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Amazon Fulfillment Part I-What's Really Happening At EWR4

This is a website about coffee. So, why is"Amazon Fulfillment-What's Really Happening At EWR4" doing on my website. The reason I'm writing about this subject is because until just recently I worked at EWR4 as an inbound receiver.

I believe there is a very important story to tell about this particular Amazon Fulfillment Center. I was there and saw everything, the good and the bad; mostly bad for tier I associates and temps. I will start this story with a letter I sent to corporate headquarters. It's a little over 1200 words, so I will get right to it and fill in the details as these articles progress. I sent this letter around April 14th 2015.


Here is the letter...


Peace and Prosperity,

I want to briefly explain to you what happened with leadership at EWR4.

Leadership experts say one must have three traits in order to develop into a successful leader.

The desire to lead – makes sense that first and foremost a person must want to be a leader. The desire to lead means we are committed to being responsible for the people we are leading. We are fully committed to helping our people succeed. We care about them.

 

Commitment to the mission and vision- we have to fully believe in what the organization is all about. It means following the Amazon Way.

 

Integrity – As leaders we must be true to our word. We must be authentic and genuine in our actions; we have to walk the walk we talk.

Now, perhaps you have heard of John C. Maxwell. Maybe you have read a book or two he has written. He is an expert on leadership. I highly recommend you read his book, “The 5 Levels of Leadership,” if you haven’t already. The five levels are:

1.      Position – The only influence we have is the title itself. People follow because they have to.

2.      Permission – This is the relationship level. People follow because they want to. This is the level where we begin to earn the trust of others.

3.      Production – This level is based on results. The leader gains influence and credibility. People follow on this level because the leader is getting things done for the company.

4.      People Development- This is when leaders empower others by investing in people to develop them into leaders.

5.      Pinnacle – The highest and most challenging level is level five. The leaders you help develop, now develop more leaders. A legacy is created.

Okay there it is. We have the three traits and five levels of leadership. Now, here is what happened at EWR4; is continuing to occur and getting worst.

 We cannot be successful leaders if we do not develop positive relationships. I’m not talking about personal relationships, but relationships that come from leading by example. This is how we begin to earn the trust of others. This is how we develop permission leadership, people watching us leading by example.

There was a lack of integrity when I started at EWR4. For example, safety school taught new hires what Amazon standards and safety procedures are. We are expected to abide by them; we gave our word to do so. So, how come most of the management staff disregarded the safety rules, but talked about us following the very same rules in the stand up meetings. Let me give you another example of how trust was not earned.

I started on the each receive line. We were taught that one piece flow meant we were supposed to scan one UPC at a time. We were told that rate was 300 units per hour. Now, understanding the entire process needed to produce such a number, I knew it could not be done. Even after our six week grace period for training was up. Mind you we were told not to quantity receive by management and told we still had to produce at the rate of 300 units an hour.

 Long story short, others and I followed instructions and were eventually written up for not making rate. We were told by management how others were making rate. Yes, they were making rate by not following instructions. They were quantity receiving and cherry picking. Management knew this and did not address it because it was all about the rates. The people who weren’t following instructions were actually rewarded. This is extremely counter productive. Then later, after the harm was done the rules were changed. This situation alone created a huge gap in trustworthiness.

There are other things that happened and are continuing to happen. Please understand this; if trust is not developed the second level of leadership cannot exist.

The down side of level one is positional leadership. It wreaks havoc in a company. The person stuck on positional leadership says, “I have the title; I don’t need to do anything else”. “It is all about me, my rights, my authority, no one else matters.” People who practice positional leadership do not grow; therefore the people they are responsible for cannot grow. A person cannot be a leader if they don’t care about people, it is impossible. Leadership is about influencing people in order to develop their leadership potential.

 You have to read John Maxwell’s book. It is as if he had been right here at EWR4 taking notes about the negative effects of positional leadership. Everything he describes in his book about the down side of level one is happening here.

 

According to Maxwell you cannot skip levels. Management at EWR4 focuses solely on production. Because of this leadership is not trusted. Management has lied to the people about rates. The thing they have focused on the most, they have deceived the associates about.

They have lied, bullied, and downright terrorized people over making rates. Management is threatening to take food off of peoples’ tables. The associates are emotionally distressed. I have even witnessed some of the women crying.

The issue with the women brings to mind a very important point. The women are African American; the managers who confronted the women are white.

On the night shift at EWR4 the lines in the inbound and outbound departments are staffed mostly by black people. Management is predominantly white. We already know that how things are perceived can make a big difference in how people deal with those things. Too many of the people in supervisory positions speak to people disrespectfully at EWR4. Now, take a non black AM or PA not being respectful to a black associate and it could be perceived as racism. I’m not saying this is what it is. I am talking about what it is perceived as. Especially since the facility has acquired the terrible nickname of “The Amazon Plantation” in the Trenton and surrounding areas.

 We are losing people like crazy. We have lost some extremely talented people. The associates are being treated very unfairly. Something has to be done, we cannot continue to remain at this level and believe we can succeed long term.

We used to be the second most admired company in the world, we are now fourth. Which is still pretty impressive, so why is it people don’t want to work at EWR4?

Amazon is a great company. I can easily see it becoming the greatest company on Earth. I’m quite serious about that. Amazon will be there when the human race ventures out to explore the galaxy. However, we must get ourselves together when it comes to how we are going to lead the people who will help Amazon get there. This thing isn’t about rates, it’s about people. People don’t want to be managed, they need leadership. Give them what they need and they will give you what you want.

  Abraham Lincoln said,

            “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

          “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow, the shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

          “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Albert Einstein said,

            “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

            “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Sincerely,


Randy Brickhouse Sr.


I will explain what happened after I was given a meeting with senior management to discuss what I had written to corporate in part II. This story will be on going and you don't want to miss it. They say truth is stranger than fiction. I'm going to reveal everything I know about EWR4. Enjoy your coffee!


Amazon Fulfillment Part II-Racism, Sexism, and Favoritism at EWR4 Oh My!

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