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Category winner: Amazon as an Employer

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This case won the Human Resource Management/Organisational Behaviour category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2021. #CaseAwards2021

In conversation with... Jyotsna Bhatnagar and Shweta Jaiswal Thakur

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we were sadly unable to visit Jyotsna and Shweta to present their awards in person.

However, they joined our Director, Richard McCracken, from India to discuss their winning case.

The full conversation can be watched on the right, or each section can be viewed separately below:

 
The case

Jeff BezosWho – the protagonists

Jeff Bezos is the CEO and founder of Amazon, the online retailing giant.

What?

The case explores the unconventional office culture at the US retailer following an article in The New York Times that alleged Amazon was “conducting an experiment in how far it could push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.” The constant demands on Amazon employees to work harder and faster was under criticism.

Why?

With Amazon about to open several large new offices and increase its staff to around 50,000, the case asks if The New York Times article will impact its search for talented employees. Bezos dismissed the article stating many of his employees were excited to be working on cutting edge projects and felt working at Amazon advanced their careers.

Amazon campus SeattleWhere?

Amazon is a global retailing giant with its headquarters in Seattle, United States.

When?

The New York Times article was published in August 2015, just months after Amazon was ranked fourth in Fortune magazine’s Elite List of World’s Most Admired Companies. 

Key quote

“You can work long, hard, or smart but at Amazon.com, you can’t choose two out of three” - Jeff Bezos.

What next?

In 2014, Harvard Business Review ranked Bezos as its top CEO, yet, in 2015, his ranking fell to 87th, with his method of keeping employees on edge to bring about constant innovation, being criticised. Amazon’s stock prices, however, more than double in this period.

 
Instructor viewpoint

Discover how this case works in the classroom.

Isabella“The case is super insightful, being not only relevant for my Corporate Entrepreneurship course in that it allows students to analyse Amazon’s culture but, also, to assess and develop recommendations for making the firm more entrepreneurial in terms of culture (e.g. organsational processes, cognitive processes, etc.). Moreover, the case is very interesting in that it covers a couple of surprising elements that allow students to not only increase their knowledge on leadership in a highly successful firm but also their reflection capacity regarding areas of improvement and recommendations for Amazon.

“I appreciate the balanced yin-yang approach of the case including both bright and dark sides and how they can enhance or exacerbate Amazon’s success, and for whom, enabling deep and critical discussions on sustainable entrepreneurial advantages.”

Isabella Hatak, Professor for Management of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises at University of St. Gallen.

The authors

authors

Jyotsna Bhatnagar and Shweta Jaiswal Thakur

This is the first win for authors Jyotsna and Shweta, and for Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon.

Heartening

Jyotsna and Shweta said: “This award is a reward for case writing. It is heartening to know the questions we raised resonate across the HR/Organisational fraternity, globally.”

Amazon counterWhy Amazon?

They continued: “Amazon is a very popular brand.

“The case captures a very sensitive issue of keeping people on edge for business, and poses questions of compassion versus business profitability.”

Writing the case

Writing the case

The authors commented: “The background research for the case was daunting and enjoyable at the same time. We did many drafts, and our patience was tested while writing the teaching note.

“We’d like to express our gratitude to Management Development Institute (MDI) Gurgaon for providing an opportunity to do the research and case writing, to Ivey Publishing for publishing the case and to our teachers, Paul Marshall, Noam Wasserman, and Rohit Deshpande at Harvard Business School.”

Top tip

They concluded: “If there is a debate and controversy in a case, your case class will always be a winner.”

About the authors

Jyotsna Bhatnagar is Professor in Human Resource Management and Dean of Graduate Programmes & Student Affairs at Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon.
e jyotsnab@mdi.ac.in
tw @jbmam

Shweta Jaiswal Thakur is Assistant Professor at NTPC School of Business, Noida. She was a FPM Scholar at Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon when writing the case.
e shwetajaiswalhr@gmail.com
tw @jaisshweta

 
Interested in finding out more?
Download

Download the case and teaching note

Educators can login to view a free educator preview copy of this case and its teaching note.

Amazon as an Employer
Ref 9B16C006

Teaching note
Ref 8B16C006

 

View all the 2021 winners