Digital Growth Demands Digital Leadership
Although this past year has been challenging in many ways, certain digital companies have thrived with technological and environmental advancements that fit the unfortunate circumstances people were going through during the COVID-19 pandemic. A company that I chose to focus on which has had challenges, along with many successes within the past year is Amazon. The pandemic forced Amazon to adapt in how they do business, as stated by CEO Jeff Bezos when the coronavirus first upended Amazon’s operations. The current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business. And what came from this durability within Amazon’s operations was a record performance in 2020 with annual revenue up 38% to $386 billion, a yearly increase of over $100 billion. Net profit for Amazon was up 84% for the year as compared to last year.
Although the success stories of Amazon throughout the past year and into the current year have been widely shared, there have been challenges that the company has faced as well. One challenge that I would like to specifically focus on is the company dealing with issues of unionization and worker conditions in its expansion over the past year. The media portrayed the working conditions at Amazon to be very poor, saying that employees don’t even get bathroom breaks. Jeff Bezos came out with a statement that defended both himself and his company by saying that these news reports about how Amazon employees are treated are inaccurate, as well he highlighted the informal break time that employees are able to take during their shifts to “stretch, get water, use the restroom, or talk to a manager,” which are in addition to a lunch break and other break workers get during their shifts. After reading this I felt that Bezos handled the situation correctly. Another rumor that Bezos handled professionally is when he pushed back against the notion that employees are held to unachievable performance goals, which was a main theme in the union push. Bezos used both logos and ethos to help him resolve these claims that turned into public issues as he used his credibility and proof of what is actually happening at Amazon factories to regain the trust of the general public.
Although Bezos seemed to have subsided the issue there will evidently be continuing rumors about uniziation and poor treatment of employees. However, after a recent vote in Bessemer, Alabama to form a union or not, the majority overwhelmingly voted to not form a union. Meaning that the employees of Amazon still believe in the direct leadership of upper managers and Bezos specifically. In relation to this Bezos was asked “Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t,” Bezos responded. He continued to say that “I think we need to do a better job for our employees”. While the voting results were lopsided and the direct relationship with Amazon employees is strong from Bezos’ perspective, it’s clear to him that they need a better vision for how we create value for employees, a vision for their success.
I truly believe that the response from Jeff Bezos was incredibly effective in this case. He defended himself and his brand while representing his employees and their values with respect. He admitted that Amazon can work to be a better place for employees to work but put aside any rumors with false claims about poor working conditions. In this case, I think that larger companies can definitely learn from this situation that Amazon dealt with. Through Amazon’s situation, they will be able to see that if employees are unsatisfied with their working conditions or respect they are given, issues will occur. Other leaders similar to the position Bezos is in will be able to take away how to respond to crises in an appropriate manner while keeping the brand profile the top of their priority.