Jeff Bezos considers himself as the least important person at Amazon

By Dan Wilson November 25, 2018 - 7:32 pm

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.

  • 5 months ago

    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.

  • Toby
    5 months ago

    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!

  • Hannah
    5 months ago

    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.

    • 5 months ago

      I am an Amazon seller and haven’t experienced any of that.

    • James
      5 months ago

      You’re a dishonest person Andrew Minalto. You have a good blog and thus should be acutely aware of the constant issues Amazon sellers face due to their heavy handed behaviour.

      We ship in the region of 4000-5000 orders a week so we’re not a very small business and although problems with Amazon are few and far between when the do occur the are atrociously difficult to deal with. Amazon have amongst the worst customer support I’ve encountered for 3rd party sellers.

      I appreciate you are posting here to try promote your blog and perhaps don’t want to get on the bad side of Amazon but there is no need to be disingenuous. You might have not experienced it but I am damn sure that many of your customers have and have probably made inquiries to you about it.

  • SAM
    5 months ago

    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 months ago

    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.

    • James
      5 months ago

      Ok that is a fair reply. You haven’t experienced in personally and thus my attack on your honesty was probably unwarranted.

      However I reiterate that due to the influence and knowledge of your sector (after all your blog) is designed to direct people to purchase your products due to your extensive experience of eCommerce marketplaces (which I used to follow when I started off and gained much valuable advice – thank you for this), I stand by my comments of disingenuous behaviour. The internet is filled with examples of Amazon’s poor treatment of 3rd party sellers. Cottage industries have sprung up all over the place with companies charging to help with suspensions, bans (many of them often quite unfair). FBA issues, late payments, ridiculous A-Z decisions. The list goes on. As the editor of your blog you should be very aware of these issues as these are the issues your customers face.

      I know many blog writers on Apple are scared to write bad things about Apple because they fear the iron whip for angering the hand that feeds them. I wonder whether Amazon is your Apple.

      Will leave it there as yes you are correct, arguing will get us no where. We’re all here to make money at the end of the day 🙂

  • original james
    5 months ago

    “Jeff Bezos considers himself as the least important person at Amazon”
    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.

    • 5 months ago

      Jeff Bezos salary as the CEO of Amazon was $81,840 in 2017.

      I’m sure that there are many, many people in the Amazon structure that makes more than that.

      The fact that he owns 80 million of Amazon shares, as a founder of the company, doesn’t mean he’s the highest paid individual in Amazon’s hierarchy.

  • james
    5 months ago

    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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