomberg Business podcast and had the pleasure of discussing my advice to Andy Jassy. My portion of the interview begins at 00:20:40. 

I’m sure many of us have heard whispers about the company culture of Amazon, one of the world’s largest tech companies. In all the research I did for this post, the number one thing I found on Amazon’s company culture is that it is customer-centric. Always and first and foremost, the customer. Contrarily, here at Employee Fanatix, we work hard to meet the needs of each employee to meet the needs of the customer better. 

How can my idea of Caring Leadership, which has become a little online ecosystem, which you can find here, fit into the corporate beast of a company like Amazon?

Most Recent Updates

recently read that before Jassy became CEO, Amazon updated its leadership principles to be more employee well-being and empathy-centric. While this sounds like a massive step in the right direction, it makes me a little nervous. How often do companies swimming in wealth hand out great compensation and benefits hoping to atone for the harsh working reality?

In the Bloomberg Businessweek podcast, I discussed how Bezos was often aloof and advised Jassy to listen more. I also saw that Jassy is known to be more personable (see here). 

Additionally, rather than throwing the dog a bone and extending benefits packages or increasing wages, I hope that Amazon digs into the core of the issue. I hope that Andy Jassy will seek out first-hand stories of the company he now stands at the helm of. Figure out what it is that really makes the ship rock. Long hours? Harsh working conditions? Obsessiveness with speed? Besides, a generous 401k and a pat on the back won’t fix these issues. 

I argue that shifting this focus to your employees and their needs does not contradict your customer-centric leadership approach. In fact, if your employees feel heard and see that you are caring for their actual needs, they will feel valued and live out the mission of their work even more. 

The Solution

After listening to the very real concerns and complaints of the Amazon employees, it might be daunting to consider the changes that can no longer be avoided. Instead, Jassy should gather his leaders and discuss the best solution for their employees. Ultimately, they might even have to even consider altering their 14 company leadership principles

I firmly maintain that you can put both customers and employees first within an organization. It’s simple-just care for people, on both ends, wherever they are. Definitely listen on both ends. Grow and maintain a culture that sustains the level of work output and the employees’ wellbeing. 

If you’ve heard an Amazon warehouse horror story or any tale of the workers feeling burnt out, then you are not alone. Leaders can’t problem-solve this one on their own. There is a huge need for inclusiveness, and I’m not talking just about marginalized groups. I’m talking about the frontline workers, the ones who are in the midst of the issues. 

I think that this multi-level inclusion actually fits perfectly with the following of Amazon’s leadership principles: 

Learn and Be Curious; Nobody in life ever finishes learning, and this includes leaders at Amazon. People in charge at Amazon should always be looking for how to know better and be better. Leaders are always seeking options as well as looking for ways to explore them.

What Amazon Can Do

What better way to “know better and be better” than by using the voices of the people who work with you? This allows you to find perfectly tailored solutions to their needs. This work doesn’t have to be internal, added to the plates of people already experiencing burnout. There are people out there like my team, who come in to handle this challenging change process for you and your organization.

Leaders, if you’ve ever had your organization compared to Amazon, are worried about a bad reputation for employee wellbeing, or have experienced firsthand the trials that your team has to work through, then start here. Above all, start with listening.