By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogHaving both come up through the boot camp-like experience that is a daily newspaper, we’ve had a bit of a chuckle over some (though certainly not all) of the complaints  from workers there.

Long hours? Calls late at night and on supposed off days? Unreasonable output expectations? Crying at desks? Ruthless culling of people who just weren’t up to the task? Working in the bathroom?

Check on the first five. As for the sixth, I never personally witnessed any bathroom work being done at the newspaper where I worked. The bathroom was reserved for crying by those individuals who had enough self-respect not to do so at their desks. (I wasn’t one of those people.)

The only difference between my experience at the newspaper and those of the “Amazonians” is, quite frankly, money. There was never any chance of any huge stock incentives at the newspaper, no matter how many “groundbreaking” article ideas we had.

Also, as our senior editor Hannah just pointed out to me, it’s important to have perspective.

Yes, working at Amazon sounds bad and yes, the company absolutely should not be mistreating workers who suffer from health problems or are dealing with personal crises, and factory workers should not be made to toil in 100-degree heat until they drop.

But the working conditions still are far, far better than what millions of people experience elsewhere in the country and across the globe, including many workers in this industry. Hannah pointed me to the blog Humans of New York. The blog’s creator just finished a trip detailing the lives of people in Pakistan. So, what do you think sounds worse—a job at Amazon or working in the brick kilns there?

My personal feelings about the complaints from the Amazonians aside, the Times article does give greater insight into the man who built Amazon, Jeff Bezos. Love him or hate him, you can’t argue the fact that Jeff Bezos is a man with a plan for his business.

Twice in the story, the author points readers to a list of 14 leadership principles, also referred to in the article as the articles of faith, created by Bezos himself.

Jewelers, how many of these principles make your list? And are you teaching your principles to employees and using them daily in the operation of your business?

Amazon’s principles are, by design, simple, general enough to apply to a wide range of businesses and used daily in the course of business. The Times states that they are actually recited in food-truck lines at lunch and, in some cases, Amazon employees teach these principles to their children.

Obsess over customers. When there’s a problem or a product to develop, start with the customer and work backward.

Never say “that’s not my job.”

Hire the best people and develop them.

Have the backbone to disagree and have the courage of conviction to stick with a decision.

Though it’s not formally included on the list of 14, from what I’ve gathered, the No. 1 principle at Amazon is “word hard,” which I think is necessary in any job at which one wants to achieve great things.

I speak negatively about my time at the daily newspaper above but, in all honesty, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t put in all those hours early in my career and been driven so hard to understand what separates good journalism from bad journalism.

All those tears shed at my desk, it turns out, have paid off.

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