By Michael Gunther

Over the last month, several large organizations have been in the spotlight based on their work environments, namely Amazon and Volkswagen. Both of these companies have been criticized for their doctrinarian methods of management that are wreaking havoc on both their employees and their image within the marketplace.

Amazon is often criticized for its ‘take no prisoners’ form of management that requires employees to dedicate every working hour to Amazon in hopes of getting new projects. Volkswagen has demanded that its employees come up with new solutions in unrealistic time frames or they would all be fired.

Amazon now has a horrible reputation as a place where people get burned by the management philosophy of pushing teams harder and harder for the privilege of working at Amazon. Even their scores range from low 2s to mid-3s, compared to top companies that are rated in the 4-5 range by their employees. Imagine if Amazon actually created a collaborative, trust-based environment and cared about their employees’ total well-being − not just their contributions based on long hours.

This year, Volkswagen damaged their reputation globally for deceiving consumers and the government on the environmental components of their diesel cars. The engineers who created the software to deceive the emission control testing software were told they had to get a quick solution or be fired. The leader of the organization managed out of fear and threats, which has now caused a multibillion dollar expense for the organization on top of destroying their reputation and trust with their customers.

After following these stories, I wondered: do these organizations feel they are ‘too big to care?’ Are the leaders of these groups only concerned about the financial goals of the organization while not realizing their greatest assets are their human assets? How much is their high turnover and stress-related insurance claims costing Amazon?  How much more productive could their teams be if the leadership understood that employees who practice work-life balance actually are higher performers? Does Amazon’s management just believe they are too big to have to care because people will always want to work for them?

Did Volkswagen think that since they were becoming the world’s number one car manufacturer that they could create an environment of deception and no one would notice? Or are they large enough to weather the storm?

In a world with internet, it amazes me that there are still leaders who believe they can manage their organizations with disregard for their team’s well-being and with unethical business decisions. With the transparency the internet provides and the changing workforce desires toward a more respectful workplace, these poor leaders are only going to be ousted. They must feel that their organizations are just too big, and they don’t need to worry about their employees or reputation. I know small organizations would have a hard time surviving if they operated like an Amazon or a Volkswagen.

Bottom Line

Leaders have to remember that they will be remembered not just for the goals they have achieved, but more importantly for the work environment they created as well as for the integrity embedded within their decisions. You have a choice every day – choose to be a leader that cares.

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