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A Toxic Workplace

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If the veracity of an article can be trusted, pressure, stress, and job insecurity form the foundation on which Amazon is built. In its quest to become the company where people can discover anything they want online, employees are encouraged to work well after midnight; complain at slow responses regardless of the time of day (or night); bicker and argue in meetings to poke holes in any suggestion; and rat one another out. The corporate philosophy permeates every level of the organization, and it ignores all that gets preached and practiced as good management these days.

Over one hundred former employees provided information on the article, providing such personal accounts of grown men crying as they exited meetings. Each month, employees must justify their performance on a variety of metrics, with the bottom performers culled.

What results is a ruthlessly competitive environment. It has been called "rank and yank," which alludes to ranking the performance of employees and yanking the least productive. And evidence in other organizations demonstrates that such a system sows distrust. After all, if colleagues are likely to stab you in the back, teamwork and knowledge sharing get thrown under the bus.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, quickly responded to the article, explaining that the environment at Amazon is friendly but intense. He explained that he couldn't recognize the toxic workplace portrayed in the article, and doubted any tech company could survive, let alone thrive, with such practices. He concluded that callous management practices would not be tolerated.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. A company's work environment should be supportive.
  2. The turnover rate of employees isn't very important.
  3. Money and stock options are the best employee motivators.
  4. I would want to work for an international company like Amazon or Apple.
  5. I would want to start my own company someday.

Fragments: Remember how the fragments were used, and complete the sentence from today's article.

  1. If the veracity of an article can be trusted...
  2. Each month, employees must justify their performance on...
  3. And evidence in other organizations demonstrates that...
  4. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, quickly responded to the article, explaining...
  5. He concluded that callous management practices...

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. If the article were true, why would anyone want to work in such an environment?
  2. Would you want to work at a company like Amazon? Why/not?
  3. What is the best place you have ever worked at? How about the worst place? Why?
  4. Who is the best manager you have worked for? How about the worst manager? Please explain.
  5. What are some ideas and practices to create a positive, supportive environment?

Google Search: Type "work environment" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

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