What Amazon’s Founding Father Can Teach You About Accepting Criticism Gracefully

leadership 24th January 2017 Workbetter Team

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A year ago, an article in the New York Times got e-commerce major, Amazon in the limelight for being a brutal employer. It was being said that they’re more concerned about their performance in the retail market and innovation than the well-being of their employees. This episode revealed much about how one must shouldn’t resist criticism rather accepting criticism as is.

The authors interviewed over a 100 current and former employees and got surprising inputs from them. The article went viral all over digital media and Amazon was slapped with a lot of questions and remarks. However, the founding father of Amazon, Jeff Bezos responded quickly to the allegations in an internal memo he wrote to his employees saying, “I don’t recognize this Amazon, and I very much hope you don’t either.” He asked them to bring to light any such malpractices as described in the article (the link to which he shared) to the HR or be reported to him directly on his email. Along with that was a link which was an alternative take by an employee of Amazon (who by the way is still working there).

Clearly, there’s much to learn from Bezos’s response on how to not be hassled when met with criticism.

Listen carefully

Bezzo read the article in its entirety and wasn’t ashamed of sharing the criticism (whether it was in good taste or not) with his employees. He wanted to sieve out fact from fiction and therefore, told his employees that if Amazon were such a place as described in the article, he too would never have worked there. At the same time, he appealed them to report even isolated incidences.

When meted out with criticism, you too should check in entirety before reacting. It’s important to check the basis on which things are said rather than on half-baked information.

Believe that there’s always a scope for change

Negative feedback can sting, but if there’s something good that can come out of it then why not identify it. Amazon recently announced changes in the organization. They obviously reiterate that criticism shouldn’t be snubbed for there’s no smoke without fire. They’re rolling out a new review process next year. It is going to focus more on “employees’ strengths and not an absence of weaknesses”.

Filter out criticism

This was not the first time Amazon was criticized. It seems Jeff Bezos knows how to accept criticism without dampening his spirits. In the past too, they were a subject to harsh criticism but chose to keep quiet. Their silence was not arrogance, but sheer acceptance of the fact that not everything needs a response. With their work culture being questioned in the article, Amazon’s approach was the same. Only a select-few managers were allowed to speak to The Times reports excluding Bezos and other top leaders.


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