I tried to imagine what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos might be feeling as he scripted his response to last weekend’s New York Times article titled, Inside Amazon: wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace which describes a workplace filled with brutalized employees, where crying on the job is commonplace and people’s personal problems are viewed as inconveniences which should not be allowed to distract from the company’s goals. The closest thing I could come to imagining what he might have been feeling is the emotion that a parent feels when they get a call from a principal or teacher who has decided to label their kid as a lost cause, a bad seed or a failure.
When that happens, a lot of parents go straight to denial and demonization, pointing fingers back in defense of their kid. Given the emotional investment that Bezos and scores of other company leaders must have when it comes to Amazon’s employee culture, it wouldn’t be surprising for company leadership to circle the wagons, revert to damage control and try to control the conversation going forward.
As I read through the articles which talked about how Bezos (and Amazon) is responding, in the media and within the company, I looked for clues as to whether the accusations have real merit, and for responses that would indicate that Amazon is just as concerned with its relationships with its internal customers as it is customer-obsessed on the outside. What I found were several components of brand reputation management that seem to indicate that Amazon and its CEO are both getting it right.
4 Things to Like About Amazon CEO Bezos’ Approach to Reputation Management
Willingness to Take a Hit
When I see a manager that would rather take a hit than hide a problem, I see the type of boss I most like to work for. One of the first ways that Jeff Bezos’ is choosing to respond to the accusations about Amazon’s company culture is to open the door for anyone who is experiencing a problem to make it known. Furthermore, rather than directing all inquiries to HR or a committee, he is making himself personally available – and personally accountable – by inviting employees to contact him directly.
How many times have you seen company CEO’s come out in full-on denial mode when accusations are leveled against their company or it’s practices, only to later find out that they didn’t know what they didn’t know. While Bezos’ says that he hopes that the reporter has it wrong, he is open to the possibility that there are serious problems throughout or in pockets of the organizational culture that bear closer scrutiny.
Prepared to Take Action
Bezos’ is putting his own reputation on the line by stating that where employees are experiencing negativity like that described in the article, “Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.” A zero tolerance policy and an open invitation for employees to bring attention to problems within their workspace, team, department or the company as a whole means that Amazon is prepared to take action where it is warranted.
Trusting the Process – and the People Who Work There
Though invited to be interviewed by the New York Times as part of the original article, Bezos instead made several executives available for the interview (there’s no record of how many executives were interviewed by the reporter). Rather than try to control the article’s content initially or instinctively batten down the hatches after its publication, Bezos’ open response demonstrates that he trusts the process and the people who work for Amazon.
Elizabeth Kraus is the author of the 2015 Small Business Marketing Calendar, featuring 12 Marketing Ideas Your Mom Would Hate with hundreds of ideas that can help better lead and grow your own small business.