Open Door Policy

What’s interesting about the open door policy and the Voice of Associate program is that an employee can debate with managers almost endlessly. Managers will listen, listen, listen–over and over and over–and nothing, nothing, nothing will happen. When new policies are implemented, it is always to the company’s strategic advantage, squeezing more from the employee, but often with an air of benevolence, framing these policies as symbiotic, benefiting employees, whom the company often refers to as shareholders.

The open door policy offers the illusion of voice. Amazon is very comfortable in allowing a mediated voice to the associate. It is very uncomfortable allowing wages, adequate breaks, autonomy, agency.

I found particular interest in a recent exchange posted on the VOA board that I will relate here:

From the VOA board 5/23/16: “Being grateful is wonderful, and I feel people should always try to look for the positives in life, even if the only one they can find is ‘at least I have a job’ Gratefulness does not, however, excuse poor treatment, and unorganized departments. It merely makes it somewhat tolerable. That’s my view, anyways.”

The company response from an HR manager on 5/23/16: “Tolerable ≠ world class. I will reach out to you to gain your perspective on how we can make SDF8 world class.”

I was moved by the employee’s voice. She is not bitter. She acknowledges Amazon offers her paid employment. She is grateful. This quiet plea is met with exuberance from management, a mockery of her intent.

The company not only imagines itself benevolent, but is excited about its benevolence, creating an absurd, surreal feeling of loss, helplessness, and zero communication for the worker. It is as if she and the manager are using two different languages. She is defeated before she has begun to speak.

This scenario is played out over and over again within the SDF8 open door policy. The company wants to say–We hear you! We hear your concerns! But no, you cannot earn more pay. Yes, you must submit to scrutiny regarding time off task, breaks, bathroom breaks, and rates, for the better of the company, of which you are an important team member. And if you don’t share our values, you are free to go. That’s OK. Working here isn’t for everyone.

Almost all the managers I have come into contact with are pretty decent guys; it is the error of policies that I take issue with. I engage managers for a number of reasons: I want to push back at these policies, testing their efficacy and their rationale. I am interested in these young managers–to see if the ideologies they learned in college or their personal beliefs match up with the company’s dogmatism. I believe the lives of Tier One employees are certainly as important as the company’s growth and revenue. I would like to see a true symbiosis, starting with higher wages and lower turnover.