How would you respond if your company culture was under attack?

After an incendiary New York Times article has the Internet buzzing about what sound like unrealistic expectations and harsh conditions at Amazon, its CEO is responding by saying the characterization isn’t accurate and he wouldn’t tolerate such management practices.

Some of the nightmare workplace scenarios put forward in the New York Times article published on Sunday? Emails after midnight that demand a response, followed by a text message. A phone directory that encourages faceless criticism reported to colleague’s bosses. The regular sight of grown adults weeping after leaving a business meeting.

On Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos responded by writing a letter to all of his staff, also covered in a follow-up article on the New York Times.

The New York Times article “claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t either,” Bezos wrote.

He went so far as to say that employees could contact him directly if they experienced the “shockingly callous management practices” described in the article.

In fact, there’s some of the good life available for Amazon’s workers. Perks for employees include a dog-friendly workplace and an on-site farmer’s market.

Some of Amazon’s guiding leadership principles are “have backbone, disagree, and commit.” Which differs from the more collaborative and less confrontational approaches exercised at other startups.

It seems that on the one hand, you have the sort of Silicon Valley startup culture that goes the extra mile to meet the expectations of a millennial workforce and retain talented and skilled professionals that are in high demand. On the other hand, there’s a culture that says we’re all grown ups and if no one is ever made to feel uncomfortable and sometimes challenged to defend their work, they’ll never meet their potential. Or of course you could go with the ‘Holocracy’ approach at Zappos and not have any management at all.

Which approach do you think is the right one to take? Or does it depend on the individual employee? Let us know in the comments below.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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