The Internet has lit up with reactions to the New York Times article on Amazon's bruising, data-driven, "purposeful Darwinism" culture.
The vast majority of reactions are negative. This not surprising given how harsh the article makes Amazon sound - people crying at their desks, sick people callously culled, lots of backstabbing, etc.
The reason we care about this issue is how companies treat their workers has a major impact on the independent workforce.
This is because most people go through a "mental math" process weighing the pro and cons of self-employment versus having a traditional job.
Historically (at least from the mid-1950s), the math weighed heavily in favor of the traditional job. So much so that only those who were truly driven to entrepreneurship or to be their own boss became self-employed.
But the math has changed.
Over the past few decades traditional job benefits have been cut, job security reduced and workloads increased. And the less attractive traditional employment gets, the more attractive self-employment becomes.
Which gets me back to Amazon.
There's a growing movement among Americans to "work to live" instead of "living to work". Amazon's cut throat culture, while not common across corporate America, is becoming more common. This makes self-employment more attractive to more people.
Bloomberg's Why 6 Million People Would Rather Work Part-time covers this shift. Key quote:
Six million Americans ... are choosing to work part time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typically young and college-educated, they’re not doing so because personal or economic circumstances forced them to. Rather, many are abandoning the traditional career path their parents took and working just enough hours to pay the bills or pursue a passion: toy making, puppetry, nonprofit advocacy. Their numbers have increased 12 percent since 2007, according to the BLS, a shift with broad implications for hiring practices.
Our work also reflects this. We've seen the number of full time independent workers grow from 15.9 million to almost 18 million over the past 5 years. The number of part-time independents has grown even faster.
The key reasons given by these folks for choosing to become independent workers are the flexibility, autonomy and control independent work provides. Most also want a life in addition to a job.
We think labormetric systems like those used at Amazon will become more common. This will lead to more Darwinian, Amazon-like corporate cultures.
We also think this will lead to the continued growth of the independent workforce as more American choose life and work over just work.