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COLUMN: Commercials fall short of portraying a positive workplace

A couple of recent television commercials for Amazon show a dismal view of the world and a disappointing workplace culture.
Employees at packing stations are seen at Amazon’s Kent, Wash., fulfillment center on June 11, 2020. Ken Lambert

A couple of recent television commercials for Amazon show a dismal view of the world and a disappointing workplace culture.

One of the commercials shows a man who has a job at one branch of the Seattle-based technology company and is hoping for a few more promotions. The promotions will improve his quality of life.

The other commercial has statements from a number of potential workers, each of them talking about what they want in a job. The potential employees mention the need for good benefits, the ability to work certain hours to accommodate family needs or another job and the flexibility to have part-time work while attending school.

In both commercials, the message is that Amazon is a good company, offering good jobs to good people.

It’s not a bad message, but it seems incomplete. None of the people in these commercials talk about anything beyond the job and what working at Amazon can do for them.

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There’s no mention about the company and its vision. There’s nothing about Amazon’s impressive growth or its accomplishments since it began 27 years ago.

Since its formation, Amazon has earned a name as the company that can supply almost anything and ship it to customers around the world. The company has also revolutionized self-publishing for book authors. And it has developed other innovations. That’s a lot of progress in a short time span.

At the same time, some of the news headlines about the tech giant over the past year have not shown Amazon in the best light.

Using advertising messages to present a company in a positive way is nothing new. Companies of all sizes may opt to show such a message, and it can help to attract customers who want to do business with companies whose ethical values line up with their own.

Still, the Amazon ads are a bit disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with a company showing itself as a good employer, but I was hoping for more.

A job offering nothing more than a paycheque will not attract loyal, dedicated long-term workers, even if the pay scale is impressive. A company showing itself as nothing more than a place to work will not be any job seeker’s top choice.

Full-time workers will spend more of their waking hours on the job than doing anything else. If those hours are seen as a drudgery or as nothing more than the pursuit of a paycheque, life is out of balance.

Equally disappointing is the message these ads show about contemporary work culture.

If potential Amazon employees are shown as wanting nothing more than a job with a good paycheque, flexible schedules and good benefits, the implication is that these things are lacking elsewhere.

I prefer working at or dealing with companies where people feel good about going to work and where people feel good about what they are doing. This mood can come from a positive mission at the corporate level, a good internal team atmosphere, a sense of purpose in the work itself or another aspect of the work culture.

This is something I appreciate about my friends and coworkers at Black Press Media.

People care about their role in covering the news in communities around the province and beyond. I don’t just have a team of coworkers here; I have a good team.

I’ve witnessed this dedication once again over the past week as so many worked tirelessly to provide up-to-date coverage during extreme flooding. People were out in challenging conditions to ensure their communities and beyond would have accurate and up-to-date information.

To me, their level of commitment is far more inspiring than multiple commercials touting flexible hours and benefits plans.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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