Which is why I was astounded when he recently called out Jeff Bezos, among others, as a CEO exemplar during an interview on Axios on HBO.
Dimon noted his callout was inspired by Bezos’s ability to innovate and create a singular focus around serving customers.
Much of his explanation leaned on Bezos’s cult of customer service and his ability to “change the game.”
He did not, however, address the elephant in the room: employee satisfaction.
Morale issues, overworking, and bad conditions have plagued Bezos for years. In some of the more extreme cases, he’s been accused of creating factory conditions that don’t allow workers to take bathroom breaks.
But to many, this is too little, too late. Amazon employs almost one million people — one out of every 153 American workers, according to Business Insider. These workers are the backbone of the company, keeping warehouses humming, logistics on point, and quality of service high. What would Amazon be without them?
You might dismiss this as collateral damage from a job disconnected from day-to-day workers, but an in-depth look at the CEO back in 2013 — almost a decade ago — revealed that Bezos is not keen on morale during in-person engagement, either. As the book noted, Bezos had a habit of saying things like, “Are you lazy or incompetent?”
This collective lack of employee care has resulted in a series of strikes around the world — in Germany, Italy, and the U.S. The specific reasons vary, but largely hinge on negligible concern for employee safety and reasonable working conditions or hours.
The consequence is more than disrupted service for customers — Bezos’s No. 1 priority. It’s building a culture of acceptance around employee maltreatment. With a company the size of Amazon, it can operate almost with impunity. Strikes may hobble parts of the commerce giant for a little while, but will not bring it to its knees.
Unless and until, that is, dissatisfaction becomes so widespread that quality consistently dips. Then customers will become unhappy and go elsewhere. (And, yes, there is an “elsewhere,” despite how ubiquitous Amazon has become.)
To be fair to Bezos, Amazon is offering some desirable perks to new hires these days — including subsidized education, which I wrote about recently. But this is about more than perks and benefits. It’s about building a culture that values employees in their daily work. As marketer and consultant Simon Sinek once said, “How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse.”
So how will Bezos (and his successor) reframe a culture grounded in employee value? Time will tell. If changes aren’t made, the sheer lack of loyalty may downgrade the shopping giant from American mainstay to, well, just another online store.