Allegations of Amazon’s “bruising” workplace practices hit the headlines

Amazon has hit the headlines. It is alleged that the most valuable retailer in the US has a management culture of “bruising” workplace practices. A recent New York Times article stated that Jeff Bezos, the founder, believes that “harmony is often overvalued in the workplace – that it can stifle honest critique and encourage praise for flawed ideas.” So instead, the organisation instructs its workforce to “disagree and commit – to rip into colleagues’ ideas, with feedback that can be blunt to the point of painful, before lining up behind a decision.”

I don’t know the full story, and I am sure it is much more complicated than what the media is portraying. However, as someone who works in an organisation that promotes workplace mediation and conflict management as part of perpetuating a culture of healthy workplace relations, the Amazon story is particularly interesting. I agree that honest critique is fundamental. But I believe that it has to be delivered in a way that is not bruising nor painful. Disagreement and conflict are important, but only if constructive.

What clients strive for when they ask us to support them with workplace mediation or conflict management services, is to create a culture where openness and honesty are valued, where people feel they are treated fairly and where they have a voice, and also where they are able to enjoy their jobs. This, we find, leads to increased staff motivation and morale, as well as a more creative, friendly and efficient workplace. We know from experience that this will have a positive impact on the bottom line.

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