Jeff Bezos considers himself as the least important person at Amazon

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The founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos reportedly considers himself to be to be at the bottom of an inverted pyramid of importance within the Amazon organisation. The example is provided as part of staff induction when they start at the company and is presented by managers.

The claims come as an anonymous report in the Guardian that is highly critical of working conditions at Amazon. A warehouse worker in the United States says that Jeff Bezos considers customers and workers in fulfilment centres to be more vital to the organisation than he is. They represent the longer side of the pyramid and he is at the point at the very bottom. You can read the Guardian post here.

It was my first day as a seasonal Amazon worker, hired just prior to peak season. Our site operations manager was like many Amazon managers: an ex-military white male, in his late 40s and wearing straight-fit jeans and a T-shirt with “Amazon Military” emblazoned on the front. He drew a line alongside an inverted pyramid, writing “least important” on the bottom and “most important” higher up, with the word “customer” scrawled along the very top.
– Anonymous Amazon staffer in the Guardian

The piece, which is passionate and peppered with strong language, talks about how the author considers people working at Amazon to simply be extensions of the machines with deliberate attempts to dehumanise workings in action by management.

Jeff Bezos, who is the richest man in the world, is famous for making unusual claims regarding the Amazon business. He has said recently that he considers it inevitable that Amazon will eventually fail, as many businesses do and may only persist for another 30 years. He is also famous for frequently saying that every day is Day One at Amazon as the organisation must start anew every day with innovation and focus.

11 Responses

  1. I can relate to that….

    I don’t know whatever it is true on Amazon or not BUT in my business, I also think that my employees are more important than me. I mean – ok, as a business owner all the planning, risk-taking etc. is on me BUT what’s the point in all of that IF there’s no one to execute those tasks/jobs?

    And just like Jeff, I started out doing everything on my own – this includes packing & shipping orders, writing boring texts for link building (back in the day when article directories were powerhouses) and so on. I know how hard AND important those basic tasks are. Jeff knows it too, and that’s why the principle covered in that article could be genuine.

    In my mind – this is precisely why best managers are people who have started from the very bottom. Besides knowing the ins and outs of day to day technical operations, on a more human level, they simply GET IT. They will always appreciate the work of an order picker or data entry person.

  2. I have to agree with Andrew… to truely become a good manager you must first do the jobs that you are asking others to do!
    Way way back in my younger years (!) I had a great manager who told me that a business was like a mechanical clock. There are big cogs and little cogs and all the sizes inbetween. Each one represented a level of staff. Remove any one and the clock simply stops. So never forget that the cleaner is just as important as Director. Stop cleaning the toilets etc and see how quickly it sets in motion a series of events that quickly affects the running of the whole business!
    Sadly far too many managers consider themself far too important and see lower staff as disposable. These are normally in the stores that have a high turn over of staff which always hit productivity!

  3. As any Amazon seller knows – third party merchants are the lowest of the low and I imagine don’t even appear in the amazon ‘inverted pyramid’. Instead we are generally on the receiving end of the sharp pointy end of said pyramid without care or interest as to the damage it may cause to our businesses.

  4. We actually have Poor Managers in the UK. Many are asking people to do a job THEY cannot do themselves.
    It is a while since I managed staff, but when I did I had started from scratch myself, ended up with 30 staff under me, many of them I had to train from scratch, staff knew their jobs, and their WELFARE was taken care off, I got paid more to deal with the one above me.
    Then you see the company go down the eg. “graduate” route, and then it all falls apart, staff are not trained and are put under to much pressure, all so the poor manager can tick boxes, so the manager above them can TICK more boxes.
    Simply put Middle Managers are POOR they tick boxes and are not concerned about their workers welfare and it DOES stem from the TOP so the likes of JEFF can keep making his billions.

  5. TO JAMES: I was merely replying to Hannah’s statement and shared my personal experience.

    I didn’t say there are no problems with Amazon. I said that I haven’t personally experienced things Hannah describe (“third party merchants are the lowest of the low”, “we are generally on the receiving end of the sharp pointy”.

    I have never felt that way when dealing with Amazon. Yes, their support sometimes is difficult to work with, mostly due to the language barrier but often than that, I have received help & support on issues. And I’m not making this up – I have documented several such cases in my blog posts.

    I don’t agree that sharing my experience and opinion on a matter makes me a dishonest person (your words). But I won’t get into more arguments here as it’s pointless.

  6. “Jeff Bezos considers himself as the least important person at Amazon”
    Pah!
    let me see the wage structure!
    Yup, just as i thought, the pyramid is exactly the shape you would expect a pyramid to be, with Bezo’s grinning face on the capstone.

    to paraphrase the other James “You’re a dishonest person Jeff Bezos”
    if you genuinely considered they were worth more than you, you would pay them more than you, because it makes sense to place more value on the most important things.

  7. yeah $81k in “wages”, $2 million for “security consulting”.
    totally makes the case for his forthright honesty.
    share options also count as renumeration.

    and with the exception that bezo’s has all the shares, so doesn’t take more,
    his CEO’s and chairmen are all right up the top of the pyramid too.
    i don’t think any of his warehouse staff are worth a trillion dollars.
    I don’t see him offering his packers $2million for after-dinner banter.

    Now that’s all fine and dandy, i don’t expect an inverted pyramid wage structure at most companies, it generally doesn’t make sense.
    but for the world’s richest man to stand there and say “i’m the least important person in my company” when his floor staff are treated like robots, makes me want to slap his smug, lying face.

    anyone can open their mouth and let lies fall out, show me where the money is and i’ll tell you if i believe you or not. in this case not.

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