Why I’m Quitting Amazon - Workers of the World Unite!

Amazon's workplace practices practically gave ME an ulcer!

Posted Aug 18, 2015

August 18, 2015

Just reading about how Amazon’s workplace caused one worker to get an ulcer practically gave me an ulcer myself.  (Yes, I know bacteria cause ulcers not stress per se - but still!)  Even worse than her story were stories of others who were put on performance reviews, edged out, or unfairly evaluated after having miscarriages, cancer or other ailments.

One ex-employee’s fiancé became so concerned about her nonstop working night after night that he would drive to the Amazon campus at 10 p.m. and dial her cellphone until she agreed to come home. When they took a vacation to Florida, she spent every day at Starbucks using the wireless connection to get work done.  “That’s when the ulcer started,” she said.

Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld’s article (Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace) in the New York Times this weekend grabbed national headlines and airtime on all the major networks.  Most disturbing to me was the apparent harsh treatment of employees with illnesses, children or other life needs.  Out of solidarity with those workers, and others who suffer psychologically and physically from abusive workplaces, I'm boycotting Amazon and making my e-books free on my website.

“When you have so much turnover, the risk is that people are seen as fungible. You know that tomorrow you’re going to look around and some people are going to have left the company or been managed out.”

Tech companies are garnering attention as high-profit sweatshops.  Not only Amazon, but a whole host of Silicon Valley-type startups and giants coast-to-coast are aiming high at the bottom line, so to speak.  Their motto is “disruption”, and their high-risk, high-reward ethos is shaping commerce, and likely spilling over into other industries and organizations.  Not only engineers, but everyone in the supply chain seems pushed to the limit to provide gizmos and apps to a seemingly insatiable and craving public.  I keep asking myself “how much do we really need?” and “at what environmental and human cost?”

Spin doctors started spinning.  I guffawed as the NBC News correspondent seemed to dismiss the claims of abuse as she shook pom-poms for the ultra-competitive, achievement oriented atmosphere that Jeff Bezos has put in place.

Working hard and having high expectations are well and good – but it seems there’s a fallout from “churn and burn” policies.  While there’s something to be said for an intense environment where quality is king, it can be undeniably toxic.  

The question for us as consumers and citizens is “at what price convenience?”  Are we willing to support bad environments for the sake of cheaper products delivered more quickly?  Is that the necessary cost for our lifestyle?

My sense is that the more we support toxicity, the more toxicity will proliferate. This goes for every environment I can think of, from the military to health care to foreign policy.

I haven’t shopped on Amazon for quite some time. 

And while I benefited from Amazon technology, self-publishing two books on their platform, I’ve now decided to offer those books for free on my website.  “A fox peeks out – poems” (winner of an Honorable Mention in the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival), and “Asian American Anger – It’s a Thing!” (a collection of essays and poetry about anger in the Asian American community) are now available at www.RaviChandraMD.com in multiple formats for your reading ease.  Click here:  http://www.ravichandramd.com/Ravi_Chandra,_M.D._Writer/Books,_etc..html

Daniel Goleman has written extensively about emotional intelligence.  (See Primal Leadership and What Makes a Leader? at the Harvard Business Review.)  From his research, the key ingredients for personal and corporate success are the components of EI:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.  EI, more than a threshold of IQ and competency, is responsible for success and corporate value.  These skills can be cultivated.  I think our deepest wish is for love, belonging and acceptance, not self-centered competition that ignores human needs.  We each have a responsibility to promote the values we cherish, and to "be the change we wish to see in the world."  We all depend on each other upholding a social contract and furthering our commitment to one another; it is the only way the world improves.  

What, you mean it's not one-hour delivery? :) Actually, maybe patience and contentment are the anti-"Amazonian" values that are being challenged most in this technological age.

I look forward to your comments about my writing!


UPDATE:  Clinical Psychiatry News published my thoughts on treating patients caught in difficult workplaces.

(c) 2015, Ravi Chandra, M.D. F.A.P.A

Occasional Newsletter to find out about my book-in-progress on the psychology of social networks through a Buddhist lens, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks: www.RaviChandraMD.com
Private Practice:  www.sfpsychiatry.com
Twitter:  @going2peace  
Facebook:  Sangha Francisco-The Pacific Heart 
For info on books and books in progress, see here https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/ravi-chandra-md and www.RaviChandraMD.com

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