I’m all for motivating folks, and making them want to succeed. I believe in positive reinforcement, as well as rewarding hard working people for great ideas that make a company perform better. I’ve worked for some good companies that treat their employees like family and I’ve worked for some really bad companies that treat their employees like worthless peons.
Over a decade ago, when we started hiring people for our company, BookLocker.com, we vowed to be one of the good guys, and to remain one of the good guys no matter how successful we became. We also chose to remain small, meaning we would not bring in (greedy) investors who might try to change our business methods and ethical standards just to make a buck.
We treat employees, contractors (book designers and freelance writers), and customers (authors and book buyers alike) the way we want to be treated…the way they deserve to be treated. Through WritersWeekly, we pay our writers fast – faster than anyone else in the industry. We either send money immediately via PayPal, or we mail a check to those who prefer that method. We pay our contractors (book interior and cover designers/formatters/ebook conversion specialists) with the same speed and methods. We pay our authors monthly via PayPal if their unpaid royalties/commissions are $40 or more. For our employees, we pay good wages and offer full medical, dental and life benefits. We also offer paid vacation, sick, and personal days. Our employees are on flex-time, and telecommute so they can be there for their children.
Family is first and we continually remind our employees and contractors of that. If a child is sick, that book formatting job can wait until tomorrow. Nothing is more important than the children. The same goes for other loved ones who may need our employees’ or contractors’ attention and care.
If someone works hard for us, we are very happy to work hard for them. It’s far easier to keep a good employee than to find a new one (that may or may not be good). And, of course, training a new employee can take weeks or months.
So, the New York Times article that was published about Amazon this week made me sick to my stomach. First, how can a company (allegedly) treat human beings that way? Second, why on Earth do people allow themselves to be treated in that fashion?
Amazon has apparently denied some or all of these allegations but, of course, this isn’t the first time Amazon employees have reported improper treatment.
Aside from the ridiculous (alleged) working hour requirements, the quotes below are, in my opinion, the most disturbing allegations in the (very long) article:
(A) woman who had thyroid cancer was given a low performance rating after she returned from treatment. She says her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal.
Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”
A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.
A former human resources executive said she was required to put a woman who had recently returned after undergoing serious surgery, and another who had just had a stillborn child, on performance improvement plans, accounts that were corroborated by a co-worker still at Amazon.
The mother of the stillborn child soon left Amazon. “I had just experienced the most devastating event in my life,” the woman recalled via email, only to be told her performance would be monitored “to make sure my focus stayed on my job.”
Molly Jay, an early member of the Kindle team, said she received high ratings for years. But when she began traveling to care for her father, who was suffering from cancer, and cut back working on nights and weekends, her status changed. She was blocked from transferring to a less pressure-filled job, she said, and her boss told her she was “a problem.”
The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others.
…many workers called it a river of intrigue and scheming. They described making quiet pacts with colleagues to bury the same person at once, or to praise one another lavishly.
(Bo Olson) said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Amazon came under fire in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse toiled in more than 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away laborers as they fell. After an investigation by the local newspaper, the company installed air-conditioning.
Some current employees were reluctant to be identified because they were barred from speaking with reporters.
If even one of the allegations above is true, that would be horrible. I believe most, if not all, of them are true based on previous articles about Amazon’s treatment of employees.
If these allegations are true, I have to wonder how Amazon gets away with treating employees this way. Do they all sign contracts when hired that prevent them from suing the company for any reason?
This is all despicable and stories like this make me sick to my stomach. Jeff Bezos responded to the article, saying, “shockingly callous management practices” detailed in the piece wouldn’t be tolerated.
I have a VERY hard time believing he didn’t know this was going on.
On a side note, we sued Amazon back on 2008 for (alleged) federal anti-trust violations, and experienced some unpleasantness (an understatement) from Amazon during that time. After the judge refused to dismiss our lawsuit, Amazon decided to settle. They had to pay our attorneys $300,000. You can read more about that case HERE.
CREATESPACE COMPLAINTS – Part I
CREATESPACE COMPLAINTS – Part II
MORE CREATESPACE COMPLAINTS – Part III
BookLocker Sued Amazon/BookSurge – a.k.a. CreateSpace – AND WON!
After Cancer/Miscarriage, Amazon Employees Allege Disturbing Treatment
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
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Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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A question for mrspopplewell: You wrote you “only once ran into a hire-up who refused to help me when I was having trouble doing my job.” Would you please define “hire-up,” which I assume Is Amazon workplace lingo? Thank you!
Thank you, both Angela and mrspopplewell for the good information.
Angela, I’m glad to know about Powells.com as a good alternative to Amazon.
And, mrspopplewell, I’m so happy to hear that you, your husband and friends were treated well as Amazon employees. Another good reminder that there are always more than one side to each story.
Hi there! Former Amazon employee here as well as married to another former employee and friends with two current employees. I think I should state first that I have only been in one of their warehouses, I cannot speak for how every location is managed or every higher-up’s attitude towards work, only the experiences I know.
I worked as a stower, just someone who puts items away on the shelves as they come in. I worked four days a week for ten hours, but could leave early or take time off as I saw fit, and only once ran into a hire-up who refused to help me when I was having trouble doing my job. I casually mentioned it talking to another hire-up about how things were going for me and he took it very seriously and the person who had not helped me was written up on the spot. I went on to get an injury, ad was allowed to work half the days and the other half of those days were still paid while I was in their on site treatment area. When quick fixes didn’t help, they immediately put me on medical leave and asked me to fill out a form with my doctor so that I could return on restriction to keep me from being written up for being slower than expected. Unfortunately, my doctor refused to give me restriction and after speaking with HR I decided to leave my position for the time being but am welcome to return in the future (which I would love to, they had the most amazing benefits).
My husband had a mental breakdown during one of his shifts and after the counseling they offer for free did not help him (he needed much more done at the time), they agreed to let him go for now and he too is welcome to return in the future.
My two friends who work there; one was quickly promoted despite being injured on the job (which they also took care of immediately as best they could before letting her have time off). And the other discovered she was pregnant; they put her on pre-maternity leave (paid) which ends when she takes maternity leave (paid even more) and she has been there for years.
My managers were very friendly and I made friends fast and I would love to return, or at least return to where I was employed because – as I said – I can only speak for experiences at the warehouse I (and everyone else mentioned) worked at. It had amazing pay, full health coverage from day one, paid time off at your discretion, medical leave as needed, paid time for funerals, jury duty, and doctor appointments, counseling services, paid for most if not all of your college if you chose to take it, and then worked around your school hours.
Oh, I should also mention that I am not paid to say this nor have I been told to. I don’t work there right now, I didn’t work there long and I was at entry level. I just saw that more accusations have been made (and I’m sure they are valid and I’m horrified to see that anyone was treated in the ways they were, I hope they have or will reach some sort of justice) and thought I should put in a good word for the company since I have it to give. 🙂
Sharon Wingler, I use Powells.com. They sell used and new books and, if they have both in stock, you can choose which one you want. I have NEVER had a problem with any order from them. They are fast and friendly. 🙂
Thanks, Angela. We should boycott Amazon, but any idea where else we can buy books at such a discount, especially used books.
Or maybe we need to loosen our purse strings and spend more for books in order for employees to be treated better.
I would love to hear what others think about this.
Angela, have any job openings? LOL! Regrettably, far too many employers view employees as a disposable commodity and treat them accordingly to advance their own personal agendas…believe me when I say I worked for bosses like these far too many times. It is an “employers’ market” at the moment; competition for jobs is fierce, and many employers take full advantage of the current climate in the job market. Thanks so much for spotlighting this important issue!
Wow. I have always admired what Jeff Bezos built, but these allegations are beyond disturbing.
Possible answer to question #1. Some people are wicked; others are cowardly and do what wicked people tell them to do, regardless of the cost.
Possible answer to question #2. (a) They’re afraid of losing something they value — perhaps steady work, approval from superiors and coworkers, or a decent reputation (i.e., they don’t want to be blackballed). (b) They don’t know how to stand up for themselves. (c) Somebody told them people in authority are always right.
You treat us writers beautifully. I’ll work for you any day of the week!!!