Why NYTIMES x Amazon is a Great PR War

Before anything else, let me state very clearly, as a customer: no company ever provided me a service that comes close to Amazon’s. So if you are an Amazon employee reading this, please consider this a praise for YOU. All systems and algorithms on the planet cannot account for the level of service you provide. That requires deep human commitment.

While reading the texts of Jay Carney [here] and Dean Banket [writing on behalf of NYTCo Communications, here], I fell compelled to share my take about it, for I’m in a somewhat privileged position:

1. I’m a voracious reader, hence a customer of Amazon for many years, long before Amazon Brazil started its operations. So the bulk of my experience is with Amazon US; and it is, as a customer, an absolutely flawless; pristine, spotless experience.

2. I’ve worked for the biggest advertising agencies and communications groups of Brazil for 25 years, in deep contact with the corporate and work culture of literally hundreds of the biggest global brands and companies that runs business here.

3. I write a weekly column for The São Paulo Times, an online newspaper in Brazil's Largest City that has content agreements with The New York Times — which, obviously, is also one of my main reads for basically the last 20 years.

4. I am currently a Coach and Consultant in the field of organizational well-being; having worked for some big organizations; including a large University in the city of São Paulo. And, finally,

5. As an author I’ve published 3 editions thru KDP, Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform, and 2 editions using Createspace, Amazon’s Company providing on-demand print copies. So I’m also in a way an Amazon partner in business, having received royalty payments from them. And in that aspect, too, in my experience Amazon has been equally flawless, pristine and spotless.

So it’s from this advantage point of view that I allow myself to comment on the exchange that took place here on Medium.com, after started by the NY Times cover piece on how Amazon’s treats its employees.

The first reason why it’s great that such article, and the following debates spread all over: it’s clear from all the texts that Amazon executives (or at least its' VP) know exactly why it’s work policies are being the controversial topic in front page news, and also clear they knew it from the start; because it’s probably, at the very least, a bit harsh corporate culture and work ethic. And Amazon executives are fully, completely aware of that. As much as Apple executives are, for that matter. But while some procedures delivers perfectly fine business results, its hard to be the one to question them from the inside; at least until some external source raises the right questions.

The second reason why this is all good is: Amazon employees are, with great probability, facing mixed feelings. On one hand many of them are rightfully very proud of their achievements. On the other, many of them are, undoubtly, as it comes out very clear on the article, experiencing in their routine of work something akin to “Stockholm Syndrome”. Please note that I’m not saying Amazon behaves like a kidnapper, obviously. This is a phenomenon exceedingly common in many organizations yet today. It’s a psychological trait, and this is just the name of the condition. Also, if you work for Amazon, know that the very first confirmation symptom is that you are unable to perceive it. Fact behind the scary name is just that: as you develop long relations in a condition of immersion; in a sense being severed from outer reality (in the sense of the proportion of hours of immersion versus not-immersed hours), you become numb to local idiosyncrasies and tend to relate to the needs around you, even if they are sometimes contrary to your personal well-being. I’ve seen it happen in many organizations, and the reason is extremely simple: most workers work in one place for years. During that long and intense immersion, they usually are not daily exposed to multiple corporate cultures or work ethics; they are daily exposed to the very same one. This is the main reason why many parents wake up one day to “suddenly” discover they missed the last three presentations of their kids at school. Sure they would not think or declare this as OK. But, immersed in that environment, surrounded by other individuals that are also live under the “syndrome”, they simply can’t see it, and end up confusing corporate priorities for their own and only personal ones. So that’s when having worked in agencies and communication corporations for 25 years really makes a difference: I’ve been exposed to; and had to understand and get somewhat “immersed” (even if in no way similar to that of regular workers; hence avoiding the “syndrome”) to a new and different corporate culture and work ethic basically twice a month. So it’s a great wake up call, all the way from VPs to ground floor at Amazon. Look out: it’s your life; your own clocks are ticking.

Third: for all that I see as evidence on this exchange of very well articulated communications from both sides, I think I can say, with a great deal of certainty, that this event will have an important impact over Amazon. As the saying goes, now “the cat is out of the bag”, there’s no turning back. Everyone in Seattle knows absolutely well that this subject will not go away quietly into the night. In fact, the only possibly “tragic” scenario now is for them to refuse to do something about it. This may be not happen under full public eye; it may be treated as “inside affairs”, but it seem far too obvious that they are very aware of what will, surely, happen if they don’t act, and fast: it will hurt their own employees performance, and become an ugly spot on an otherwise shining brand.

In fact, this even poses a unique window of opportunity for Amazon to turn the tables and become a reference in the treatment of its employees; under the public eye. If this is properly conducted by sensible professionals, can become a major PR victory, enhance brand value; and bring down job rotation statistics. All these achievements would stay mcuh longer than any possible "win" of this PR battle against the NYTimes. That would just vanish and be completely forgotten in no-time.

More important than anything else: such an attitude would show that Amazon, a company that profits mainly from human endeavors, art, writing and the best of human thinking; also respects humans exactly the same once they are on its payroll. I wish them wit and intelligence to be inspired by this challenge and to show that, besides some of the best brains in business, they also have great human hearts.

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