Amazon Makes Smart Move to Positive Employee Feedback

Last year the New York Times published an article describing Amazon as having a “bruising workplace,” a performance-based environment that often brings employees to tears. It seems that Amazon is changing its ways a bit. It recently announced that it was adjusting the way it evaluates employees. A spokesperson for Amazon described the change as follows:

We’re launching a new annual review process next year that is radically simplified and focuses on our employees’ strengths, not the absence of weaknesses. We will continue to iterate and build on the program based on what we learn from our employees.

My take: Great move. There’s a growing body of research showing that people perform better when they receive positive feedback. 1611_positivitymattersIn my post Positive Psychology Meets Customer Experience, I mention an approach called “appreciative inquiry,” which is a technique for motivating employees that focuses on their strengths.

To highlight the impact of this phenomena, I analyzed our data on more than 5,000 U.S. employees. As you can see below, when bosses give more positive feedback, employees are more likely to recommend the company’s products and services, to do something good for the company that is unexpected, and make improvement recommendations.


The bottom line: Positivity is a strong human motivator.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

2 Responses to Amazon Makes Smart Move to Positive Employee Feedback

  1. Maurice FitzGerald says:

    Really interesting post. The behavioral economists Ariely and Kahneman are also big believers that only positive feedback has a positive effect. It will be interesting how Amazon’s employee sat scores trend. While these are not public, there are 11,000 reviews of them on, and their score has moved from the Glassdoor average of 3.4 for large companies to 3.5 recently. I realize their announced change only takes place next year. Amazon really is the poster child for the weak relationship between employee and customer satisfaction.

    • Maurice: Thanks for the very thoughtful comment. It turns out that Amazon is an outlier in so many ways that it’s hard to draw too many broad conclusions based on its model. What I would say about the Amazon employee situation is that it showcases what I’ve told many people, employee engagement is not employee experience. For many organizations, these are congruent. They either have good employee experience and good employee engagement or both are poor. Amazon, is an odd duck. I haven’t measured their employees, but my guess is that they have much higher level of employee engagement than employee experience. The reason this is important is that employee engagement, not employee experience, is what is connected to customer experience.

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