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Welcome to the jungle: Amazon, culture and outrage in the Valley

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 10, 2015
The recent controversy surrounding Amazon's "brutal" workplace is missing some critical points about corporate culture.

Technology that provides insights into engagement, health, well-being and productivity is one way to gather data. Amazon's anonymous Anytime Feedback tool was supposed to have filled this role. "Bezos should have been able to say to The New York Times, 'You have these anecdotes, we have the data,' but he doesn't have it. That's the great irony here. And it's a lesson: Leadership needs to know the real-time, reliable measures of engagement within their companies," says Buckingham.

Culture does not have a moral value judgment

There's no such thing as "good" culture or "bad" culture, necessarily (though a toxic, abusive workplace is definitely bad news). Just as different businesses define success differently, each company's culture is unique because of its specialized technology, its customer base, its business priorities, strategy and mission. In a highly competitive, fast-evolving industry such as IT, cultural norms like working late nights, on-call weekends and 100-hour-work-weeks are more common than in other industries. There's a much greater emphasis on innovation, change and outside-the-box thinking that drives new products, services and solutions, and your organization's culture has to keep pace.

This particular brand of culture, as with Amazon or throughout Silicon Valley, becomes unsustainable only when your workers lose interest, not because it's inherently good or evil. Limeade's says he Albrecht was miserable working long, brutal hours for another technology firm. However, he works the same number of hours, if not more, at his own company because he loves his work. "If you do it because you care about the mission, you care about the work that's being done, that's one thing. If you're doing it because you feel you 'have to,' then maybe your values and your priorities don't match up with that of the company," he says.


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