How happy and energized are you after working 15+ hours/day several months in a row?
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world with an estimated personal worth of $165 billion (give or take a billion) has opinions about employees who want a “work/life balance.”
I get asked about work-life balance all the time. And my view is, that’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off. And the reality is, if I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy.
It actually is a circle; it’s not a balance. And I think that is worth everybody paying attention to it. You never want to be that guy — and we all have a coworker who’s that person — who as soon as they come into a meeting they drain all the energy out of the room. You can just feel the energy go whoosh! You don’t want to be that guy. You want to come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step.
Jeff is right. Sort of. Nobody wants to be that guy, and if you’re happy at work you absolutely come home energized.
Problem is, it’s hard not to be that guy when you’ve worked 15+ hours/day several months in a row.
Over 440 reviews on Glassdoor specifically mentioned a lack of work-life balance in their Amazon careers.
A former senior software engineer in Seattle said that employees are doing “exciting work, but say goodbye to your life.”
“Extreme hours and horrible work-life balance. Be prepared to work a minimum of 12 hours everyday and up to 15-16 hours for months on end,” said a current area manager in Haslet, Texas, “Upper management doesn’t respect your work life balance and mandatory overtime is a constant thing.”
A current marketing manager within the company has said that staff can even be “expected to work on vacation.”
And the hours are just the beginning. The NY Times has addressed the company’s “bruising” churn and burn culture, and a February Business Insider story concluded that YMMV (Glassdoor ratings are up slightly, for instance, and some employees love the compensation, the intelligence of their co-workers and the opportunity to work remotely), but had no trouble finding evidence that Amazon is a … demanding … place to work.
A few snippets:
Bob Olson, a former Amazon Books Marketing employee, said then that “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Although the company says that it has made efforts to alter its “Hunger Games” review process, employees have said otherwise.
“Ultimately, you are going to fill your warehouses not with the best employees, but with the most cunning,” said a sortation associate in Philadelphia.
A former designer in Seattle posted that “many people there are very driven and will do whatever it takes to get ahead, including stomping on others.”
Although Amazon’s management staff scored a 3.4 out of 5 on Glassdoor’s reviews, there seems to be no shortage of complaints regarding the company’s upper-level employees.
“In 1863 Lincoln freed the slaves and in 1995 Jeff Bezos found a loophole,” said an account executive in Seattle.
“I have worked for some of the most notorious sadists in New York City, and none of them hold a candle to the managers that I have encountered during my year at Amazon,” they said.
Some employees have stated that the company is willing to condone malicious behavior for the sake of achieving results.
“Bullies thrive and are rewarded, while promotions are given to people taking credit for lower level employees’ work,” said an anonymous employee. “HR is never on your side and can provoke retaliation.”
An employee in Seattle said that “People are never penalized for being outright jerks, as no leadership principle pertains to that.”
So Jeff, in case you’re reading, when people talk about work/life balance, that’s code.
What they’re really saying is they don’t want to spend 12-15 hours a day having their souls sucked out their ears trying to navigate your sociopathic, people-are-disposable meat-grinder culture without killing someone. Specifically, someone who probably needs killing.
“Work/life balance” means they want a life and the fact this isn’t intuitively obvious to you hints at where the problem lies.