Envelope of Canadian money

Would you bribe your employees to quit?

Elizabeth Bromstein|

How much would it cost for your employer to get you to quit your job?

Would you do it for $5,000? That’s what Amazon is offering its employees to quit. In the company’s annual letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains the “Pay to Quit” policy under the heading “Employee Empowerment.”

He says that once a year the company offers to pay employees in its “fulfillment centers,” where orders are packed and shipped (so a ridiculous name for “warehouse”), to quit.

“The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000.”

He doesn’t actually want people to leave, Bezos says.

“The headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer.’ We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

Bezos says the he got the idea from shoe and clothing retailer Zappos, which Amazon bought in 2009. They called it “The Offer” and it was made to employees after about a week of working at the company.

Zappos would say, “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” According to a 2008 Harvard Business Review blog post, about ten percent of Zappos’ new call center employees accepted The Offer.

As for the Amazon offer, a spokeswoman told the Tennessean, “A small percentage of employees” take it.

In the shareholder letter, Bezos also explains another “employee empowerment” initiative called “Career Choice.”

This is “a program where we pre-pay 95% of tuition for our employees to take courses for in-demand fields, such as airplane mechanic or nursing, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.” How nice.

He says “The goal is to enable choice. We know that for some of our fulfillment center employees, Amazon will be a career. For others, Amazon might be a stepping stone on the way to a job somewhere else – a job that may require new skills. If the right training can make the difference, we want to help.”

Another possible upside to the Pay to Quit program is that such a policy could provide employers with valuable insight into their own companies. For example, if everyone takes the offer, you would do well to wonder why everyone is so eager to jump your ship. It may mean it’s time for you to make some improvements.

Lest you think Amazon must be extremely confident in its company culture in order to make such an offer, CBS News points out that the company’s relationship with its fulfillment center warehouse employees hasn’t always been great.

In 2009, a former employee sued, alleging Amazon doesn’t pay proper overtime. And, in 2010, employees sued over time spent waiting to go through security screening before breaks and after shifts. That case is still pending. There have also been complaints about stressful environments and temperatures so high that warehouse employees were hospitalized.

“A Pennsylvania emergency-room doctor even called a federal hotline to complain about the injuries coming in,” CBS reports.

According to CNN, the company has experimented with Pay to Quit in recent years, “but rolled it out to its 40,000 warehouse employees in January, according to a company spokeswoman.”

Olive branch? PR stunt? Someone’s heart just grew three sizes and they saw the true meaning of Christmas?

We’ll probably never know.

Whatever the case, would it cost to get you to quit your job?


Follow Workopolis


Category: