[Susan notes: These readers respond to the detailed Times article depicting the demanding, competitive environment promoted by Jeff Bezos at Amazon. There is more than a little similarity to the demanding, competitive environment being promoted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Business Roundtable cohorts, and US Department of Education as necessary for selecting the best candidates for teaching in public school.
But of even greater import is the connection to the demanding, competitive environment school deformers want teachers to push onto their students. Whether they call it rigor, 21st century skills, or the means for success in the Global Economy, it is ugly; it is ruthless; it is soul-destroying. And the New York Times editorial board applauds it.
And who would believe that the New York Times would ever print a letter recommending that maybe technology-savvy go-getters should read a little Marx! ]
Published in New York Times
Whether or not the management style is as harsh as depicted in Amazon's Bruising, Thrilling Workplace (front page, Aug. 16), the public debate it has sparked is to be celebrated. That Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, himself has spoken out ( Bezos Says Amazon Has No Room for 'Callous' Acts, Business Day, Aug. 18) is proof that we no longer automatically associate exploitative, fear-driven leadership with strength and vitality in business.
The latest research shows that a bullying management style can yield short-term gains, but sustainable growth is founded on managers who exemplify integrity, inspiration and, above all, kindness. When I studied organizational psychology four decades ago, this idea was dismissed. It is a testament to progress that it is finally getting a fair hearing.
WILLIAM F. BAKER
The writer is president emeritus of WNET, director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Public Policy and Education at Fordham University and the author of Leading With Kindness.
To the Editor: Amazon workers, former and current, complain about the punishing hours and competitive pressure at this growing monopoly. But no one seems to question its central mission, which is the delivery of goods Americans don't even know they want at cheap prices and blistering speeds.
Amazon has doomed chain retailers like Borders, wreaked havoc on publishing economics and taken aim at the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and U.P.S. with its drone delivery plans. It's no surprise, then, that Amazon expects employees to sacrifice family values and personal health. No institution, social or economic, is safe from Amazon's avaricious methods of operation.
While Amazon's treatment of its workers deserves scrutiny, we should also ask why such a company is thriving in our culture, and what else we must sacrifice at its altar of profit at any cost.
BETTY J. COTTER
To the Editor: Amazon is hardly the only company where "all is not enough." For some years now, phrases like "unreasonable expectations" have been used in an ironically positive way to describe the challenges and stimulation that high-achieving people are supposed to savor in their professional lives.
But at some point, "unreasonable expectations" are not exciting; they are unreasonable. It is routine now for professionals to labor under the kind of relentless demands that 100 years ago gave rise to unions and labor laws for factory workers.
Today, success of the kind that we are all taught to strive for comes at a very high cost. I am certain that a great many professionals would trade their high incomes for a balanced life, with reasonable time for family and decent prospects for retirement and their children's education. Unfortunately, that life is becoming harder to attain at any income.
To the Editor: There are so many despicable circumstances described in your excellent article -- ageism, sexism, worker tattling on worker, work at the expense of life -- but none is more depressing than the fact that there is an endless supply of intelligent people willing to step into inhumane labor practices.
I know that we are in a new "knowledge economy" in which "innovation" is the featured product, but hasn't the current generation of social media, technology-savvy go-getters read even a bit of Marx? [emphasis added]
You don't need to be anticapitalist to recognize that the dealings you enter into at work define your social relationships in general, or that the alienation you experience is not only from your fellow workers or from your family, but also from yourself.
How can what you do for 18 hours a day be compartmentalized from who you "really" are?