Amazon Defies “Good” HR Practice, and Succeeds

Amazon.com has been a bit of an oddity since its founding in 1994. In spite of having led the way in making ecommerce a solid portion of the world’s business landscape, it often barely makes any money. International Business Times recently covered the company’s strange business methods, which include offering free shipping and expanding at a rate no advisor would suggest. Not only this, but Fortune recently published an article entitled “Working There Will Kill You, But You’ll Love it.”

The company evidently has their employees work long hours, often on the weekends. Not only this, but they are expected to be accessible by email 24/7, ignoring what seems to be a fundamental commandment of good HR, leaving work at work.

For a long period of time, the company also insisted that their engineers, managers and operations specialists carry pagers on them at all times. The reason for this was so that they could be contacted in an emergency. Employees at an online commerce website, of which there are many (Ebay, Shopify Overstock, etc.) were expected to be as reliably reachable as some doctors.

In spite of this, employees that work at Amazon reported that they enjoyed the stress. “Amazon will work you to death, either you are gone after two years, or you stay forever because you love working that hard,” an employee told Fortune. Many employees reported being proud of the culture put forth by the company, following fourteen leadership principles that the company instills in its workers.

The articles from Fortune and the Times have not stopped swathes of people from applying at the company or using its services. Some have objected to the articles, saying they’re taking parts of the story out of context and that Amazon employees should be allowed to work in a high-pressure environment if they wished. Others have sided with the article’s findings, saying the workplace environment is unhealthy.

The jury is still out on Amazon, but one thing is for sure: it is a fascinating time to do HR work. With companies like Amazon making national headlines, human resource experts will be called upon more and more to weigh in and help fundamentally change how Americans work.


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