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Case Code: HROB187
Case Length: 21 Pages 
Period: 1994-2016     
Pub Date: 2017
Teaching Note: Available
Organization :
Industry : E-Commerce
Countries : US 
Themes: -  
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Amazon's Workplace Culture

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Since its inception, Amazon had operated with the vision that it seeks “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” It was an early adopter of using big and small data for personalization. It used customer’s real-time browsing, customer reviews about products, and overall buying history to recommend products. Amazon’s priority and key competitive edge was quick delivery of products...

Human Resource and Organization Behavior Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Business Environment, Case Studies
Human Resource and Organization Behavior Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Business Environment, Case Studies
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Jeff who was obsessed with delivering a flawless customer experience, expected every Amazonian (as the employees were called) to have the same attitude toward customer service. To ensure that every one was involved in the customer centric culture, all the employees (entry level to board executives) were asked to attend call center training for two days. Jeff wanted everyone to be committed to listening, understanding, and acting on the needs of each customer. Jeff said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” ...


In 2011, Amazon was criticized for the way employees were treated in its FCs. Referring to the FC at Rugeley, Brian Garner, chairman of the Lea Hall Miners Welfare Center and Social Club, said, “The feedback we’re getting is that it’s like being in a slave camp.” ..


In 2013, an investigation carried out by BBC investigation at Amazon’s FC based in UK reported that the workplace conditions could cause “mental and physical illness”. A survey conducted by PayScale in 2013 reported that the median employee tenure at Amazon was one year and only 15 percent of employees had been associated with the company for more than five years.
Amazon insisted that the news about high attrition was misleading and the officials attributed it to the robust hiring. The company defended itself stating that the turnover was consistent with others in the industry....


As per the New York Times reports in 2015, Amazon workers were forced to work till the late hours irrespective of weekends and holidays because of the high demand during such days. The culture was so hard pressed that supervisors sent text messages to the workers asking why an email was not responded to. The business review meetings that were held weekly or monthly were also excruciating. ..


The article on Amazon’s bruising workplace sparked a debate on the story and the company’s corporate culture. While many employees made statements defending the company, many existing and former employees of Amazon came forward to confirm and detail several incidents similar to those documented in the article...


In response to the criticism made in 2015, Jeff came out with a memo (Refer to Exhibit IV for details). He said the allegations made against Amazon’s work culture were disappointing. Referring to the criticism that came out in the print media, he said, “It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either.”


Post the controversy, Amazon revamped the policies of the company to undo some of the damage to its reputation. In October 2015, it took the initiative to get regular feedback from employees about the work environment.


The business, investors, and analysts seemed to be unaffected by the culture controversy. RJ Hottovy, Morningstar analyst, stated, “I’m not overly concerned about the Amazon culture stories. Those have been floating around for years, and with a handful of current and former executives speaking out against the NYT article, I think most investors view the story as a non-issue.” ..


Exhibit I:Amazon’s Acquisitions (1997-2015)
Exhibit II: Amazon’s Leadership Principles
Exhibit III: Payscale Survey on Employee Loyality (2013)
Exhibit IV: Jeff Bezos’s Memo