Organization Critique: Amazon Inc.’s Organizational Culture
Organization critique entails the identification of various aspects of an entity by focusing on its effectiveness or ineffectiveness on a specific area and recommending possible interventions for improvement. The organizational culture employed by a corporate organization plays a critical role in shaping its overall performance. As such, poor cultural practices in an organization are detrimental as they demotivate the workforce, consequently, reduce the firm’s performance. Amazon.com Inc. is an American online retailer and a global leader in the sale of a wide range of products. However, the firm has faced numerous allegations in regards to adopting unfair practices that affect its employees adversely. Amazon has been criticized for high levels of workplace distress, disregard for the employees’ need for work-life balance, the absence of benefits, unfairness in its ranking systems, management insensitivity, unhealthy competition among the employees, and setting unrealistic (high) expectations. Despite the recent success of Amazon in the retail business, the current organizational culture is unfavorable as it involves the setting of unrealistic and high expectations, provides unfair and unsafe working conditions, and promotes unhealthy competition among employees hence rendering them frustrated and unhappy.
Unrealistic and High Expectations
Amazon’s former and current workforce has continuously criticized its hard-charging workplace by terming it as being exploitative due to the unrealistic and high expectations placed on the employees. Kantor and Streitfeld (2015) state that the firm subjects the employees to unrealistic distress through high-level targets to meet the high standards promised to the customers. The company strives to develop top-tier talent within its workforce by continuously pressuring them to meet its high operating standards. Employees who fail to meet the demands and expectations are deemed unfit to work for the organization. For instance, employees in the company’s warehouses work under strict and continuous surveillance carried out using complex electronic systems to ascertain the number of boxes they pack per hour (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015). According to Cooper, Dewe, and O’Driscoll (2001), occupational distress or burnout can lead to numerous adverse effects on the employees and the organization. The high expectations placed on the workers are detrimental as they subject them to distress and burnout at the workplace.
Maintaining a motivated employee base is critical for the success of an organization. Robescu and Iancu (2016) indicate that employee motivation and satisfaction at the workplace are strong promoters of organizational effectiveness and performance in the modern world. As such, Amazon should embrace transformative measures to avoid affecting the overall organizational performance adversely. Improvement in employee motivation by addressing the performance standards will impact the company’s agility positively in the pursuit of its goals and objectives. The company’s executive management should embrace objective planning to ensure that the goals, objectives, and targets set for the employees are realistic and achievable. The set standards should challenge the employees to achieve but should not stretch their abilities, mainly because unrealistic goals also serve as a source of distress. Moreover, the company policies should be formulated and implemented to cater for the long-abused work-life balance for the employees by prioritizing their mental and physical health through the provision of adequate rest days.
Unfair and Unsafe Working Conditions
Amazon has faced numerous criticisms for its highly unfair and unsafe working conditions for the employees. The harsh working conditions have been cited mainly in the organization’s warehouses in which accidents are common. For instance, the company’s warehouse in Pennsylvania toiled in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees under which many employees collapsed and suffered from various injuries. In response, the company ignored the incident but later installed air-conditioners in the facility after relevant authorities publicized the issue (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015). Soomro, Breitenecker, and Shah (2018) cite that Amazon fails to acknowledge that the provision of favorable working conditions for employees serves as a strong driver for increased motivation levels thus improving the organizational performance. In addition, the poor working conditions at Amazon are associated with the company’s disregard for its employees’ work-life balance, which stems from its unrealistic and high expectations on the workers. The management compels the employees to work continuously, both at the office and home and on their computers during nights and weekends. For instance, the company may schedule work-related conference calls over the weekend and during holidays thus consuming their rest time. According to Soomro et al. (2018), maintaining a reasonable work-life balance is a potent tool for maintaining high employee productivity and effectiveness at the workplace. The lack of work-life balance might result in unwanted effects such as increased turnover, family conflict, and poor performance. Also, the lack of ideal working conditions overworks and distresses employees, who fail to meet their full potential in pursuit of the organization’s goals and objectives. Employees are the most valuable company resource hence should be prioritized during the planning of the operating environment. Therefore, an organization that fails to appreciate the need for ideal working conditions exposes itself to adverse outcomes, which could lead to overall failure or increased costs of talent retention and recruitment.
The organization should respect the employees’ working hours and allow them to rest after work. Maintaining a reasonable work-life balance increases the productivity and effectiveness of the employees. Therefore, the company should avoid unfavorable cases such as inviting employees for conference calls during their holidays or evenings. In addition, Amazon should cater for the welfare of its employees by incorporating sufficient safety mechanisms in their premises early enough to avoid fatal occurrences such as the high-temperature incident in its Pennsylvania warehouse. Safe working conditions serve as a source of motivation for the employees to discharge their roles effectively without the fear of sustaining injuries.
Unhealthy Competition among the Employees
Amazon promotes unhealthy competition among the employees and fails to issue benefits like other companies. The company leverages working long, smart, and hard, which tends to exploit the employees. As such, the employees engage in continuous aggressive competition intending to surpass their colleagues’ performance thus reducing their overall performance as they tend to sabotage each other’s work. The management uses organizational meetings to encourage the employees indirectly to destroy the ideological contributions of their colleagues, thus breeding unfair competition (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015). Furthermore, Amazon has been associated with providing minimal incentives or benefits for its employees. The low incentives have served as strong drivers for little motivation and productivity among its workforce. As such, the organizational culture has crippled the chances of the business to achieve further success despite being a leader in the retail industry. The firm’s performance could improve significantly through the adoption of corrective measures.
The management should encourage the employees to adopt continuous creativity and innovation as their primary focus as opposed to sabotaging their colleagues’ ideas. The situation would encourage sustained organization growth and improved productivity due to the objectivity of the employees in their efforts. Also, the company should facilitate training for the employees to embrace teamwork and appreciation for the contributions of their colleagues at the workplace. The efforts would contribute positively to the cohesion of the employees thus creating a strong force to drive the organization to greater success. Moreover, Amazon should design appropriate reward schemes to ensure that its employees are continuously motivated to work for the organization. Proper reward schemes and acknowledgment of employees’ efforts towards the effectiveness and increased productivity of the organization would influence their level of motivation to serve positively. As a result, Amazon would positively impact the satisfaction and motivation of its workforce and improve its productivity and competitiveness in the retail market.
Amazon Inc. is a global retail company based in the U.S. and leader in the retail market. However, the firm has been accused of exploiting its workforce thus creating an unfavorable organizational culture. The practices cited in the public domain include the setting of unrealistic and high expectations for the employees, the provision of unfair and unsafe working conditions, and the promotion of unhealthy competition among the staff. Such aspects of the organization’s culture are detrimental to its competitiveness and performance in the retail industry. The company should formulate realistic and achievable objectives for the employees. Also, the management should ensure the employees work in a safe environment that promotes their productivity. Lastly, the firm should create training programs that motivate workers to be innovative and team-oriented.
Cooper, C., Dewe, P., & O’Driscoll, M. (2001). A review and critique of theory, research, and applications. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Kantor, J., & Streitfeld, D. (2015). Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html
Robescu, O., & Iancu, A. (2016). The Effects of motivation on employees’ performance in organizations. Valahian Journal of Economic Studies, 7(2), 49-56. doi: 10.1515/vjes-2016-0006
Soomro, A., Breitenecker, R., & Shah, S. (2018). Relation of work-life balance, work-family conflict, and family-work conflict with the employee performance-moderating role of job satisfaction. South Asian Journal of Business Studies, 7(1), 129-146. doi: 10.1108/sajbs-02-2017-0018
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