Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Amazon isn't alone, this is how we work now

If you've been in the workforce for the past decade or so you may have noticed subtle changes.  Sure it takes hard work and sacrifice to get to the top but does it feel like all that effort has left you just spinning your wheels?

It's no secret that we're all working harder and getting less for it.  Less pay, less benefits and less free time.  The old adage was that work was its own reward but the guy who came up with that didn't have a mortgage or a dwindling 401K to worry about.

He also had his weekends...

Consequently, it's no surprise that we find today's workplace increasingly demands more than just a job well done, it demands a lifestyle commitment.

As in your job is your life.  

So what? That's work and that's how it's always been.

Except it hasn't...

Where the baby boomers may have had a reasonable expectation of a shiny pot of gold at the end of their career rainbow those that came after found themselves without a pot to...well you know...

Without falling into the trap of every succeeding generation blaming its predecessor, the point is that the endgame has changed.

While we hear a lot of lip service about work/life balance and the importance of family it seems such things are at odds with expectations of the average worker in today's corporate culture.

So is it any surprise that when the NewYork Times peeled back the curtain of Amazon's corporate culture they found more in common with the Kremlin than KMart.

Horrific stories like...

"A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals." NYTimes


"Amazon came under fire in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse toiled in more than 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away laborers as they fell." NYTimes

If these were but a few isolated incidents they could be excused but it appears that rather than the exception, they're the rule...

"At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.)" NYTimes

None of this shakes the Wall Street Glitterati though...

"I envision all investors saying 'Great,'" (Jim) Cramer said Monday. "Do I want to work at amazon? No. If you want to play your money with companies that only treat their employees well and do everything right, it's harder than you think to find." CNBC

Which has to be the most stunning display of cognitive dissonance (one of my favorite phrases) since Bernie Madoff uttered this 2007 quote, 
"It's virtually impossible to violate rules in today's regulatory environment"

Of course Wall street loves this stuff.  We all know that nothing will raise a share price faster than pulling the rug out from under workaday America.  So it was with Amazon the following Monday after the New York Times expose'.  Amazon's share price was effectively unchanged.

Which is strange because for all the conservative admonitions about self reliance and the glories of capitalism Wall Street heaps praise upon companies that have effectively adopted management based on communism.


That any company can be celebrated for a institutionalized policy of devaluing people should be cause for outrage.  But there's that cognitive dissonance again.  So long as Wall street gets its money nobody really cares how it got there or who gets  hurt.

Think it's OK to throw a little Chairman Mao in with your capitalism?  Consider how relatively backward communist nations were before they embraced some form of capitalistic markets.  China wasn't known for anything but making cheap knockoffs of American goods.  The Soviet Union couldn't make a decent car and Cuba might as well have thrown out the calendars after 1962.

Creativity, innovation and progress are not born out of repression and abuse.  These days, however, no matter where you work you will suffer it in some measure.

Your choices are to literally be a "Wage Slave" or strike out on your own.  Of course if whatever shingle you hang happens to threaten one of those places you choose NOT to work for, expect to be crushed. 

Ask Barnes and Noble how that feels...

Let's bring back the America we were sold.  The one where hard work was rewarded and CEO's didn't look to Chairman Mao for guidance.  Let's get the Labor Department to actually do something other than print lunchroom posters and spit out manufactured statistics for the crystal ball prognosticators on CNBC.

How far have we really progressed over the past two generations when wages remain stagnant, women are still underpaid and companies blatantly abuse their workforce without consequence? 

We need real progress, not just some dumb commercial of waving wheat fields complete with proclamations of America's greatness on Bloomberg.

There's only one way to do it, make them fail and to hell with what Wall Street thinks.  There are other places to buy crap that aren't, other retailers that don't have "Walmart" over their doors and other phones that don't have an Apple Logo on them.