Amazon and Its Employees

By Seth Ansell


This case study aims to analyze Amazon’s organizational relationship and how they structure communication between managers and employees. This case study reviews the Likert System 4 Management Approach model and attempts to identify which system Amazon uses, based on the company’s practices. This case study will also compare Amazon’s strategy to other similar competitor’s strategies. It will be discussed in detail whether this strategy seems to work for Amazon or if there is another strategy that the company could utilize instead.

There are many types of strategies and theories an organization can use to organize and structure itself. The Likert System 4 Management Approach describes four different types of management approaches that range from low to high concern for workers. The first system is the exploitative-authoritative type of management, which uses threats and fear to motivate employees within the organization. All communication within a company that uses this type of management is downward, employees under a manager can’t make suggestions to higher-ups. This system uses punishment to motivate workers. The communication that flows downward from managers is usually task based. This approach has high concern for task and low concern for the employee. System 2 is the benevolent-authoritative type of management which rewards employees when they complete tasks and uses punishments to motivate. While this system uses both punishments and rewards to motivate employees, it favors punishments. System 2 also mainly consists of downward communication but is more open to upward communication than the first system. Managers may rarely take subordinate’s suggestions seriously in this model, or the organization may say they allow upward communication just to appease employees (Avtigs, 2012).

System 3 of the Likert System 4 Management Approach is the consultative type. This manage approach uses rewards and punishment to motivate employees, and is more likely to favor rewards as means of motivation. This system is very open to upward communication and involves subordinates in the organization’s decision making process. Managers still have final say in the decision-making process, but subordinates still have a strong say within the organization. The final system is the participative type of management. This approach allows all upward communication and encourages subordinate involvement and input. This approach results in both high productivity and quality interpersonal relationships between subordinates and managers (Avtigs, 2012). Generally companies may not fall directly into one category, because the theory acts as a scale with organizations following somewhere between them (Dininni, 2011).

            Amazon started out as an online book store in 1995, but has evolved to be one of the biggest online retailer stores of all merchandise. In addition to being an online retailer giant, they are also known for online and technology services. They launched the Kindle e-reader, made their own tablet called the Kindle Fire, their own multimedia TV box system titled Amazon Fire TV, their own smartphone, and more. Amazon, like other tech giants, attempts to be innovative and produce unique groundbreaking services and products. This puts the company in direct competition with other online retailers and other innovative tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Amazon’s mission statement is “It’s our goal to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything at” (Pestleanalysis, 2016). Amazon tries to deliver the best experience it can to its customers, to the point where a very strict system of rules and policies is put into motion for Amazon employees. These set of policies sets Amazon between exploitative-authoritative system and benevolent-authoritative system on the Likert System scale.

Amazon has a very cutthroat corporate culture, were unlike other similar companies, employees are encouraged to harshly criticize each other’s decisions during meetings. It is encouraged to the point where Amazon’s internal phone directory has directions on how to send “secret feedback” to each other’s bosses (Kantor, 2015). This is an example of when upward communication is allowed in Amazon’s workplace culture. If it were not for this limited upward communication, Amazon would fit more closely to exploitative-authoritative system rather than in-between exploitative and benevolent.

Many employees at Amazon do not stay long unless they are very successful. If they are not superbly successful they are driven to quit or are outright fired. Amazon human resources calls it “purposeful Darwinism.”  Past employees said that they believed they had been let go unfairly for suffering from cancer, having a miscarriage, and other personal life crises. In one specific case, a woman was put on probation because Amazon claimed difficulties in her personal life was affecting her work goals. Her life difficulties were being diagnosed with breast cancer. Other employees were fired because their performance dropped after major negative life events and the company did not give the employees time to recover (Kantor, 2015).

The company also has started a project to learn how far it can push white-collar employees, sometimes bordering on the line of unacceptability. A past employee who worked on book marketing, said that “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Part of Amazon’s success is due to its method of extracting everything it can from their work force. It does this differently than other companies like Google and Facebook. At first glance, Amazon’s office campuses look like Google’s and Facebook’s with dog-friendly offices, mainly young employees, and up-beat posters. When it comes to how they handle employees, Amazon doesn’t claim to make pleasing employers an important task. Amazonians aren’t motivated with on-site gyms, buffets, cash handouts, or other incentives. Instead Amazon embraces frugality with bare-bone decorations, and even having employees pay for their own company cell phone and company travel expenses. In addition to not being motivated by incentives, Amazon frequently uses fear to motivate its employees. Amazon ranks all their employees, and at the end of each year, the employees at the bottom are purged (Rosin, 2015). This strong use of fear rather than using rewards as motivation is a large part of the benevolent and exploitative-authoritative approach. Because the only incentive Amazon uses to encourage employees is a good pay, they rely almost all on fear as a tool of motivation.

Image result for amazon office
Example of an Amazon Corporate Office. Photo Credit:


Amazon not only pushes their white-collar workers to their limits, but many of their blue-collar workers in their shipping plants as well. There are a lot of policies in place to stop employees from doing certain things. For example, employees are not allowed to use any product on the warehouse floor that was sold from Amazon, this makes certain items like cosmetics and lipsticks not allowed. Amazon even has policies on foods allowed; water is the only drink allowed while at work and employees are not allowed to chew gum. In addition to strict on-the-job policies, Amazon has little tolerance for sickness. Some employees have said they got fired for being sick, Amazon stated that they didn’t disclose prior illness before being hired which their decision of firing them legal and ethical (Yarow, 2011).

Amazon also had an incident where their warehouse in Breinigsville would have ambulances and medical personnel on standby because it was so hot in the warehouse during the summer. The ambulances would take workers suffering from heat related injuries to the hospital. Amazon opted to keep the warehouse open and keep the workers working rather than closing for the extremely hot days. OSHA had received numerous complaints against the facility from harsh and unbearable working conditions. One worker stated that at least 15 people collapsed in one day. After a federal investigation was done on the company, temporary air conditioners were installed and later permanent air conditioners added. Employees of the facility were very pleased when air conditioning was installed. This shouldn’t take away from the fact that Amazon only installed the air conditioners after being federally investigated and called out by the press (Soper, 2012). This only solidifies the view that Amazon has low concern for their workers. It is obvious they have high concern for the task, by forcing employees to continue working while others were collapsing from the heat.

When looking at all the variables on how Amazon treats their employees, such as: low concern for worker health and safety, no sympathy or time for employees to recover from personal tragedies, making employees work to exhaustion in the heat, no direct rewards used as motivation other than salary, fear used as main motivator, restrictive worker policies, making employees constantly competing for un-achievable goals, and very little upward communication; Amazon could be seen as following either the exploitative-authoritative or the benevolent-authoritative Likert System Approach. While many other similar companies do not use this same approach, it may work exclusively for Amazon. As shown earlier by Amazon’s mission statement, they are extremely focused on the customer. They want to get their quality products to their customers as fast as possible. Creating a constant sense of urgency, fear, and strict rules may help keep the sense of resolve that is needed to force innovation and fast delivery service.

In fact, while many employees had negative things to say about their experience with being Amazon employees, others said that the company’s goal to strive for innovation through competition and constant pressure helped them grow as individuals or grow their career. Employees claim that they believe they work with some of the smartest and committed colleagues they have met. They credit their success and determination to Amazon’s relentless pushing of them to do better. That doesn’t change the fact that a large portion of employees still feel mistreated. Several lawyers in the Seattle area stated that they got consistent calls from employees or past employees of mistreatment from Amazon- usually for being pushed out due to performance related issues. One lawyer stated that while it is unfair, that does not mean that it is illegal (Kantor, 2015).

Amazon seems content to bring in a large number of new employees and utilize them until majority of them are burnt out, while retaining the super stars. In this regard, the benevolent-authoritative model will work for Amazon. If their goal is to always focus on bringing the best they can to their customers, they may burn out many employees in the process. As long as Amazon feels ethically okay with constantly cutting employees due to them burning out from being over worked, then this model is a good fit for Amazon. It may not seem like a good public relations move, now that the public has wind of how the employees are being treated. But Amazon may feel that quality and innovation results in better views of the company than what it would cost to slow down with better treatment for their employees.

Amazon may be coming around to changing their current organization culture to move away from the benevolent-authoritative style it seems to currently employ. Around a year ago, Amazon announced that they were improving their parental leave policy. This was around a month after other companies, like Adobe, Microsoft, and Netflix, had announced similar plans.  Amazon is now offering new mothers 20 weeks of paid leave and new fathers up to 6 weeks of paid leave. This may be a response to attempt to improve public relations after the New York Times had criticized the organization’s treatment of employees. It also could be a sign that Amazon is realizing that better treatment of employees may result in better work from their workers. It cannot be said indefinitely whether the move is for public relations, or if this is a start of Amazon changing their whole organizational structure (Greenberg, 2015).

Other companies can learn a lot from Amazon’s current situation. Another organization may see that would to have a high turnover rate for employees like Amazon to keep the workers constantly fresh and not “burnt-out,” but they could also learn a lesson from the backlash the company has received from the public. An organization that would like to follow a similar model to Amazon’s would probably want to find a median of putting pressure on your employees but also rewarding and keeping a positive image of the company to its employees.


Works Cited

Avtgis, T. A., & Rancer, A. S. (2012). Organizational communication: Strategies for success.
Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Pub.
Dininni, J. (2011, May 20). Management Theory of Rensis Likert. Retrieved October 31,
Greenberg, J. (2015, November 2). Amazon’s New Parental Leave Policy Is Good-And Good
Kantor, J., & Streitfeld, D. (2015, August 15). Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a
N/A. (2016). Mission Statement Examples: Amazon & Starbucks. Retrieved October 31,
Rosin, T. (2015, August 17). 9 key issues with Amazon’s corporate culture. Retrieved
October 31, 2016.
Soper, S. (2012, June 03). Amazon working conditions improve with new air conditioning.
Retrieved October 31, 2016.
Yarow, J., & Kovach, S. (2011, September 20). 10 Crazy Rules That Could Get You Fired From
Amazon Warehouses. Retrieved October 31, 2016.

USAA, For Military Personnel, Provided By Retired Military Personnel

By Seth D. Ansell

United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is an insurance and financial services company that serves U.S. military members and their families. Because of the unique niche of customers, USAA must train its employees to understand the specific wants and needs of its unique customer base. This case study intends to review what methods USAA utilizes to train their employees for their specific market and how it differs from other insurance companies.

USAA is an insurance company that provides its services to U.S. military members and their families. USAA has standards it uses for its employees to follow and for employees going through training. These standards include: Keeping USAA’s mission first, live the four core values (service, loyalty, honesty, integrity), be authentic and build trust with customers, create conditions for people to succeed, include diverse perspectives for superior results, and innovate and build for the future. USAA wants employees to put their personal goals behind the company’s goals and reputation, always act as a USAA representative, use consistent communication with honesty and empathy, create diverse work teams to get the most diverse opinions and perspectives, and more. USAA hopes that employees will do act in these ways if they follow all of the standards (USAA).

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USAA Financial Center. Photo Credit: CNN Money

A poll in the U.S. found that people consider health and life insurance companies to be one of the most untrustworthy and least honest. USAA has gotten opposite results, were 81% of USAA customers felt that the company “works for them rather than for ‘the bottom line’” (Shoes). USAA has a unique approach were the employees try to understand the situation and needs of its customers. A large majority of USAA clients are military personnel and their families, and many of the employees are also former military personnel. This already creates a common tie between the customers and employees. To further connect their employees with their customers, USAA runs a 10-week training program for new employees that simulates the challenges of military personnel experience. The training includes wearing heavy military gear, given stern commands, and eating standard military meals. The training aims to give empathy to the customer’s from the employees, so that the employees will think before responding to a customer. In addition to the training new employees experience, the insurance firm also sponsors a nonprofit organization, titled Strikeouts for Troops. The organization provides military services members with comforts in military hospitals around the world (Fleurke, 2009).

The president of USAA, Josue Robles Jr., stated that “You serve the military best when you understand the military” (Shevory, 2014). But why does USAA want to target U.S. military service members and veterans for their financial services and insurance company? USAA is battling other companies for customers that are well-off financially. USAA want to keep its edge over other banks and insurance firms who are looking to get military members and veterans as well. Other banks such as Citigroup, U.S Bank, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America all have their own benefits programs to attract veterans. Service members are attractive because they have secure jobs and do not need to worry about layoffs, which are the kinds of customers banks would like. They are generally loyal and financially stable. Banks believe if they are able to get service members while they are young with attractive benefit programs, that they can build a customer for life by offering them more services, such as mortgages and credit, as they age (Shevory, 2014).

Another tool that USAA is using to attract military services personnel is to have specific services for them, like redeployment and retirement financial planning from other former military personnel. USAA also utilizes technology to be attractive for military personnel, by having mobile check deposit, video-chat support, and low-bandwidth sites that make it easier for busy military personnel and for military personnel who don’t know the next time they will have access to a physical bank. Because of USAA’s large understanding and empathy towards military personnel’s struggles and needs, they retain 98% of their customers (Shevory, 2014).

USAA not only treats their customers with respect, but they also treat their employees well. As seen in the past case studies about Netflix, Google, and Zappos, companies who treat their employees well, generally have better results. USAA offers employees full tuition reimbursement, free financial advice, generous 401k matches, company funded pension, and on-site child care and free messages on the job. The company also allows the employees to work as professionals; similar to how Google lets it employees work on an independent project, USAA allows employees to make and suggest changes to benefit their customers. (McGregor, 2005).

USAA also ranked third highest in overall auto-owner’s insurance satisfaction rating, according to JDPower’s satisfaction survey. The rating factors were: Overall satisfaction, first notice of loss, service interaction, appraisal, repair process, rental car experience, and settlement. USAA had scored a perfect 5 in all but one category; service interaction (J.D. Power, 2015).

USAA acts within all of the ethical decisions requirement, specifically within requiring employees to act within their code of conduct. All work to make ethical decisions is wasted if those in the organization do not follow the code of conduct, and USAA tries to keep all employees within the clearly outline code of conduct through an intensive 10-week training program.

USAA’s code of ethics and ethical treatment of customers and employees is similar to the way my fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, attempts to treat others outside and within our own organization. Our fraternity commits to many volunteer and philanthropy fundraising. Our national philanthropy is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Because of our dedication and ties to volunteer work, we would want a code of ethics to reflect that. Here is an example of a possible code of ethics for the Ashland University local chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon, which shows our deep devotion to philanthropy.

  1. Always conduct yourself in a manner in which you would if a St. Jude’s representative or St. Jude’s patient was there watching.
  2. Give everything you can while volunteering. You do not need to volunteer 24/7, but it should be a major time commitment for you.
  3. Treat everyone with respect, specifically within the fraternity.
  4. Be understanding and empathetic of others, and always try to make the world a better place.

These would be a good set of code of ethics to follow because they would require members to act and treat others with high regard as if they were always volunteering. Volunteering and service to others are key values or our organization.




Fleurke, B. X. (2009, January). Walking A Mile In The Shoes of Your Customer. Retrieved             October 17, 2016, from                 shoes-of-your-customer/

J.D. Power. (2015). U.S. Auto Insurance Claims Satisfaction Study. Retrieved October 17,               2016, from                 Satisfaction-Study/679ENG

McGregor, J. (2005, October 01). Employee Innovator: USAA. Retrieved October 17, 2016,               from           talent-ditch-silicon-valley-for-detroit

Shevory, K. (2014, September 1). Boot Camp for Bankers. Retrieved October 17, 2016.                    USAA. (n.d.). The USAA Standard. Retrieved October 17, 2016.

Netflix’s Culture and Succes

By Seth Ansell

This case study looks at Netflix’s unique corporate culture and highlights specific aspects and philosophies that Netflix deems important. The case study will describe and analyze the seven aspects of Netflix culture and add my input. My own experience within other organizations will be used to compare and contrast my experiences against Netflix’s unique culture.

The first aspect of Netflix’s culture is their values which they claim is shown through the behavior of their colleagues. These values are looked for in characteristics of candidates that apply at Netflix. The nine behaviors include: judgement, communication, impact, curiosity, innovation, courage, passion, honesty, and selflessness. Netflix goes into further details in why they want each characteristic. They want employees to make wise decisions “despite ambiguity,” and be able to think strategically. They want employees who can communicate well with other colleagues and treat others with respect regardless of who they are. They want their employees to not be another cog in the machine, but instead make an impact. Netflix’s key values it looks for in employees may seem like what most companies would want, it becomes more clear with their other aspects of culture in specifically what they want from their employees (Hastings, 2009).

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Work space inside Netflix’s offices. Photo credit:

The second aspect of their culture is “high performance.” Netflix compares themselves to a pro sports team, “Netflix leaders hire, develop and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position” (Hastings, 2009).The managers at Netflix think “who of my employees would I fight hard to keep if they were leaving?” If a manager wouldn’t fight hard to keep an employee, then Netflix gives them a generous severance package so that role can be filled in by a superstar. This shows how Netflix actually highly values their employees. Even when they drop an employee they offer them a severance. The company wants the best of the best so that all of the large talent can pool together and assist each other in achieving the company’s goals. The company values loyalty and will give a pass to their highest achieving employees in hopes that they will perform highly again. Netflix expects the same. If the company hits a low, they want employees to stick around (Hastings, 2009).

The third trait of Netflix’s culture is freedom and responsibility. Netflix wants employees to be responsible and self-motivated but also wants to grant them large amounts of freedom. As companies grow, their employee freedom usually decreases. This results in complexity increasing while quality employees decrease which results in chaos. Companies then streamline work processes to avoid this conflict which results in difficulty in adapting to future issues and market switches. Netflix aims to do the opposite; they want to promote freedom to attract innovative employees. They are attempting to increase the percentage of high performing employees faster than the growth of complexity. This allows the company to stay innovative and able to quickly adapt to change. An example of the freedom an employee has at Netflix is their ambiguous vacation policy. Employees are able to take as long as vacation as they want, as long as they are still performing their job (Hastings, 2009).

Netflix’s fourth aspect of culture is “Context, not Control.” This coincides well with the last aspect of freedom and responsibility. This aspect is how Netflix wants its managers to behave. They do not want managers to micromanage their employees every move, but rather show them clear objectives and goals. The aspect looks to avoid things such as top-down decision making and requiring management approval. They want their managers to show clearly the goals of the employees and trust with the freedom given to the employees that they will have the responsibility to finish the task, rather than using control to force finish the task (Hastings, 2009).

The fifth aspect is “Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled.” Netflix claims that in traditional companies there are two common models of teamwork, tightly coupled monoliths and independent silos. The first method consists of management reviewing all work and tactics, highly coordinated through centralization which causes slowness within office, and workers get exhausted trying to innovate and constantly please management. The independent silos model is the opposite were each department works on their own, little office coordination, “suspicion” between departments, and teamwork suffers. Netflix’s model combined the strengths of each model to eliminate the cons. Their model includes clear goals that are broadly understood, large amounts of team interaction, trust within departments and teams so that they don’t need to review each other, and leaders are pro-active with creating ad-hoc groups and coordination when needed (Hastings, 2009).

The sixth aspect of Netflix’s culture is to pay their employees top of the market. Netflix aims to pay top of the market for that employee as they expect top quality work. Not all employees with the same job description are worth the same, but Netflix aims to pay the highest market value on individual worth. This eliminates the 4% raise each year that many companies use, but results in raises when the individual’s worth increases (Hastings, 2009).

Netflix’s final aspect to their culture is promotions and development. Netflix aims to grow and keep their best talent. Sometimes there is no room for an employee to advance because there is no open position. Netflix recognizes this and celebrates an employee leaving for a better job if Netflix didn’t have one available for them. They truly care about the development and advancement of their employees, even if it results in them leaving (Hastings, 2009).

These aspects of the company seem to be showing good results. In 2013, Netflix had tripled its stock value. The business has won 3 Emmy awards, and has United States subscriber base of about 29 million. The seven cultural traits and aspects created a company that has succeeded through the use of creating a mutual respect/trust between employees and the company, honestly telling employees about their performance, managers creating highly-efficient teams, and leaders continuing the development of the company’s unique culture (McCord, 2016).

I have experienced some of the components to Netflix’s culture in organizations I am involved in. While I do not have very much work experience, I have seen on a small scale how managers who do not micro-manage may be more effective than those who do. In my fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon, members are expected to work together with efficient communication among each other, but we respect each other and do not micromanage or try to control others. We expect others to do their work and others expect me to do mine. This is very similar to Netflix’s ideology on freedom and responsibility. Freedom to get the work done how and when you want but the responsibility to complete high quality work. TKE shares some of the same values of high performance, rewarding strongly, respect and freedom, and development that Netflix does. Our slogan as a fraternity is “Better Men for a Better World.” This fits strongly with Netflix’s values on employee development.

I feel I may have the tools to succeed at Netflix, but I would be cautious. I feel I could succeed because I place a strong emphasis on communication and teamwork, as does Netflix. I would be cautious because I highly value job security and Netflix stated themselves that these are not the people they are looking for. They are looking for employees who are always trying to excel. I believe I am one of those types of employees but my fear of possibly being let go would cause me to be nervous and anxious on the job. Being nervous would not allow me to relax and really get into the work I am doing as I would be too busy worrying.


Hastings, R. (2009, August 01). Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility. Retrieved October

07, 2016.

McCord, P. (2016, January/February). How Netflix Reinvented HR. Retrieved October 07, 2016.





Working in Teams and Google’s Experience

By Seth Ansell

Working together in groups is essential to almost every job, especially jobs within large corporations. Google conducted a study called “Project Aristotle” that studied over 100 teams within the company to identify characteristics that make an efficient team. They wanted to find what made some teams mesh well together and what caused other groups to flop. This case study will review the research, analyze the results, and add my own personal experience and opinion.

Project Aristotle began in 2012 and studied over 100 teams within the Google company. The study included top employees within Google, such as statisticians, psychologists, sociologists, and engineers. At first, the study seemed stagnate; no pattern was found in what could cause a team’s success or failure; the composition of the members of the team did not seem to effect anything. The researchers then looked at past research and found that past studies by psychologists concluded that groups had norms which they followed. Norms are defined as “the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather” (Duhigg, 2016). Another study by Harvard that the Googlers looked at found that group success was not dependent on the overall IQ of the members, and that a group full of average intelligence individuals could out-perform groups with all high IQ members (Duhigg, 2016).

Skills that are most useful to have to work at Google
Example of casual team setting at google. Photo Credit:


Eventually the researchers found a major trend within the high performing groups in Project Aristotle; they all had high psychological safety. Psychological safety meant that people felt safe to express their ideas and that no one was afraid to contribute. This explained why a group of average IQ teammates could outperform a group of individuals with above average IQs. Another characteristic that usually led to success of a team was their connection to one another; for example, a team leader named Sakaguchi told his team members about his struggle with cancer. This allowed others to bring up personal issues in their own life and allowed the members to connect and bond which lead to more success (Duhigg, 2016).

It also was found that if one finds their teammates dependable, found a purpose or meaning in their work, and felt that their personal work was making a positive difference resulted in more efficient groups. Google also found factors that had no relevance on group performance: location of teammates, extroversion of team members, workload, seniority, team size, and individual performance. Even though these variables were not important within Google’s culture, they still may be prevalent in other groups in other organizations; “these variables did not significantly impact team effectiveness measurements at Google, that doesn’t mean they’re not important elsewhere. For example, while team size didn’t pop in the Google analysis, there is a lot of research showing the importance of it” (Re:Work, N/A).

While Google’s Project Aristotle puts positive light on group work and seems to suggest as long as teams connect they can work well together, research at Harvard shows some of the cons and current complications of group work, specifically lopsided workloads. Their research suggests that one third of collaborations come from 3-5% of employees, which shows that teamwork can give credit to a group of people when only a small portion are making valuable contributions (Cross, 2016).

I agree with the results from the Aristotle Project; I think that it is no surprise that teams that have a high psychological safety and connection between members will outperform those that do not. I think the big surprise from Google’s study is the characteristics that seem to not have a large impact on performance; such as individual IQ of participants, team size, and extroversion of participants. However, when it is kept in mind that this study only looked at employees of Google, the results are less surprising. A possible solution on why IQ does not make a big difference is because Google is already selective on employees that it accepts. Google is known to only accept the best of the best; which may mean there is a smaller range of IQs than the regular work place. Google also puts large focus on group work; which may explain why the team size and extroversion of participants did not have a large effect. The employees may already be used to working in an assortment of group-sizes and may be accustomed to group work whether or not they are personally extroverted or introverted. I personally have experienced both effective groups and ineffective group, and while I agree that knowing your teammates on a personal level helps; it is not required for an effective group. I have worked within many groups were discussion was limited but yet the work got done; this is usually prevalent in class groups.

While I believe the work that the researchers conducted in Project Aristotle was insightful to Google’s workplace culture and their dynamics, I do not believe their characteristics for a “successful” team will always result in success. Because Google hires a specific type of thinkers and is honed in on group work, their results are not indicative of results for all organizational groups, specifically because other research puts importance and success on variables that the Google study may not find important. I believe further research should be conducted for insight on different work-place cultures and how different work-place culture changes the characteristics and variables for group success.



Cross, R., Rebele, R., & Grant, A. (2016, January/February). Collaborative Overload.                     Retrieved September 30, 2016.

Duhigg, C. (2016, February 27). What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the                         Perfect Team. Retrieved September 30, 2016.

Re:Work. (N/A). Understand team effectiveness. Retrieved September 30, 2016.

Zappos and their Inner-Structure

by Seth Ansell

Holacracy is a type of management style that puts emphasis on self-management in contrast to the more common hierarchy system. This case study will compare the holacracy system to other traditional management styles, discussing the pros and cons of implementing a holacracy-like system. This case study will specifically look at Zappos’ transition into the holacracy style and review the positives the new style has given to the company, but also look at the complications and new challenges for the company due to the change of structure., a website that advocates for the system, describes holacracy as “a complete, packaged system for self-management in organizations. Holacracy replaces the traditional management hierarchy with a new peer-to-peer “operating system” that increases transparency, accountability, and organizational agility” (Holacracy 2016). This is achieved through multiple features: distributed authority, rapid iterations, transparent rules, and roles defined around work. This are much different than traditional corporate culture where there is: delegated authority, big re-orgs, office politics, and specific job descriptions (Holacracy 2016).

Usually in a company, managers will delegate power but yet still retain the final say even if they had delegated the authority away. In a holacracy work environment, teams are self-organized around the work that they are doing and decisions are ultimately made by those groups rather than a single manager. These groups are often referred to as circles. A typical manager would oversee work and make the final decisions, but in this style of management a manager would make sure that each circle is laterally communicating with the other circles. Because employees do not have a specific job description, they can pick up or drop off work and roles easily within their own circle. This is particularly advantageous to allow employees to work where they are needed most and where they can use their talent to the fullest potential (Holacracy 2016).

Another major benefit to holacracy systems is that they do not to re-organize the way other systems may. With such a hard structure of how things must be done, traditional companies usually need to re-organize every couple of years to keep up with changing times. Due to holacracy’s looser structure, anyone can add input on everything. This keeps the organization constantly changing every month or so as the company will evolve on its own to adapt to changes (Holacracy 2016).

Holacracy organizations have transparent rules that everyone must follow; from a team member to the CEO. This gets rid of many office politics which often slow down work because no one knows who to for what. The rules in a holacracy company are clearly defined so one knows who to go to for specific needs. Due to rapid iterations rather than rare big re-organizations, rules can be changed rather quickly if a problem arises were as in a regular company it could take years or more for company policy to change (Holacracy 2016).

Zappos, an online retailer for shoes and clothes, shifted to holacracy. There are no longer managers, anyone can start a meeting. To avoid chaos, rules and policies are strictly enforced. The switch to holacracy was decided on by the company’s CEO, Mr. Hsieh, in 2013. One of the reasons Mr. Hsieh wanted to switch to holacracy was to go back to the close-knit feeling of the company when they had fewer workers, he believes it would increase productivity by improving relationships between workers (Gelles 2015).


A look into Zappos’ Office. Photo Credit

While many love the anti-hierarchy and less defined job descriptions, some do not like it. Many employees have been slow to accept the new environment, while others let their disapproval be known. The workers who enjoy it says it allows those who would not usually have input in meetings (like a secretary) and gives them an equal voice. Another issue with holacracy, with any highly democratic environment, is with more people who can voice their opinions is that meetings take much longer, with some employees complaining that they have 5 hours of meetings (Gelles 2015).

Some employees feel that the new organizational style was just unorganized chaos and brought uncertainty about the company’s future with no clear direction, which resulted in some employees leaving. Previous managers, now “link leaders”, don’t have the power to get anything done or force employees into getting work done. This left many employees unable to achieve their goals, like one who was aiming to become the VP of human resources because the job no longer exists. Also with job descriptions no longer around, it is difficult to know how much to pay everyone (Reingold 2016).

If I was Zappos’ CEO, I would apply a style of management that still had leaders and managers but allowed upward communication rather than no hierarchy at all. I would implement a modified participative style. It would allow free flow of communication between employees and the management but still retains managers to keep order and a sense of direction. I would still keep the circle style were anyone could participate in the group conservation but I would hire someone to act as a leader of each group. This leader would keep order in the circle’s meetings but also make sure everyone’s voice is heard. This leader would then relay the decisions they have made to other leaders. This allows the company to give employees a sense of direction and order while still having a democratic feel to the company. It also would give employees a goal to reach for career development. With no current leaders or managers, it gives the illusion that employees cannot progress their careers. I feel if the company were to make these changes, then Zappos would still retain the image and democracy like values they enjoy but also give more structure and direction for the company.



Gelles, D. (2015, July 17). At Zappos, Pushing Shoes and a Vision. Retrieved September 23,

2016, from

How It Works. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2016, from


Reingold, J. (2016, March 4). How a Radical Shift Left Zappos Reeling. Retrieved September

23, 2016, from



Defining My Key Strengths

by Seth Ansell

StrenghsFinder 2.0 is a personality quiz used to find one’s “natural talents”, so that the user is aware of their natural personality strengths and can use that knowledge to further build and capitalize on their strengths which can be useful in personal and professional life. It also allows users to understand certain weaknesses that may go along with their strengths.

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The Gallup StrenghsFinder site claims that everyone has innate traits and abilities that make up their strengths. They also claim that those who are aware of their strengths are more successful in their careers, productive in individual work and team settings, and are more likely to say they live an “excellent quality of life.” By taking the quiz, I was able to learn what my strengths are, how I can utilize them in my daily life, recognize potential weaknesses, and use my strengths to develop my future goals of becoming successful in my career and leadership abilities. According to Gallup’s StrengthFinder, I possess these strengths (in descending order of prevalence): Competition, Futuristic, Adaptability, Activator, and Ideation.


My first and biggest strength is my competitive nature. Because Competition is such a dominant trait in my personality, I constantly compare myself to others. SrengthsFinder says that this Competitiveness can be used to encourage myself to get work done. I achieve this by not wanting to let others beat me; such as studying for an exam because I want to get the highest grade within my class. This would both fuel and satisfy my Competitive self in a productive way. I find that this to be very true to me and I often find myself motivating and encouraging myself through similar practices which is especially useful because I often lack other sources of motivation. A very specific application of this Competitive motivation is when I did not want to let my freshman roommate beat me in an election for vice president in an organization we were both apart of. Not wanting to lose and be seen as inferior, I worked hard to attempt to win. In the end my roommate dropped out of the running so I was unopposed, but he did not drop out until the day of elections and I used that fear of losing to motivate me to work hard on my election speech.

I believe that my roommate knew I was a Competitive person and used that to encourage me because he cared about me. If that was not true, there was a chance I could have let my Competitiveness hurt our friendship. I often get told by my girlfriend and my family that I get “too into things.” I do not see the point in playing in a game or participating in an activity if I am not trying to win and often times take casual games into serious competitions which sometimes get out of hand. It is not uncommon for me to get in an argument with my dad or one of my family members at a family gathering when we are playing something as simple as corn hole. I also like to celebrate when I win, which is a pro and a con. It is positive because it allows me to celebrate and enjoy my wins which will encourage me to be Competitive in the future to seek the thrill of winning which will perpetually motivate me. It is a flaw because it is very “unsportsmanlike” or can be seen as hurtful to celebrate in front of others who also were competing for the same goal, which is never my goal.


My next most prominent strength is Futuristic, which means I am very future oriented; I dream about the future, I think about the future, I plan for the future, and I see the future in a positive way. Constantly thinking about the future is also a major source of my motivation. As I envision what I want my future to be, I plan and attempt to reach my goals and dreams. These goals of success encourage me to work hard and I know that if I don’t work hard my goals for my future will never be met. A trait of one who is Futuristic, according to Gallup, is being able to look over pain and suffering in current times by looking and anticipating the future. I definitely have used the thoughts of the future to help myself get through tough times in my life. Without going into too much personal information, there have been days where I didn’t even get out of bed, I basically was depressed with my current situation that outside sources have brought into my life; however, I was able to get through it by hoping the future would be better, which it was.

On the flipside, one can be so caught up in thinking about the future that they aren’t acting for today and I often find myself doing that. I fantasize and think about the future that I end up procrastinating or neglecting opportunities that I currently have. This is something I still struggle with on a daily basis but I have gotten much better at realizing I cannot get where I want to be without acting and working.


My third strength is Adaptability. Being adaptable, according to the survey, means that you respond well to chaos and are able to react when others would be intimidated. They find ways to get through unexpected circumstances. The Gallup StrengthsFinder also says that those who are adaptable are able to “unfreeze” progress when it seems that you and your colleagues are stuck. It also claims that day-to-day predictability would not be my preferred setting, which is absolutely true. I like things to be interesting and unique. I do not like living or working with the same schedule all the time. This is evident specifically in my area of study. I am studying Health and Risk Communication and I would like to work in some sort of setting where I can work with unexpected events, whether it be safety management, disaster relief, or Public Health. All potential future jobs have situations where I would need to be able to respond to the unexpected. One way I have adapted in the past was the way I handled the moving in with my Grandma in 8th grade. While moving out of my house was unexpected and definitely not an optimal situation, I was able to deal with the stress of moving houses and living with a family member I only used to see once a month or less.

One of the major downsides of being adaptable and being efficient in chaos is the way I live with very little organization and planning. I do not set up time to do all my work and plan all my work for the week. I do the work when I feel like or when I absolutely need to do it. While I work very well in these situations, not all do. If I was working in a team environment my peers might prefer order and planning. This is something I have been attempting to change; instead of not planning anything out, I am trying become organize so that I can use my other time and resources on reacting to the unexpected instead of dealing with it all at once because I put off the already-known work and tasks.


My second to last top strength is being an Activator. Activators have the drive to make things into a reality. They often can be the person to initialize the first push of getting a big project achieved. Activators also get tired of theoretical and “what ifs” and want to see action. While I very much enjoy planning and discussing what should be done in theory with group members or coworkers, I also get tired of waiting if we wait too long to act. I am a person who likes to see change quickly and I often feel that some people take too long when deciding what to do when they should be spending more time on action. I find myself stating in my fraternity’s meetings “Let’s stop talking about it and just start doing it.” I feel like a lot of the time that too much discussion on what action to take can take away from the original goal in mind and that the focus could be directed away from what was originally wanted/needed. This is my Activator strength coming out in me. Wanting to get things started instead of just theoretically talking about what to do.

While being an Activator is a strength and can be used to motivate a group to put their plans into action, it also may make others feel that you are being pushy. My want for instant action and progress makes me very vocal about wanting to get things done. No one has voiced their concerns about me being pushy in the sense that I am too vocal or rude when I push for action but I have been told before that I am very vocal on my opinions and that I may accidentally come off as rude or intimidating. Gallup warns about others seeing your push for action as rude or intimidating and it is something I must watch because I can see how others might perceive my actions in that way.


My final strength is Ideation. Gallup claims that Ideation talents include being an unconventional thinker, with fresh and creative ideas to solve problems. They also have a knack for being able to view and see issues from multiple perspectives. I feel personally that one of my top strengths is my ability to see things from multiple angles and be very diplomatic. I have been known by my previous friends that I am I good person to talk to when having issues with another because I can give a pretty unbiased view from both sides of the dispute.

Gallup suggests those who have Ideation as a strength to “think through your ideas before communicating them.” I definitely feel that doing so would help me. I have countless times thought of a great idea in my head but attempted to share it prematurely and other people did not quite understand it because I could not explain it well enough. I feel if I were finished my thought before sharing it, that they too would think it was a good idea but now I feel I cannot share it because it has already been dismissed. This would be one of the biggest weaknesses I have experienced with Ideation; excitedly sharing an idea prematurely.

Critical Analysis

My five top strengths all combine to make a specific leadership style that is unique to myself. Overall I believe that my leadership style would excel in a corporation or an organization that is having some internal or external issues. My Futuristic strength would be perfect for helping plan for a future of an organization that is currently struggling. I could use my “day-dreaming” of the future to help encourage others in the organization and help remind them that whatever problems we are facing may not always be there in the future and that things can and will get better if we work towards it. I could share my vision of a better future for the organization. Being Adaptable would also help an organization going through rough times. When an organization is struggling, one would want someone who is adaptable and can deal with the chaos of unexpected issues and that is exactly what one like myself with Adaptability as a strength can do. I could also tie in my Competitive nature to encourage the organization to be better than other organizations. This would be a great way to fire up employees and increase morale by encouraging them to become the top in our field and to beat out competitors. I very much have the “I want to be the best”, and that is exactly a trait you want in a leader. You want your organization to be the best at what it does and once a leader has that attitude, it will begin to flow to others within the organization.

My leadership ability is not only comprised of hoping for a better future and being able to adapt to problems that may or may not happen, but also of being able to initiate a plan. Being an Activator, I am able to encourage action among my peers. This would be perfect for an organization that knows what they want to do but are having issues getting past the planning phase. Ideation is also perfect for an organization that is undergoing problems. My unique view on issues and problem solving can help start ideas that may not have been thought of previously. Also my ability to be unbiased and see things from multiple angles is a good trait for a leader because they can then solve issues among members in an organization in a mature and respectful way without letting their own values get in the way.

My unique skills allow me to lead in a way that is specific to my traits and strengths. While I believe I would be a great leader overall, my strength set given to me by the Gallup StrengthsFinder quiz would allow me to specifically help an organization that is struggling, wants to prepare for the future, or one that needs help putting plans into actions.

Seth Ansell

20160415_194808Seth Ansell is currently a junior at Ashland University and is majoring in Health and Risk Communication and minoring in Biology and Chemistry. In addition to studying at Ashland University, Seth currently holds a public relations internship with the university’s Auxiliary Services. Other involvement on campus includes being a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity Pi-Alpha Chapter, a performer for the Ashland University Community Band, a past member of the AU Marching Band, and is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor’s Fraternity.

Seth is a hard working member in any organization he is a part of and prides himself on being able to be both a leader and work under someone else’s leadership. He has served as Vice President and Chaplain in TKE’s Pi-Alpha Chapter but also has served as a general member. He is proud to be able to step up when needed and be aware when to let someone else lead. As Vice President, Seth ran the TKE’s social media pages and conduced public relations between the fraternity and the Ashland University community. Overall Seth enjoys working with his fellow brothers in TKE.

Inside of the classroom, Seth enjoys hands on experiences, whether it be a chemistry lab or group work in communication studies. He also enjoys writing large papers, such as lab reports or research papers. Seth enjoys both science and communication studies; however, feels that communication is a better overall fit for him and that is why he decided on a communication major and two science minors instead of the other way around.

Seth currently works for Ashland University Auxiliary Services as a PR intern. His past work experience includes working for 3 different restaurants as a cook, and has worked as a volunteer in the Biology lab at Ashland University. Seth wants to combine his experience working in the lab (a potentially dangerous workplace) and his communication knowledge to become a safety manager for a factory or other high risk workplace where he could implement and regulate policy to ensure worker safety. He eventually wants to go back to school after working a couple years to get a PhD in Risk Management and Analysis or Public Health. He is also looking into other jobs and PhD programs that will combine his communication and science background.

When not studying or working, Seth enjoys hanging out with his fraternity brothers and his girlfriend. He enjoys many activities with his brothers and girlfriend such as cook outs, watching Netflix, people watching, inter-mural sports, and just hanging out. When on his own Seth enjoys playing video games, planning out his future, and listening to music. Some of his favorite bands include Daft Punk, Muse, Panic! at The Disco, and Twenty One Pilots.