An Amazon warehouse worker asked Jeff Bezos to help him with his salary. Here’s how Amazon responded

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I think it’s important for a boss to be accessible.

Let me give you an example. Do you know how to email Jeff Bezos? As I explain in my free ebook, Jeff Bezos does not regret anything, you can reach him directly at [email protected]

Now, is there any guarantee that he will respond? Of course not. Still, I know firsthand that the address works, because try to remember to send him a note with a link to every post I write on Bezos (including this one), just to see if he could. have other comments.

I’ve heard from exactly once – and from an assistant, not from Bezos himself, mind you – but I took it as decent proof that it’s live.

But if you want better proof, take the experience of Tara Jones, who worked at an Amazon warehouse in Oklahoma, emailed Bezos directly about an issue with his pay that changed her life. many other Amazon employees as a result.

Let’s recap the story, in case you haven’t seen it.

Jones was a new mom, on leave from Amazon last year after giving birth, and she noticed a recurring shortfall in her salary: around $ 90 out of $ 540.

According to Amazon, she reached out to Bezos, sending a message to the email address [email protected]

“I’m late on invoices, all because the payroll messed up,” she wrote, as reported on New York Times. “I am crying while writing this email.”

Here’s what happened next.

  • First, Jones solved his personal compensation issues.
  • Second, his message to Bezos prompted Amazon to launch an internal investigation. The company discovered that not only was Jones underpaid, but many other employees were also underpaid, in as many as 179 other warehouses.

Mrs. Jones was far from alone. For at least a year and a half – including during periods of record profits – Amazon had harmed new parents, patients with medical crises and other vulnerable workers on leave, according to a confidential report of the findings. Some of the salary calculations at his establishment were wrong since it opened more than a year ago.

The Times said Amazon “had finished identifying and reimbursing workers who were harmed while on leave” earlier this year.

Now, I am not coming here to praise Amazon or to bury it.

On the one hand: it would be clearly unacceptable for a company of the size of Amazon to waste the wages of its employees.

On the other hand: it’s admirable for any large organization to have a way in place for employees, customers – anyone, really – to bypass the normal bureaucratic hierarchy and let someone know at the top. that something is seriously wrong.

In fact, I’ve already written about the “question mark method” that Bezos launched on Amazon. Bezos apparently forwards problematic emails like the one he received from Jones to others on Amazon – complete with a single character added at the top: “?”.

“It’s a shortcut,” he once explained. “Can you examine this? “‘Why is this happening?'”

Admit: I like the idea of ​​an Amazon warehouse worker in Oklahoma getting an alert on their phone and seeing a message with a few “FWD:” notes in the subject line – and realizing that it’s finally from Bezos, asking for Jones’ salary.

Amazon could not confirm that it is exactly how it went, the question marks and everything.

Regardless, the company was eager for me to understand, when I asked for a comment, that “[a] A big part of our culture is that ideas (and therefore concerns) can come from anyone, ”and that anyone at Amazon can find the address of any Amazon executive, via a directory or published mechanism that Amazon calls “Phone Tool”.

Ultimately, however, our concern here isn’t really whether Amazon has fixed these issues, or if it has any chance of achieving the goal that Bezos articulated as he prepared to divest. CEO position at Andy Jassy earlier this year. : “Strive to be the ‘Best Employer on Earth’.”

Instead, our concern is what lessons you can learn and apply, as a business leader, from the examples of large public companies like Amazon. And, I see three key points to remember.

  • First, if you are the leader, it is important that stakeholders can reach you directly when needed. Maybe it’s an email address. Maybe it’s by sharing your phone number. Perhaps this is letting people know that you will still be available in your office on Tuesday morning (or anytime), and that anyone can come see you without an appointment.
  • Second: do something the recently deceased Secretary of State and General Colin Powell advised: “Check the little things.” The little things matter and they add to the big things. Bypassing a $ 90 warehouse worker, as Jones reported, is a prime example.
  • Finally, remember that leadership isn’t always about preventing problems or even, really, solving problems. On the contrary, a big part of effective leadership is creating a culture and thinking about how the people you lead will feel about the way you run things.

A simple example: It would have been nothing for Bezos to just tell an assistant: send Mrs. Jones a check for $ 5,000. That’s a lot less money Bezos made in the time it took me to write this sentence.

But what would that do to him? What would this say to others about Amazon stocks? What is the lasting feeling that everyone involved would take away?

Correcting the shortfall is essential, but leaving stakeholders with positive emotional responses like this is probably just as important. As an effective leader, this is all part of your job.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.


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