Organizational Theories and Amazon

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According to Kantor and Streifield (2015), Amazon is one of the mostsuccessful retail businesses in the USA. The company offerscompetitive remuneration and other hefty packages for its employees.However, as the authors note, the working conditions at Amazon areextremely tough. The rate of turnover is abnormally high because thecompany runs a system that “manages out” the least performingemployees. The company recruits annually and the proportion ofemployees that have stayed at the company for over 5 years is apaltry 15%. At Amazon, nobody is safe from relegation. Amazonencourages a competitive work atmosphere that is full of rivalries.This essay seeks to use some organizational theories learned in classto solve Amazon’s problems.

1. Poor employee relationships

According to the Human Relations Management Theory, employees’productivity is in most cases dependent on the way the managementtreats them, and encourages them to work (Hackman &amp Oldham,1999). People tend to be more productive when they are in asupportive environment, and form relationships between them.According to the theory by Prof. Elton Mayo, when employees buildrelationships with each other they form a supportive environment atthe workplace (Hackman &amp Oldham, 1999). In addition, when senioremployees increase their attention on junior employees theirmotivation to work increases because they feel that theircontribution is significant.

This theory could be very useful at Amazon considering the pooremployee relationships at the company. The employees do not work as ateam, but rather compete with each other to ensure that they come topof their working group. During meetings, employees make bluntcomments towards each other’s suggestions in total disregard of theother party’s feelings. As one former employee said, the harshenvironment discourages other employees to come up with newsuggestions. Some employees also gang up against their colleagues toensure they get negative feedback. The main motivating factor forAmazon employees is the fear of losing their job if theyunderperform.

This theory would help improve the employee relations at Amazon, andconsequently, increase the motivation to work. A supportiveenvironment would make Amazon a fun place to work and maybe reduce onthe incidences of ulcers and depression as revealed by some of itsformer employees. Currently, employees work because they have to andnot because they enjoy working at the company.

2. Lack of an environment that supports individuality andCreativity

The environment at Amazon comprises of a strict set of rules thatprescribes how employees should handle themselves (Kantor &ampStretfield, 2015). The company has a booklet that dictates how theemployees are required to behave. The company’s mission statementand core values feature in the day- to –day conversations of theemployees. Although the company insists on innovation as the pinnacleof employee performance, the methods used to achieve it are contraryto the human Resources theory.

According to the Human Resources Theory (Muller, 2007), employersneed to create a conducive environment to encourage personalbrilliance and creativity among the employees. The type ofenvironment at Amazon does not encourage any of the aforementionedaspects. Employees tear apart each other’s ideas during meetings intotal disregard of the constructive criticism ideology. Innovators ofnew ideas that later turn out to be a flop, are shown the door. Inretrospect, group leaders that do not come up with good innovationsare also managed out at the end of the year. In a nutshell, Amazonforces employees to innovate new ideas and punishes them for thesame.

The first step that managers can take to create a conduciveenvironment for individual brilliance and creativity is to stop theculture of tearing each other apart because of their ideas. Such aculture only works to demoralize employees from coming up with newideas. Overworking employees and subjecting them to a system ofstatistics turns them to robots that cannot think on their own.Introducing humane practices such as paid paternity leave, sickleaves and considerable allocation of tasks for lactating motherswill go along in creating an enabling environment.

3. Authoritarian management style.

The managers at Amazon aim to instill fear and demand respect. Aformer employee describes how a manager called him to his office andgave him a thirty-minute lecture regarding all the mistakes he hadcommitted and skills he had not mastered. Surprisingly, he wasawarded a promotion immediately after the castigation. One does nothelp but think that the manager just wanted to show him who is theboss. Former employees also give accounts of when managers sabotagedweaker members of the group to ensure that they came last andtherefore, get fired at the end of the year.

Using McGregor’s XY theory, the management at Amazon uses the Xmanagement style. In this management style, the average employeehates his or her work, avoids extra responsibility, prefers to bedirected and is relatively unambitious. In addition, the primaryinstinct of the employees is to survive at the work place andmanagers use the threat of punishment to achieve company goals(Kopelman et al, 2008). The survival instinct is responsible for theback- stabbings, work gangs and following orders like robots amongthe Amazon employees.

The managers should adopt the theory Y management style (Kopelman etal, 2008). They should make the work enjoyable and not the tediousventure it already is. They should encourage self- direction withoutusing threats of punishment. The work environment should be in such amanner that employees embrace responsibility happily, they exercisetheir power of creativity and their intellectual potential is whollyutilized.

4. Competitive organizational culture

When recruits arrive at Amazon, they are asked to forget the poorhabits they learned in previous work places during their orientation.They learn to recite the company’s goals and objectives. Mostimportantly, they get initiated to the organizational culture ofAmazon.

According to the organizational socialization concept, newcomerswill behave like the natives in order to fit in (Maanen &amp Schein,1999). They will start working all the time, tearing down otherpeople’s ideas, and encouraging new mothers to take lighter dutiesor quit the job. In no time, they become competitive and do not careabout teamwork. Before they know it, they have turned into zombieswith no social life because they work 12 hours every day of the week.

Organizational socialization works to the detriment of Amazon becauseit initiates new employees to the culture of backstabbing andcompetitiveness. New employees learn that teamwork is not importantat Amazon.


Although Amazon is one of the most profitable companies in the USA,its work environment is not conducive for human resource development.The employees have poor work relations among themselves due to thecompetitive nature of the company. The company also lacks a conduciveenvironment that encourages employees’creativity. The managementstyle is more authoritarian than inclusive. Managers threaten theemployees with dismissal in a bid to achieve company. Sadly enough,new employees get initiated to this anti- social culture the momentthey set foot in the company.


Hackman, J.R., Oldham G.R., (1999). Motivation through the design ofwork: test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human 16(2)

Kantor, J., Streitfeld, D., (2015). Inside Amazon: Wrestling BigIdeas in a Bruising Workplace. Business Daily, Retrieved from,&lt

Kopelman R.E., Prottas, D.J., Davis, A.L. (2008). Douglas McGregor`sTheory X and Y: Toward a Construct-valid Measure. Journal ofManagerial Issues 20 (2)

Maanen, J., Schein, E., (1999). Toward a theory of organizationalsocialization. New York, Oxford University Press.

Mueller, F., (2007). Human resources as Strategic assets. Journalof management studies: 33(6) 757- 769

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