The Weekly Vent: Up The Creek In A Toxic Workplace

I thought my own workplace was pretty dysfunctional and toxic — and some days it really is. Then I read today about what it’s like to work at Amazon: Inside Amazon.  Here’s one passage:

“Ms. Willet’s co-workers strafed her through the Anytime Feedback Tool, the widget in the company directory that allows employees to send praise or criticism about colleagues to management. (While bosses know who sends the comments, their identities are not typically shared with the subjects of the remarks.) Because team members are ranked, and those at the bottom eliminated every year, it is in everyone’s interest to outperform everyone else.

Craig Berman, an Amazon spokesman, said the tool was just another way to provide feedback, like sending an email or walking into a manager’s office. Most comments, he said, are positive.

However, many workers called it a river of intrigue and scheming. They described making quiet pacts with colleagues to bury the same person at once, or to praise one another lavishly. Many others, along with Ms. Willet, described feeling sabotaged by negative comments from unidentified colleagues with whom they could not argue.”

This is the Lord of the Flies, but at work, in real life, with people’s careers and livelihoods at stake. How many guesses as to who mostly gets sabotaged by colleagues who gang up on them through anonymous feedback? I’m betting they are mostly non-white, non-straight, non-males. The longer I work in organizations, the more I realize how many men are truly socialized to form gangs that then exclude or drive off others. You’re part of the in-crowd — or you’re completely out. It has nothing to do with the good of the organization, or the quality of your work, it’s all about the in-gang grabbing power and wealth for itself. Ugh. And why do the managers believe the comments that are made? Do they even look into them, or hold accountable workers who lie?

The rest of the article describes workers who never take a day off; answer emails all night; are pushed out when they have health or family issues; feel they cannot spend time with their families. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men on the planet, with a stay-at-home author wife and four children. I used to think he was brilliant. Now I think he’s a sociopath. And he’s trying to export his way of doing business to other workplaces, claiming that his way is the model of the future. I was glad to read several comments by recruiters for other companies who say they won’t hire anyone who has been at Amazon long enough to have been brainwashed into thinking this is the right way to interact at work.

I am shaking my head. This seems like the ultimate example of treating human beings like cogs in a machine. I will never willingly or knowingly work for such a cruel organization. I am seriously considering where I can cut back my purchases from Amazon. Bezos’ way seems to work well to enrich him beyond even the wildest plutocratic dreams. What is it doing for anyone else? Why do the rest of us put up with these Gilded Age antics? Why do we send our children to fight these plutocrats’ wars and protect their wealth? Why do we allow the schools, transportation systems, public services, lands and facilities we all need and use to fall into disrepair, while these greedy lunatics manipulate our financial systems and hog more and more of our productivity? Why?


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