It was August 15th 2015, and New York Times published this informatively captivating, yet peculiar article about the labor conditions and expectations in one of world’s biggest electronic commerce and cloud computing companies there is. It turned out to be quite a socio-psychological drama that has divided elicit opinions of so many workers across the globe, mainly because of the rigorous and unyielding policies and working ethics that Amazon enforces. Some justify it as a stratagem to reach personal success in a collective machine which focuses on pushing past the expected limits and unveiling one’s true potential, while others see it a heart-attack-inducing roller coaster of unhealthy competition filled with a myriad of stressful circumstances that even brings humanity to question.
Such extremes always spark intrigue to the point of shock, since existential fear is everybody’s burden. Never mind technology and social status, that doesn’t exempt us from the fact that what we do for a living might actually end up killing us. Well, at least Amazon is honest about it, their new hires immediately get a warning after orientation – It’s going to be tough! So tough that they relentlessly extract almost everything out of their white-collar workers. They push so severely that they redraw the boundaries of what is acceptable, you practically get to see and hear grown men and women burst into tears at their desks; and most of them will be gone within a few years. Survival of the fittest, indeed…
However, employers and employees come and go, empires rise and fall overnight, so it’s no wonder why Amazon has incredibly high expectations of their ever-fluctuating, spontaneously combusting staff. Considering that Amazon eclipsed Walmart this year as the most valuable retailer in the US with market valuation of $250 billion, ambitious founder and CEO, Mr. Jeff Bezos emphasized that in order for it to remain so , the ideal employees, who collectively have to run this intricate machine, must become “athletes” with endurance, speed, performance that can be measured and an ability to defy limits. “A lot of people who work there feel this tension: It’s the greatest place I hate to work,” said John Rossman, a former executive. On the other hand, a substantial amount of former Amazonians who have developed a habit of working at such pace and pressure have made successful careers independently afterwards; and that also says a lot!
Still, there are people who support a better life-work balance and think it’s unacceptable to cause excessive psychosomatic damage to workers just so it could conquer the market. One of the more credible examples is co-founder of Facebook, Mr. Dustin Moskovitz, who not only argues that he personally would have been better off if he hadn’t worked so hard, but that Facebook itself would have been better off as well. He claims that the immense desire to succeed consequently made him worse at his job, it caused him panic attacks, acute health problems and it made him become self-centered, neglectful of his family and drained. On top of that, he made a statement:
“What I think made the New York Times story resonate with so many people who don’t work at Amazon is that they can see aspects of this in their own lives: They have a cellphone that allows them to be contacted in a variety of different ways — phone call, email, text message, Slack chat room, Google Hangout, Twitter DM, etc. And since that technology is widely available, everyone in a certain type of job is expected to have it, and as a result they are expected to be available at all times.”
Truth be told, the general picture of Amazon is that work comes first, life comes second and trying to balance it all out is the last priority. Naturally, it all depends on what type of person you are to begin with. Not all extremes are bad, but not everyone is capable of adapting to such rigorously demanding circumstances, too. Do you demur, or concur? What do you think? Is it better to focus on your ambitions and to strive to become the most successful professional version of yourself there is, or are life, friends, family and leisure a bit too precious to play second fiddle to earning a lot of green?