A jury of co-workers at Amazon can decide whether you’re fired
As traumatic as getting fired can be, Amazon seems to have found a way to make it even more awkward and prolonged.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, those about to be let go can face one of three options: accept the severance and skedaddle; attempt to keep the job by meeting specific performance goals for the next few weeks; or face a jury of co-workers while the boss argues against you.
It’s like choosing the showcase prize on “The Price is Right,” but with a lot more shame and humiliation. The jury option is certainly raising eyebrows.
“It’s a very stressful environment,” said Zak Burns said on KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley. “Most of the time, and this should surprise nobody, the manager wins.”
About 30 percent of those who choose the Kafkaesque trial option prevail.
The elaborate dismissal program is not entirely surprising, considering that Amazon has the second highest turnover rate in the country among Fortune 500 companies, according to a 2013 report by PayScale. The average Amazon employee stays on board for about a year, and the workforce is growing upwards of 500,000. There must be a long waiting period just to get a trial.
“Is the jury of the peers behind a curtain?” joked Curley. “And is their voice distorted like they’re appearing on the Geraldo Riviera show in the eighties where they all have disguises on? ‘Yes I have a question for you. When you said you take lunch breaks, like how long was your break?'”
“If I were one of the peers I’d say to the manager: ‘Hey, I am with you 100 percent. You are so right.’ Because the manager looks over at the peers and says, ‘Who wants to be next?'”
Even if the Amazon employee somehow survives the trial, they’d simply keep working with the boss who just tried and failed to fire them. That’s not exactly a comfortable working environment. If they don’t pass the trial, they still have the option of choosing severance pay or a performance-improvement plan.
“I would hope there’s some anonymity to it,” Zak said. “But I like the idea that you have to look your co-worker in the face and say, ‘No, I’m siding with your boss.'”
The Amazon trials are very different from actual trials
The employee profiled in the Bloomberg article experienced her own trial via video conference, didn’t get a chance to see her boss’ presentation, and then waited by phone to hear that she’d lost. But at least she didn’t have to leave home for any of it.
In any case, being tried by your co-workers could either be frightening or welcoming, depending on how you get along with people at work. That one guy who didn’t replace the coffee after finishing it might be in for a surprise.
“It would be an opportunity to grind an ax on somebody you didn’t like anyway, even if you don’t know the guy,” Curley joked. “‘I don’t know you, and I know nothing of your work habits. But I’ve never liked you.'”