In what ways do any of the Amazon leadership principles contradict one another?
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Read aritcle and answer question “In what ways do any of the Amazon leadership principles contradict one another?” in 300 words in 3 hours.
In what ways do any of the Amazon leadership principles contradict one another?
1 The University of Manchester Alliance Manchester Business School Human Resource Management: Context and Organisation S EMINAR 2: AMAZON CASE STUDY: Ethics, Fair Treatment and the ‘Meaningful’ Organisation Professor Tony Dundon ( Alliance Manchest er Business School) & Dr Brian Harney ( Dublin City University Business School) 2 AMAZON CASE STUDY: Ethics, Fair Treatment and the ‘Meaningful’ Organisation Amazon is one of the world’s most recognised organisations. It was the first to leverage on – l ine platform s for selling and distribution, making its first book sale on -line in 1995 before diversifying into CD, DVDs and electronics and ultimately becoming the ‘ everything store’. 1 It utilises high -end technologies and robotics to shape and control wo rk and employment relationships. Amazon is an internet mammoth, heralded as a true ‘meaningful organisation’ by its corporate leaders . It claims to lead the way for its culture of managerial change and creativity and its identity to millions as one of the few companies of its type to survive the technological boom -bust cycle . 2 As Google is to internet search, Amazon is to e -commerce, practically inventing this category of shopping. Amazon’s overriding goal is “to be Earth’s most customer -centric company, where customers can find and discover anything online” 3. Financial results suggest the company and its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos are doing well in this task. At the close of 2015 Amazon shares reached a record $694, whilst company market capitalisation stood at $325 billion US dollars . 4 Jeff Bezos has been lauded for his achievements , including numerous best CEO awards. Industry adjusted shareholder return under his stewardship comes in at a massive 12,266% . 5 According to Bezos success to date is attribut able to a unique culture and capacity for re- inventing. 6 This is seen in inventions such as customer reviews, the Kindle, and Amazon Web Services . Recent developments include moving to compete with Netflix in streaming, whilst experimenting with drones to achieve 30 minute delivery times. In employment terms Amazon has 155,000 people world-wide , surpassing the likes of Microsoft . Employees, known as “ Amazonians”, are managed culturally to be ultra – competitive and achieve high performance. Amazon is renowne d for pioneering creative work practices . CEO Jeff Bezos is an outspoken supporter of technological innovations to 1 Sone, B. (2014) The Everything Store: Jeff Be zos and the Age of Amazon, Back Bay Books. 2 Smith, A. (2015) ‘Amazon is America’s best company. Says who? You!’, CNN Money 15 th of June. http://money.cnn.com/2015/0 6/15/news/companies/amazon -reputation/index.html 3 http://www.amazon.jobs/ 4 Nicolaou, A, and Bullock, N. (2015) ‘Bumper holiday season sends Amazon soaring’, Financial Times , 30th of December. 5 Hansen, M. T., Herm inia, I., and Peyer, U. (2013) ‘The Best -Performing CEOs in the World’, Harvard Business Review , Jan-Feb, 81 -95. 6 Economist (2012) ‘Taking the long view’, Economist , 3rd of March 3 reco nfigure the world of management by engendering ‘self -mana gement’ spaces where Amazonians are encouraged to take ownership of their own ca reer destiny and earnings potential. Bezos is famed, for among other things, coining the mantra that Amazon wants to be ‘ misunderstood’ 7 and that being normal just deserves to be messed with ’ 8. If the modern so -called ‘meaningful organisation’ is defined by its cultural identity, employees who are empowered to maximise their potential, combined with a corporate reputation for innovation, re -invention as well as wealth creation, then Amazon is possibly the top of the pile. Yet at the height of its most successful financial year, Amazo n encountered its most severe criticism for being a bullying and bruising place to work. A damming New York Times (NYT) expos é in August 2015 put Amazon, and it’s CEO Jeff Bezos , estimated to be the 5 th wealthiest person on the planet, under intense scrutiny. 9 Allegations included severe work pressure with workers crying at their desks, aggressive and confrontational managerial styles including inhumane treatment of those suffering personal traumas such as miscarriages and c ancer, and a culture of constant ‘anytime feedback’ encouraging employees to undermine one another. The report prompted Jeff Bezos to make a very rare and public rebuttal. The debate resonated widely and cross the media broadly (see Figure 1 and 2 below) , raising public questions that resonate with themes such as what constitutes a meaningful organisation, what are the wider societal and human resource management implications of wealth and success and , in this context , what equates to appropriate ways of m anaging people ? Figure 1 Sample public reaction 7 Hansen et al., (2013) see note 5 8 Amazon ‘something new’ commercial http://worldwidegadget.blogspot.ie/2012/09/amazon -something -new -commercial.html 9 Kantor, J. and Streitfeld, D. (2015), ‘Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big ideas in a Bru ising Workplace’, New York Times, 15 th of August http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside -amazon -wrestling -big -ideas -in -a -bruising -workplace.html?_r=0 4 Figure 2 Sample public reaction http://www.nytimes.com/2015/ 08/16/technology/inside-amazon -wrestling -big -ideas -in -a -bruising -workplace.html?_r=0 ‘M eaningful ’ Leadership ? Amazon’s managerial approach is , and always has been , unashamedly one of ‘hard work’. In managerial discourse Amazon is evidently unitarist: tha t is to say the likes of Bezos and other senior figures demand employees strive to achieve and deliver the Amazon way with no time or space for externalities or undue influence (such as union representation or independent worker voice). In fact, the first two words of the company’s motto to new recruits are just that, ‘hard work ’. Bezos himself defines the company culture as ‘ friendly and intense’, adding that if he had to choose, ‘we’ll settle for intense ’ 10. The work regime and culture is certainly intense and fast-paced. Both originate in the constant quest to deliver for the consumer, meaning the organisation menacingly pushes moral, business and ethical limits. This applies to products and services, ways of doing things , employee effort and expectations . In a symbolic act, it is claimed Bezos periodically leaves a seat free at conference meeting s informing all attendees that ‘ they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, the most important person in the room ’. 11 10 Streifield, D. and Kantoraug, J. (2015) ‘Jeff Bezos and Amazon Employees Join Debate Over Its Culture’ New York Times, 18 th of August http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/18/technology/amazon -bezos -workplace -management -practices.html 11 Anders, G. (2012) ‘Inside Amazon’s Idea Machine: How Bezos Decodes Customers’, Forbes , 23rd of April 5 In order to reinforce such ideals Amazon espouse s a set of so -called ‘Leadership Principles’ which guide what every Amazonian (employee) is supposed to do in their daily work (see Box 1) . According to Amazon: “Our Leadership Principles aren’t just a pretty inspirational wall hanging. These Principles work hard, just like we do. Amazonians use them, every day, whether they’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates. It’s just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar”. 12 The content of these 14 ‘principles ’ are unashamedly about driving a hard working culture that is obsessed with the customer above all else (#1). As can be seen in Box, 1, the language of macho -leadership is used excessively to try and inf luence people and push boundaries . Ownership, and by consequence responsibility , is cascaded down the organisation (#2), with activities conducted by only the elite best (#3). The principles boast of ‘unreasonably high standards ’ (#6), ‘a bias for action ’ (#8) and delivering results (#14). Box 1: Amazon’s Leadership Principles 1. Customer Obsession Leadership obsesses about customers. Work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. 2. Ownership Leaders are owners and act on behalf of the entire company. Lead ers never say ‘that’s not my job’. 3. Invent and Simplify A leader will always find ways to simplify and innovate; externally aware; look for new ideas everywhere. Amazon accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time. 4. Are Right, A Lot Leaders are right and have strong judgement and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs. 5. Hire and Develop ‘The Best’ Leaders raise the bar with ever hire and promotion; recognise people with exceptional talent. Leaders develop leaders and coach others. 12 http://www.amazon.jobs/princip les 6 6. Insist on the Highest Standards Many people may think our leaders have unreasonably high standards, continually raising the bar and delivering high quality products, services and processes. 7. Think Big Leaders ‘look around corners’ and create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results to serve customers. 8. Bias for Action Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking. 9. Frugality Accomplish more with less. Leaders don’t get extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense. 10. Learn and Be Curious Leaders are never done, always seek to improve themselves and curious about new possibilities and act to explore them. 11. Earn Trust Leaders listen. They don’t believe their or their team’s body odour smells of perfume. They speak candidly, treat others respectfully, are vocally self -critical (even when it’s embarrassing). They benchmark themselves and their teams again st the best. 12. Dive Deep Leaders operate at all levels. No task is beneath them. 13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit Leaders respectfully challenge decisions. They have conviction and are tenacious and do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly. 14. Deliver Results Leaders focus on the key inputs. They rise to the occasion and never compromise. (adapted from: http://www.amazon.jobs/principles) The 14 leadership principles make the ideology of Amazon’s c orporate ethos explicit. The undercurrent is drive for performance, rewarding those that excel and , equally , highlighting those that are not. Work pressure and i ntensity is manifest through the focus on analytics and technology, from the use of 15,000 Kiva robots in warehouses to enhance efficiency and workforce effort. Beyond the explicit performance dimensions are suggestions that such principles are manipulatively dangerous. The NYT report quotes Amazonian Dina Vaccari who worked on corporate gift cards 7 “I was so addicted to wanting to be successful there. For those of us who went to work there, it was like a drug that we could get self -worth from.” It is suggested that Amazon even encourages staff to instil similar principles when rearing their childr en. Critics find the inference that all Amazonians (workers) are somehow leaders to be misguided. Warehouse attendants, pressured to perform with increasing precision and under the watchful eye of monitoring surveillance technology signifies a lack of job autonomy or discretion to make meaningful, engaged employee decisions. Further, the NYT times report suggests that the lack of any female representation on Amazon’s leadership team (relative to the likes of Facebook or Walmart) is likely a function of the principle based system with its rigid prescription of ‘competition and elimination’ , meaning that work pressures can be increasingly more difficult for women with childcare responsibilities. Ethical HRM or Cultural Control? Jeff Bezos ’ well -known bias for immediate action, his tendency to micro- manage, attention to detail, and willingness to push boundaries as a ‘change junkie’ 13 are reflected in Amazon’s approach to people management., From the beginning Bezos was attentive to ensuring a good cultural fit when bring in new hires; “ I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person. Why?… culture s aren’ t so much planned as they evolv e from that early set of people” 14 Bezos’ approach to management is founded on a desire to res ist forces that might sap innovation including red- tape, bureaucracy, slow decision making and unbridled expenditure. In spite of Amazon’s growth, these lean start -up principles remain. One example of frugality concerns expenditure on office equipment , whi le Bezos holds true to his long standing two pizza test ; if you can’t feed a team with two pizzas , the team is to large . 15 Amazon differs from the likes of high -tech contemporaries Google and Facebook which are renowned for supporting and developing employe es through a fun work culture, surro unded by foosball, on- site massages and independent thinking time. Rather than engaging in a battle for employee talent based around perks and benefits , the ‘no- frills Bezos is proving the potency 13 Deutschman, A. (2004) ‘Inside the mind of Jeff Bezos’, Fast Company , Aug (85): 52–58. 14 Deutschman, A. (2004) as above. 15 Deutschman, A. (2004) as above. 8 of another model: coddl ing his 164 million customers, not his employees ’. 16 In a letter to sh areholders in 1997 Bezos wrote ‘ You can work long, hard or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three ’. 17 These expectations about the nature and intensity of work are made explicit to new hires who are screened for bias to action and ability to deliver. Glassdoor.com , a platform where current and former employees evaluate their workplace experiences does not hold Amazon with any great expectations, ra nking it 3.1: similar to Burger King (3.0) 18 The darker side criticism of Amazon’s actual day-to -day workplace regimes have publically surfaced previously with reference to the poor working conditions faced by employees and agency workers in Amazon warehouses. At the warehouse i n Allentown in the US it was reported that workers had to walk distances of 5 -17 miles per day in conditions that were so intense that emergency ambulances had to wait outside for those that had fainted or fallen ill. 19 The New York Times piece extends the criticism to the human resource practices, performance analytics and array of (culturally -driven) controlling work practices as applied to the increasing cadre of professional, lower and middle managerial staff . In no uncertain terms it said Amazon is ‘conducting a little -known experiment in how far it can push white – collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable ’. The NYT story reports of brutal work practices that resemble something akin to the Hunger Games peppered with a sprinkling of Ge orge Orwell’s 1984 big brother tactics. Veteran workers use the term ‘Amabot ’ denoting a good worker who has become self -directed, internalizing the Amazon mode of working to ‘ become at one with the system’. Work life integration is said to be complete as w hite collar and lower managerial employees are expected to be ‘ever -present ’, including checking in and working during vacation time. Another work practice that has evolved to be culturally normal is sending emails late at night. When a response is not im mediate, the unanswered email is often followed -up with a phone text message to the person (usually lower or junior level manager), asking for their response. This sense of normality is evidenced in attempts to add humour to this dilemma : 16 Anders, G. (2012) ‘Inside Amazon’s Idea Machine: How Bezos Decodes Customers’, Forbes, 23rd of April http://www.amazon.jobs/principles 17 Kantor, J. and Streitfeld, D. (2015) see note 9. 18 Anders (2012) see note 17 19 Soper, S (2011) Inside Amazon’s Warehouse, Of The Morning Call, 18th September http://www.mcall.com/news/local/amazon/mc- allentown -amazon -complaints -20110917 -story.html#page=1 9 “The joke in th e office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.” (Jason Merkoski, former Amazon Employee reported in NYT) The culture of voice and employee speak-up programmes, common among many leading firms to help generate ideas, has a somewhat sinister twist at Amazon. Employees are encouraged to criticise (even purposely undermine) co- workers using a HR policy called ‘anytime feedback’. Amazon’s leadership principles refer to being ‘ vocally self-critica l, even when it’s embarrassing’ (see box 1 principle 11). The Amazon rationale is that this will engender in- house staff competition. Reports suggest Amazon encourages conflict and debates , particularly over performance metrics so that ‘ there’s an incredible amount of challenging the other person,” 20 with ‘ feedback that can be blunt to the point of painful ’ 21 The undercurrent of bias for action and results also forms a significant and harrowing part of the critique. The NYT article talks of a woman being told to focus on her work after a miscarriage. Another employee is given a low performance rating because of time out for cancer treatment. The woman , a professional level manager who had breast cancer, was referred to a ‘performance improve ment plan’ which, internally, is known to mean that the person may be at risk of being fired. The cancer treated employee was informed that ‘ difficulties ’ in her ‘personal life had interfered with fulfilling her work goals ’. The performance ethic and fear of retribution is also clearly manifest at the top. A former Amazon employee referred to his former CEO as the ‘ Dread Pirate Bezos’, noting his mandates made workers ‘scramble like ants being pounded with a rubber mallet ’. 22 Just as Amazon obsess over customer analyt ics, so too it constantly measures employee effort via technological control and surveillance systems. In Amazon warehouses workers carry handheld devices which report their performance (timing and quantity) against specific targets. These devices can also receive incoming text messages from management telling workers to speed -up or to conduct additional tasks. 23 A disciplinary point -based system frames the work tasks as employees can accumulate points for poor work progress, not adhering to safety standards or uncertified absences. The same workers are subject to airport security like scrutiny on exiting the warehouses to prevent theft. Amazon is a metric driven 20 Manfred Bluemel, a former senior market researcher at Amazon reported in Anders (2012), no te 12. 21 Kantor, J. and Streitfeld, D. (2015) see note 9. 22 Anders (2012) see note 12. 23 O’Connor, s. (2012) Amazon unpacked, Financial Times , February 8, 2013. 10 organisation with professional workers subject to ‘ anxiety-provoking sessions called business reviews ’. These reviews can be based on 50 plus pages of results, with the N YT reporting that employees can be cold -called and questioned on any one aspect of their performance. C ommentators reflect that these are ‘burn -out’ practices which have bec ome embedded into Amazon’s work culture. T he NYT expose further reports on a ‘lock -in mechanism ’, which financially penalises any recent hire who exits the company within two years of being hired. With such negative media around its work culture, some sugg est Amazon may alter the way it does things. 24 Yet with strong financial results, it is questionable whether there is sufficient motive in the upper echelons of managerial control for any improved staff improvement c hange programmes. ‘ Meaningful ’ Perform ance: Does the end justify the means ? The sinister, manipulative and hard- hitting images reported in the NYT piece are less a new revelation than an observation of the contours of global neo-liberalism and market capitalism. Bezos was quick to deny the harsher commentary of working conditions noting ‘they don’t describe the Amazon I know ’’ 25 However, he was equally explicit in reinforcing that Amazon’s performance is underpinned an intensity for pushing a hard working culture and a focus a nd enhanced performance using competitive work models and high- tech practices. 26 According to the Amazon way, the logic is those who complain are simply disgruntled underperformers who just can’t do the job and don’t fit : thousands of ‘Amazonians’, claims Mr Bezos, are hap py and eager to stay and earn big bucks . Defenders of Amazon’s culture suggest that the evidence of the NYT expose is based on ‘rounding-up a 100 or so disgruntled employees (past and present) out of a workforce of 150,000’ . A current Amazon employee, Nick Ciubotariu, mounted a public defen ce of Am azon’s practices (see Box 2). 27 24 Liacas, T. (2015) ‘What will it take to make Amazon a great place to work?’, The Guardian, 1 8h of August 25 Price, R. (2015) ‘Jeff Bezos has responded to a report slamming Amazon’s working conditions’, Business Insider, August 27th 26 Scheiber, N. (2015) Work Policies May Be Kinder, but Brutal Competition Isn’t, New York Times , 17th of August 2015. 27 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians -response-inside-amazon -wrestling -big-ideas -nick-ciubotariu Box – 2: A n Amazonian ’s Defence ‘During my 18 months at Amazon, I’ve never worked a single weekend when I didn’t want to. No one tells me to work nights’ “ Our sheer size and complexity dwarfs everyone else, and not everyone is qualified to work here, or will rise to the challenge. But that doesn’t mean we’re Draconian or evil. Not everyone gets into Harvard, either, or graduates from there. Same principles apply”. “I also think teaching Amazon’s Leadership Principles to one’s children is kind of funny (my opinion only, if there are indeed Amazonians that do this )”. Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians -response-inside-amazon -wrestling -big-ideas -nick-ciubotariu 11 Amazon has an intense business model and has exerted its competitive muscle in a range of controversial domains including with respect to corporate taxation, legislation, pressure on supplie rs, and in power plays with publishers . Amazon’s own services such as ‘mechanical turk ’ 28, heralded as a ‘marketplace for work ’ which is known for perpetuating insecure, precarious and low paid work. 29 A further counter to the controlling cultur e of the Amazonian work experience is that such criticisms have not dented it’s phenomenal growth and rising value . In that context, it should not come as any surprise that negative scrutiny about the treatment of employees is of little concern to such a c orporate giant. Defenders of Amazon argue that i n contrast to those former employees who bemoan the culture there are plenty of others who thrive on the Amazon way. Indeed, management at Amazon claim that expectations about the nature of work are explicit , so that employees should have appropriately self-selected. One Senior Technical Program Manager , Nimisha , explained “ you either fit here or you don’t, you either love it or you don’t, there is no middle ground really” . 30 The argument goes that if Amazon’ s culture was founded on such extreme brutality they simply would not have any employees working for them. 31 In a statement to the Financial Times defending working conditions in its warehouses, Amazon noted both the reality and expectations of positions : “Some of the positions in our fulfilment centres are indeed physically demanding, and some associates may log between 7 and 15 miles walking per shift. We are clear about this in our job postings and during the screening process and, in fact, many associat es seek these positions as they enjoy the active nature of the work. Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee – managers, software developers, site merchandisers and fulfillment centre associates – and we measure actual performance against those expectations.” 32 28 https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome 29 https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome Crowdsourcing: Prof Deb ra Howcroft https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbcPeVIMzq8 30 ‘What is it like to work at Amazon: Go Beyond the Badge with Nimisha’, Inside Amazon , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWFxFBD8Qus 31 Price, R. (2015) ‘Jeff Bezos has responded to a report slamming Amazon’s working conditions’, August 27th 32 O’Connor, s. (2012) ‘Amazon unpacked’, Financial Times, February 8, 2013, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ed6a985c- 70bd- 11e2-85d0- 00144feab49a.html#slide0 12 The unitarist undertones re -emerge again and again in the discourse espoused by Amazon: ‘ if we put customers first, other stakeholders will also benefit ’. 33 The ideology belies that if the company is doing good, employees will be better off along with shareholders, too. Bezos is frequently praised for his effort s to dodge the short -termism that characterises the stock market. With outward facing customer analytics having proved so successful for the Amazon busine ss model, it may be argued that a logical corollary is to manage and control workers in the same way, using real -time performance tools and technologically -pervasive system of monitoring . Former HR E xecutive, Robin Andrulevich, suggests that ‘ purposeful Darwinism’ filters out underperformers : ‘they never could have done what the y’ve accomplished without that ’. 34 Amazon is an avidly anti -union company which has hired the services of anti -union consultants to fend off any attempts at collective worker represe ntations. 35 With respect to opportunities for those who are disgruntled or aggrieved, Amazon points to its regular team briefings and all hands meetings as domains where pressing issues could be brought to management attention. Be zos finished his public mem o advising staff that they could also contact him directly : “You can also email me directly at [email protected] amazon.com . Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero” . 36 Going forward: m eaningful or meaningless? Amazon is one of the few early internet companies that survived and eventually thrived. The company is renowned for its innovative zeal, track record of change , and for Bezo’ s grand ambitions. W hat emerges is a corporate culture that is determined, focussed and centred on its own ambitions and wealth. What is more questionable , however, is whether this neatly equates to a ‘ meaningful’ corporate model, commensurate with a ‘meaningful’ existence for Amazon’s 150,000 plus employees. With record growth it is unlikely that Bezos will introduce any dramatic changes in the way things are done or let up on the intensity of work pressure and exceptionally high performance demands. Indeed, investor and shareholder expectations for even greater massive returns may only serve to accentuate rather than alleviate current approaches and systems corporate governance at Amazon. With stock 33 Hansen et al., 2013 34 Kantor, J. and Streitfeld, D. (2015) 35 http://time.com/956/how -amazon-crushed-the-union-movement/ 36 Geekwire company memo Nicolaou, A, and Bullock, N. (2015) ‘Bumper holiday season sends Amazon soaring’, Financial Times, 30th December, http://www .ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9ec3e288 -ae5b-11e5 -993b- c425a3d2b65a.html#axzz3vqmXPyzG 13 market prices at an all -time high, a n unashamedly strong anti-union sentiment, and limited sco pe for labour resistance except , perhaps, through employee exit, it is questionable where the pressure for meaningful change will emanate from. Nonetheless, winds of potential change and/or resistance are not inevitable. Workers are not cultural dopes and know when they being duped by Mr Bezos or other Amazonian leaders. They may be a distinct power disadvantage, but they are not blind to the potential for collective mobilisation or protest. U nderlying challenges in people management issues may also surface as Amazon moves its business from ‘ clicks to bricks’. Its first physical store opened in Seattle’s university shopping mall in November, 2015. One suggestion is a physical store brings different managerial and cultural challenges when workers engage and build relationshi p directly with customers: the bricks format will enable ‘customers to experience the tension between front -of -house and back -of house as a kind of pleasure ’. 37 Evidently, with a more traditional mode of business Amazon’s staff will have direct interaction with customers so that any perceived staff grievances will be more directly and obviously manifest. There is little doubt that Amazon have brought about some leading inventions of the internet age, in part fuelled by workers who thrive on meeting huge challenges and demands whilst expending creative effort. As former Amazon executive and author of the ‘The Amazon Way’ John Rossman put it: ‘a lot of people who work there feel this tension: It’s the greatest place I hate to work’. 37 De Monchaux, T. (2015) ‘How Amazon’s bookstore soothes our anxieties about technology’, New Yorker , 22 nd of December, 2015 14 Tasks and Questions Yo u will be a llocated into four teams : • Team 3 will present (approx. 10- 15 mins) on questions 1 and 2. • Team 4 will present (approx. 10- 15 mins) on questions 3 and 4 • Team 1 will critique and debate T eam 3 answers. • Team 2 will do the same to Team 4 answers. Then idea is not to rigidly present and defend, but to stimulate a more rounded debate and discussion about what’s happening in the context of Amazon, and how these issues connect and inform the learning on the course (culture, ethics, leadership – among other aspects). Team 3 • Is Amazon a ‘meaningful’ and ‘ethical’ organisation’? (if so, based on what rationale; if not, why not). • In what ways do any of the Amazon leadership principles contradict one another? Team B 4 • Do the issues and conditions at Amazon lend weight or support to any models of ethical responsibility? (i f so which, and why) • Describe how corporate cultural and organisational sym bols can control employees? References and some additional r eadings Collinson, D. (2005), ‘Dialectics of leadership’ , Human Relations, 58(11): 1419- 1442. [shows the problems and meaningless of some leadership discourse]. Cullinane, N., & Dundon, T. (2013 ). Unitarism and employer resistance to trade unionism. International Journal of Human Resource Management , 25(8), 2573-2591 [unpacks concepts of unitarism] Cushen, J. (2013). Financialization in the workplace: Hegemonic narratives, performative interventi ons and the angry knowledge worker. Accounting, Organizations and Society , 38(4), 314-331 [explores the consequences of short -termism and the tensions that arise for knowledge workers] 15 Cushen, J., & Thompson, P. (2012). Doing the right thing? HRM and the a ngry knowledge worker. New Technology, Work and Employment, 27, 79- 92 [how leading company HR practices can have complex and often unintended consequences] Dobbins, T and Dundon, T (2016), ‘The chimera of sustainable labour -management partnership’, Britis h Journal of Management (doi: 10.1111/bjom.12128) (on -line early). [charts an understanding of Society, System and Dominance (SSD) theory relative to corporate change, participation and managerial control] Dundon, T., Harney, B., & Cullinane, N. (2010). D e-collectivism and managerial ideology: towards an understanding of trade union opposition. International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy , 4, 267-281. [velvet glove and iron fist approaches deployed by management to remain union free]. Dundon , T. and Dobbins, T. (2015), ‘Militant Partnership: a radical pluralist analysis of workforce dialectics’, Work, Employment and Society , 29(6): 912-931 [talks about undercurrent of worker agency as potential source of conflict, even in unusual work regimes predicated on cooperation and mutuality] Fleming, P. & Spicer, A. (2003), ‘Working at a cynical distance: implications for power, subjectivity and resistance’, Organization, 2003, 10, 157- 79. [post-structural meanings on subjectivity of agency and worker resistance]. Grugulis, I., Dundon, T., & Wilkinson, A. (2000). Cultural Control and the `Culture Manager’: Employment Practices in a consultancy. Work, Employment and Society , 14, 97-116 [explores cultural control for professional workers, including how co ntrol is extended beyond areas and boundaries of traditional employment contracts] Martin, R. (2010). The age of customer capitalism. Harvard Business Review, Jan -Feb, 58- 65 [value of focusing on customer as opposed to shareholders, ignores any implicatio ns of such for employees]. Bergvall -Kåreborn B, Howcroft D. (2014), ‘Amazon Mechanical Turk and the Commodification of Labour’, New Technology, Work & Employment 29(3):213- 223. [critiques Amazon’s mechanical turk system of creating a low paid work regime e xternally] Pollert, A & Charlwood, A. (2009), ‘The Vulnerable Worker in Britain and problems at work’, Work Employment and Society , 23 (2): 343 -362. [unpacks vulnerable and meaningless work experiences]. Smith, C. and Meiksins, P. (1995). ‘System, Society and Dominance Effects in Cross -National Organizational Analysis’, Work Employment and Society , 9, pp. 241-67. [offers theoretical insights into the application of SSD theoretical framework, labour process analysis and corporate governance]. Thompson, P. ( 2013). ‘Financialization and the workforce: extending and applying the disconnected capitalism thesis’, Work, Employment and Society , 27, 472-488. [advances theory of disconnected capitalism, showing managerial inertia and incapacity in face of changing so cial structures of accumulation]. Willmott, H. (1993), ‘Strength is ignorance; slavery is freedom: Managing culture in modern organizations, Journal of Management Studies , 30, 515-52. [the managerial colonisation of culture]. Zoller, H. M. & Fairhurst, G . T. (2007), ‘Resistance leadership: The overlooked potential in critical organization and leadership studies’, Human Relations , 60(9): 1331-1360 [leadership adaptions to resistance and dilemmas of agency].
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