The Workplace Controversy of Amazon

The article claims that Amazon?s professional employees are well paid and work on world-changing projects, but are pushed to the breaking point in a survival-of-the-fittest climate where they tend to burn out and leave quickly.

Readers, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, say they are appalled by the anecdotes of insensitivity in the Times report. But the controversy has raised the possibility that the underlying business model portrayed in the article is legitimate or perhaps inevitable. The Times article quotes an ex-Amazon employee who says CEO Jeff Bezos has envisioned a ?new workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.?

Is this kind of harsh, hyper-competitive management style the way to lead a company in the 21st century economy that is unfolding?

We would argue that, on the contrary, this kind of workplace is based on an old-fashioned business model: that is, one that treats workers as replaceable cogs in the machine. We believe that the future will belong to the kinds of workplaces typified by companies like those on the annual list of the ?100 Best Companies to Work For? that we prepare for Fortune magazine.

We see three challenges facing workplace cultures that are long on toughness and short on caring:

Attracting talent

AMAIt will be increasingly difficult to attract employees to places where, as one ex-Amazonian put it, ?Work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.? In recent years, people around the globe have been seeking greater well-being?including in their work lives. The millennial generation in particular is likely to pass on ?work-first? company cultures. A recent survey of nearly 66,000 U.S. undergraduates by consulting firm Universum found that young people rank work-life balance as their top career goal.

What?s more, we?re in an age of workplace transparency. In this era of social media, no company can get away with mistreating its employees without having its practices being broadcast on dozens of sites and blogs.

Read more at?FORTUNE