The New York Times ran a story this weekend that threw back the curtain on workplace culture at tech giant Amazon. Nationwide reaction was swift. Some were shocked at accounts of cutthroat managers, gender bias and little flexibility for family or personal matters. But many others could relate to the demanding environment, which extends far beyond the tech world. Meanwhile, other major U.S. companies like Netflix and Microsoft are implementing some of the more generous paid leave and family-friendly policies in the corporate world. But policies on the books often don’t reflect realities in the office. We look at changing demands on employees in the modern workplace.


  • Stewart Friedman Professor of management, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; founder, Wharton Work/Life Integration Project
  • Brigid Schulte Staff writer, The Washington Post; author of "Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time"
  • Brian Kropp Managing director of HR practice, CEB

Poll: How Are You Treated In The Workplace?


  • 10:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Late nights, nonstop email, little time for family, these are hardly new concerns for the modern day employee, but a recent New York Times investigation into the white collar Amazon workplace has reenergized a national conversation about how companies should treat employees.

  • 10:07:20

    MS. DIANE REHMHere to talk about the modern American workplace and its future, Brigid Schulte of The Washington Post, Brian Kropp, he's an HR expert at the CEB corporation and on the line from Marion Station, Pennsylvania, Stewart Friedman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm sure many of you will want to have a word to say.

  • 10:07:48

    MS. DIANE REHMGive us a call at 800-433-8850. Send your email to Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And thank you all for being with us.

  • 10:08:06

    MS. BRIGID SCHULTEThanks so much for having us.

  • 10:08:07

    MR. BRIAN KROPPThanks for having me.

  • 10:08:09

    MR. STEWART FRIEDMANGreat to be here. Thanks.

  • 10:08:10

    REHMGood to have you all. Brigid Schulte, give us an overview of this Amazon story.

  • 10:08:19

    SCHULTEWell, this is a story that came out in the big Sunday newspaper of the New York Times and it was an investigation where two reporters had spent quite a bit of time interviewing a number of current and former Amazon employees and a number of stories arose that one person was saying -- about a real punishing culture that they were always on, always expected to work. It was never enough.

  • 10:08:47

    SCHULTEVery harsh culture where one person reported always seeing someone in tears at their desk, people talking about getting burned out and leaving. The fallout has been pretty -- it's really kind of taken a life of its own. There have been current employees who've taken to, say, LinkedIn and have written long pieces about this is not the place I work for. The persons there have been there, it looks like, 18 months.

  • 10:09:15

    SCHULTESomeone else at (word?) writes -- wrote a big piece on "my husband needed therapy after working for Amazon." Amazon had -- Jeff Bezos came out with a memo on Monday saying, this is not the company that I recognize. If there's a problem, please report this -- any situation like this to HR." So it's really created quite a stir, quite a conversation. It's reinforced what a lot of people thought about Amazon and other big tech companies in this era of globalization, disruption, technology kind of always-on culture.

  • 10:09:50

    REHMAnd what was your personal reaction to this story?

  • 10:09:54

    SCHULTEWell, you know, I cover workplace cultures and I've been writing about this and researching it for quite some time so I have to say there is a part of me that wasn't surprised at all. These are stories that you hear across industries, not just in high tech companies. You hear because of technology, people are expected to always be on, particularly after the recession where you've got -- we had the jobless recovery.

  • 10:10:20

    SCHULTESo you've got fewer people doing more work and that's across industries, you know. And that's -- you've certainly got work hours that have been increasing since the 1980s for white collar workers. You've got schedule chaos for hourly wage workers. So you've got a lot of demands and it's a very challenging time for many workplaces.

  • 10:10:40

    REHMBrian Kropp, how typical do you think the Amazon case is?

  • 10:10:45

    KROPPWell, there's really three parts to what's going on there. One is the work environment that we all operate in has dramatically changed. A lot of what Brigid was eluding to, the average manager has more direct reports now than five years ago. They spend less time with them. The average employee is working more hours now than they were before. That's all absolutely true. More global environment and that's a real factor.

  • 10:11:06

    KROPPThere's a second part, though, which is that companies are really focusing on their culture as a way to drive performance and that's true across organizations. How do we create a unique culture for us that helps engage employees, attracts the right employees for us, motivates employees in a variety of different ways? And a lot of companies are focusing on the culture piece of what it's like to work at their organization and that can be for good in many cases.

  • 10:11:32

    KROPPThat by motivating employees, getting them aligned, lots of good outcomes can occur for the organization. But then, there's the third factor which is that there is some just bad manager behavior across a lot of different organizations and that's not unique to anyone. Any company of size, you're going to have good managers and bad managers. And what's not clear here is which of those three factors is the most impactful in terms of what's going on at Amazon.

  • 10:11:58

    KROPPAll three are present, mostly likely, but that's true of almost every organization, that the work environment is affecting how people operate, companies are trying to change cultures to become more productive and there's a lot of just bad managers out there that are impacting things.

  • 10:12:10

    REHMYou just used the word "productive" that I think we hear so much about. Steward Friedman, when you think about the word "productivity," is that what's driving this -- perhaps this changing attitude in the workplace on the part of managers having to live up to corporate expectations, whatever they are?

  • 10:12:41

    FRIEDMANWell, productivity is a driver, but the ubiquity of always on technology, which Brigid eluded to, I think is really the crux of it. Performance pressures in a global economy are increasing for sure, but we're only 20 years into the digital era and like most technologies throughout history, the new tool arrives before the social and psychological skill to be able to harness its power develop and so we're just kind of figuring out how to create the kind of boundaries, the psychological as well as the physical boundaries, that people need to deal with the -- live sustainable lives.

  • 10:13:22

    FRIEDMANSo the performance pressures are there for sure and there are people throughout the world who would love to work at Amazon who have no opportunity to do that. The question is, how are we going to focus on results that matter and give people the freedom and flexibility, which we know young people desperately want, especially in this country, to be achieve those results in ways that work for them as well as their families, their communities and their own personal, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

  • 10:13:51


  • 10:13:52

    SCHULTEWell, you know, when you talk about productivity, when you look at economic reports, productivity has been on the rise in the United States for years. What's been stagnate, what hasn't caught up with that is wages. Wages have been stagnate so people are working more, they're not getting reimbursed for it. But I think one of the most interesting things to look at, we tend to think that working more hours and working longer is what's going to get us more productivity.

  • 10:14:18

    SCHULTEThat tends to be the mindset that many in corporate America have. And there have been some really interesting studies recently that really kind of take a very different view. There was one company, they used an app called Desk Time to really track what people were actually doing during the day and they found that their most productive workers actually took 17 minute breaks every hour.

  • 10:14:42

    SCHULTESo they didn't even work a full 8-hour day. You know, and we have to remember the 8-hour day is an artifact of Henry Ford and the manufacturing era. So now that we've really moved in everyone's a -- or lots of people are knowledge workers, we don't kind of know how long you can work and be productive. And there are these new studies that show maybe not all the times, always on, is the most productive way to work.

  • 10:15:06

    REHMAnd yet, you have professionals like physicians and lawyers working on the clock.

  • 10:15:15

    SCHULTEIt's true. And you also have to look at the standards that have changed. So, for instance, lawyers back in the '70s and '80s, their billable hour requirements for a year used to be 1600, 1700 hours a year. Now, it's 2100, 2200 hours just as a minimum. So you also have to look at sort of what we're expecting people to do. Physicians today fully one in two, recent surveys show, are showing at least one sign of burnout.

  • 10:15:42

    SCHULTENow, these people who are making life and death decisions. I don't think we want our physicians to be so burned out.

  • 10:15:47

    REHMSo Stew, a lot of people chose to work at Amazon. I mean, they think it's a great place to work. But is there a disconnect between what's happening at the corporate level and what's happening at the managerial level?

  • 10:16:11

    FRIEDMANAnd below, yeah. And if you look at what's happening in the warehouses and on the shop floor, it's a different story there as well. So, you know, not every organization is going to be well suited to everyone's interest and need. Some people, you know, are going to thrive in an environment where there's constant demand and they want to fully commit, you know, virtually all of their waking hours to their work.

  • 10:16:35

    FRIEDMANOther people are not going to want that. We don't know how sustainable the Amazon model is. It's still a pretty young company. But the policies and practices that exist at the top, as far as I understand it, I'm not an expert on, you know, the details of their corporate practices, but I think they are somewhat different. There have been a number of earlier stories, prior to this expose, that have detailed some of the practices at the shop floor and it's not pretty.

  • 10:17:02

    FRIEDMANSo, yeah, I think your point is well taken, that there is a gap between what's happening on the shop floor and what's happening at the top and that could help explain the rise in interest in unions in the private sector, which is now starting to see an uptick.

  • 10:17:16

    REHMAnd of course, Brigid, Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post where you work.

  • 10:17:23

    SCHULTEThat's right.

  • 10:17:25

    REHMSo that he's got -- he had an awkward position to be in, it seems to me, in regard to what he was saying about Amazon and the number of people who have recently taken buy-outs at The Post. One wonders also about the corporate mentality there. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk more about that and take your calls, 800-433-8850. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking in this hour about conditions for today's workers and basically white-collar workers, after an expose in The New York Times this past weekend. And Brigid Schulte is here. She's a long-time staff writer at The Washington Post and author of the book, "Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Plan When No One Hs the Time." Next month, I gather, you're moving to the New America Foundation...

  • 10:20:42

    SCHULTEThat's right.

  • 10:20:43 direct The Good Life Initiative, to explore the future of work in the 21st century. Just before the break, I was asking you about The Washington Post and its culture, knowing that Jeff Bezos directs both The Washington Post and Amazon.

  • 10:21:05

    SCHULTEWell, you know, you were asking about The Washington Post and you'd mentioned the buy-outs. That all came in the era before Jeff Bezos, when the Graham family owned The Washington Post. And it was a family-owned newspaper for many, many decades. And, you know, the Graham family is beloved and there was a real sort of family feeling at The Washington Post. But at the same time, like every other newspaper, it's -- talk about a disrupting industry -- it was very difficult to make the financials work and they were losing a lot of money. And so that's where the buy-outs came, as a way to try to keep the paper going.

  • 10:21:40

    SCHULTEWhen Jeff Bezos came -- and Don Graham actually handpicked him, thinking that he would have the same values of really bringing news and information to help, you know, citizens in an informed democracy make good decisions. So Jeff Bezos has brought additional runway. He's brought more investment. There's been a much more of a focus on digital, kind of for the future. So The Post has always had very much of a performance mentality. You're only as good as your next story. You know, there -- it's a very demanding culture, as are most media cultures. And that has speeded up, certainly, with the digital demands. But that's true not just for The Washington Post but across the board.

  • 10:22:23

    REHMOf course. And that issue of productivity, Brian Kropp, you were mentioning.

  • 10:22:31

    KROPPYeah. One of the things that's really interesting about the gap between productivity expectations and reality is, one of the things we've been doing is looking at the earnings calls from Fortune 500 CEOs and have added up what they're predicting and what they're promising to Wall Street from a company growth perspective. And when you look across a whole set of companies, what you find is that the average growth rate that the typical Fortune 500 company is predicting is actually higher than any prediction for growth that we have as our economy, so, off by 3, 4 percentage points.

  • 10:23:02

    KROPPAnd when you look at that, what it tells you is there's no way that all of the companies -- all of the Fortune 500 are going to be able to achieve the growth rates that they're promising to Wall Street. So they have to put tremendous pressure on their workforces to try to achieve the promises that they're making to public markets. And that creates a real tension in the organization between the top of the organization, in terms of expectations, and employees, in the organization in terms of what their day-to-day looks like.

  • 10:23:28

    REHMAnd the people at the top of the organization are making so much more money than the people who are operating the organization.

  • 10:23:33

    KROPPWell, it's not just the top of the organization are making so much more money...

  • 10:23:34


  • 10:23:35

    REHM...than the people who are operating the organization.

  • 10:23:39

    KROPPWell, it's not just the top of the organization where you see those differences. What you're really seeing, when you look at companies now, is that there's a two-tier labor market that's emerging in a lot of places. There's the labor market for the highly educated, highly skilled, critical roles, which will vary from company to company -- but there's a set of people in every company that are incredibly critical to the performance of that organization. And then there's a second-tier part of the labor market for people who's perhaps less skilled, less critical skills in terms of what they do. And you see a huge difference in terms of wages, compensation, rewards across those two continuums.

  • 10:24:15

    KROPPSo the labor market has actually become much more complex than it's ever been in terms of how companies manage that labor market, in terms of rewards, opportunities -- it creates disparity in a lot of different places based upon the criticality of the skill sets that different people bring.

  • 10:24:30

    REHMStewart Friedman at the Wharton School, have we changed in some ways our expectations of success and what that means, not only for the corporation as a while, but for the individual worker within?

  • 10:24:54

    FRIEDMANAbsolutely. We did a study at Wharton in our Work/Life Integration Project, which I founded 25 years ago. We started studying the attitudes and values of our students and alumni. And just recently, we did a 20-year comparison with the class of 1992 -- who we asked hundreds of questions of when they graduated about their hopes and dreams, their lives, their careers and their plans -- with, we compared them with the class of 2012. So a true longitudinal study comparing the two generations. And in the book, "Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family," I described some of these changes that you allude to.

  • 10:25:36

    FRIEDMANThe big one that just kind of screamed off the screen as we were looking at the data for the first time, was in response to the question, "Do you plan to have or adopt children?" "Yes, Probably, Not Sure, Probably Not and No," were the response alternatives. And in 1992, 79 percent said "Yes," men and women. In 2012, that number was 42 percent, which is kind of shocking. Why is it that so many fewer young people are planning to have kids? Well, it has to do with exactly what you are referring to, changing attitudes, but also a greater desire to be, by men, more involved in family. They expect their spouses to be full-time engaged and they have high standards for what it means to be an engaged and loving father.

  • 10:26:23

    FRIEDMANAnd so they're afraid they can't do it, especially when the national policy and most corporate policies don't support the kind of freedom and flexibility they need. So, yes, attitudes and values are changing. Young people want to be parents but they don't know how they can do it. And they want to have a positive social impact with meaningful work.

  • 10:26:44


  • 10:26:44

    KROPPYeah. Within the work that we've been doing as well, there's a couple of other things that we find about the people entering the workplace now that are really different from previous generations. One is that there's an expectation of people entering the workforce today that they're going to work for a lot of different companies. When you look at the data and you ask them the question, they say they expect to work for about 13 different companies...

  • 10:27:05


  • 10:27:05

    KROPP...across the course of their career.

  • 10:27:06


  • 10:27:07

    KROPPNow, when you take that apart a little bit more, what you find is that they actually want to have 13 different types of experiences across their career. And they feel the only way to get a different experience is to actually go to a different company. So the relationship that employees entering the labor market today expect to have with their employer has shrunk dramatically. Now there's another interesting thing that we found as well, though, is one of the other things that's different -- and we run psychometric assessments on about 30 million people per year -- we found that the generation entering the workforce today is actually much more competitive.

  • 10:27:39

    KROPPThere's a much greater desire to win and be ahead of their peers and they view the world in a very relative perspective. Whereas previous generations viewed it in a bit more of an absolute perspective.

  • 10:27:48

    REHMAnd yet, Brigid, you read as well as I did, you've heard as well as I have, the notions of crying at their desks or being told that they can only wear a certain scent or can't have popcorn in the office. I mean, what did you personally hear from people after you began writing about this?

  • 10:28:18

    SCHULTEWell, I think one of the biggest things -- and this is also something that was really indicative in the memo that Jeff Bezos sent out, where he said, "This is not a company I recognize" -- and you see that over and over again. You see that in studies -- not just anecdotally when I talk with people -- but studies will often show that there is a big disconnect between what the boss perceives and what people experience. There was one study that was done and, if you asked employees, the majority said, "I work for a command and control company or a corporation, top-down management, I have very little control. It's sort of a blind obedience kind of culture.

  • 10:28:57

    SCHULTEAnd yet, if you ask the managers, eight times as many bosses and managers felt that they worked in an environment where they gave people a lot of self control, like it was a Nirvana. So there's, you know, you see that on surveys of, say, workplace flexibility, where you've got -- bosses will say, "We offer all sorts of great policies." And then you've got the employees who say, "We get none of it or it's on the books and you better not take it, because it's the kiss of death if you do." So that really highlights, there is sort of the policy on the books and then there's the informal culture, which is so much more powerful in any organization.

  • 10:29:30

    REHMAnd one example of that is leave taking, vacation taking. Apparently, Americans use the least amount of vacation time of any Western culture. Why is that?

  • 10:29:47

    SCHULTEWell, vacation is a really great place to look. We are the only advanced economy that has no vacation policy, paid vacation policy. A quarter of all workers have no access to paid vacation. They tend to be low-wage workers. And then the people who do, we get the least amount, about 10 to 14 days, and we don't use it. We don't use it all. And then surveys will show that even those who do use it, will work on vacation. They'll feel guilty. You know, when you look at surveys of like, say, travel to the national parks. Twenty, thirty years ago, people would spend a week or so at a park. And then a decade ago, it was a few days. And now it's like maybe a drive-through, 15 minutes.

  • 10:30:25

    SCHULTEAnd when you ask people, "Why -- why do you not take vacation?" Most of them say they're afraid. They're afraid to take too much time because they will be seen as less committed. And I think there's so much uncertainty about the future and fear of holding on to their jobs, particularly after the recession, that they want to show, "You can't live without me and I've got a -- I'm indispensible and I'm here for you."

  • 10:30:48

    REHMWhy is it that someone like Jeff Bezos can say, "This is not the Amazon I know." Does that mean he's totally disconnected from his managers at Amazon?

  • 10:31:06

    SCHULTEWell, you know, I didn't do the investigation and I don't know Jeff Bezos, so I'm not qualified to answer that question. But what I can say is that there are lots of other instances where people have very different experiences of the same organization. And it all really depends on where you sit. And to me, I think it's a really -- when you're starting to look for what do you do about it and what are some solutions -- there are some really great examples out there. Sometimes the first place you start is with a pulse survey. Get a sense of what people are feeling. Make it anonymous so people don't feel like there's, you know, any downside to being really honest. Get a sense of, what are people really experiencing?

  • 10:31:44

    SCHULTEBecause, again, you look at, say, the Gallup Poll. You know, we talk about employee engagement being so important. And we talk about cultures. And engagement certainly has been tied to earnings per share. It's, you know, you're more profitable the more engaged you are. And yet the Gallup, consistently, for years, has shown about 70 percent of all employees say that they are disengaged.

  • 10:32:05

    REHMHmm. Stewart, I know you want to add to that.

  • 10:32:10

    FRIEDMANWell, it's a fascinating discussion. I'm so glad we're having it. What I see, having taught at Wharton now for over 30 years, it's a real shift in the attitudes of young people. The most popular kind of, you know, business icon today is the entrepreneur who starts a company that has a positive social impact. And so if you look at the best and the brightest -- which, I dare say, we have at Wharton -- you know, those folks, those kids, they're pursuing lives that -- and work, where they can have freedom and flexibility and positive social impact.

  • 10:32:45

    FRIEDMANSo you look at companies like WarbyParker or the Motley Fool or a small boutique consulting firm here in Philadelphia called Vynamic or Dogfish Breweries -- all of which I've been doing various kinds of work with -- and these are, you know, medium sized companies that are having huge impacts. And everybody wants to work for them because it's not just fun, but it's also a place where people like each other, where they're supporting each other. They work hard and they produce really well. But they also see opportunity to grow as people as well as contribute to a larger mission. And that's where I see some of the kind of counterrevolution here to, you know, to what we see at Amazon.

  • 10:33:30

    FRIEDMANIt's people wanting to start their own businesses -- especially women -- where they have freedom.

  • 10:33:35

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And, of course, at the same time as Amazon expose comes out, you've got companies like Google, who are providing and encouraging parental leave, not only for women, but for men, providing all kinds of perks. People want to go to work for Google. Are people leaving Amazon? Amazon seems to be a pretty good corporation.

  • 10:34:12

    KROPPWell, you know, one of the things that's really important in this conversation and alluded to at the beginning is, in order for companies to be successful in terms of the culture they're trying to build, there has to be an incredible transparency around it. And what you have to know, for employees and people in the labor market, is what are you actually getting by working there? What is the tradeoff you're making from a personal life for the rewards, from a development perspective, from a having a great name on your resume, whatever it might be? And being transparent about what the working relationship is. And being able to influence people that this is what you're going to get if you work here and this is the cost of working here.

  • 10:34:48

    REHMBut who's going to tell you that before you apply?

  • 10:34:52

    KROPPWell, the companies have to. Because at the end of the day, if they're not effectively communicating with the labor market, in today's world where you've got things like Glassdoor and other places where information about what it's actually like to work at a company becomes -- comes out in just a matter of moments in many cases, they have to be able to manage that conversation.

  • 10:35:10

    REHMBrigid, what have you heard from people since this article came out?

  • 10:35:19

    SCHULTEWell, you know, I've heard from a lot of people who say, you know, "I've been there. I know what that feels like." And that's not just in the high-tech industry, that's really across all sorts of industries. I think that there is real pain out there, that people are working really, really hard. I think people want to work hard. A lot of our management is sort of set up to think that people are going to be slackers. I really -- I don't see that that's the case. There's sort of -- there might be 10 or 20 percent of the slackers. And yet all of our management is set up to sort of deal with slackers. Generally, people that I've spoken with and the research that I've looked at, people want to do a good job. They want to work hard.

  • 10:35:57

    SCHULTEThey just don't want to work to the point of exhaustion, to the point of burnout, to the point where they've sacrificed who they are in their lives.

  • 10:36:04

    REHMBut, I mean, are people really experiencing the kinds of things we heard in that article? Do you hear the same things?

  • 10:36:15

    SCHULTEOh, absolutely. Yeah, people crying at their desk. Yeah. Absolutely. You know, look at all -- I spent most of the last year writing about pregnancy discrimination, you know? And there's a guy who wrote a book called, "You're Pregnant, You're Fired." So, yeah, there's an awful lot out there that really isn't working. You know, one of the things we haven't talked about is, you know, gender discrimination. And that was something that came out in The New York Times investigation. But, you know, you look at social science research, there's clearly a motherhood penalty, that there is a lot of bias out there.

  • 10:36:47

    SCHULTEAnd not that mothers aren't doing good work or aren't productive, but there's, you know, it's sort of this clash between our cultural attitudes that we think good mothers should be home and so what are you doing at work? So there's an awful lot -- again, that unconscious bias, that informal culture -- that the more you can make that conscious and talk about it and be aware of it and start taking steps to counteract it, the better off we all are going to be.

  • 10:37:11

    REHMBrigid Schulte of The Washington Post. Brian Kropp, he's an HR practice leader at CEB. That company develops solutions to drive corporate performance. And Steward Friedman, he's professor of management at the Wharton School. Short break. Your calls when we come back.

  • 10:40:02

    REHMWelcome back. I do want to mention that Stewart Friedman, who is professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is also the author of a book titled "Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life." Let's go first to Theodora in Brooklyn, New York. You're on the air. Go right ahead.

  • 10:40:35

    THEODORAHi, Diane, how are you?

  • 10:40:36

    REHMI'm fine, thanks.

  • 10:40:39

    THEODORASo I was saying to your screener that I was definitely a victim of workplace brutality. I joined the corporate workforce in about 2008. I'm a millennial, and I just thought that's the way things were, and I was definitely somebody that was crying at my desk, cried before I went to work. And then I recently joined a French company, and...

  • 10:41:07

    REHMLet me ask you, Theodora, what you mean by workplace brutality.

  • 10:41:14

    THEODORAThere was bullying, as if I was in middle school. There was no support from the HR. In fact, the HR was equally as brutal. I would kind of confide in my boss, and I would be written up with HR that I was causing problems and wasting time. And it was just very difficult. Everything felt like it was a dead end, and I sought therapy because I thought I was the one that was always causing the problems.

  • 10:41:46

    REHMSo you finally left.

  • 10:41:47

    THEODORAI left, and I joined a French company, and the kindness and the respect and just all around night and day a better working experience.

  • 10:42:00

    REHMThat's fascinating. Is there a different culture within U.S. companies than there may be in others?

  • 10:42:13

    KROPPYou certainly see a lot of variability across geographies, across industries, for many factors. I mean, one of the things that you see, as well, when you land at some companies outside of the U.S. that are much more family owned or family run, including family-run companies in the U.S., they tend to take a longer-term view of what they're doing with their workforces, that they tend to invest in people to a greater degree because they don't have the same pressure, in many cases, that publicly traded companies do.

  • 10:42:40

    KROPPSo you see a huge amount of variability across companies in terms of the types of pressure that they put on employees for all sorts of factors, cultural, business model, industry and so on, but enormous variability in terms of what that looks like.

  • 10:42:56


  • 10:42:57

    FRIEDMANI'll actually be speaking in Paris on Monday about some of these questions, and what you see in Europe, especially Northern Europe, is a completely different national policy and culture, where there's real support for life beyond work. I'm not going to be able to get Uber in Paris because the French taxi drivers had control over that decision. So there's just a very different environment there, and most Europeans, they look at American corporate policy and national policy, and they just can't believe how far back we are in terms of the -- well, as Theodora calls it, brutality of, you know, the lack of support for life beyond work.

  • 10:43:34

    REHMAnd yet there are companies, corporations, universities who are changing policies.

  • 10:43:44

    SCHULTEWell, that's a lot of what I look at is I've been looking for -- you know, you don't want to spend all your time writing about people crying at their desks because that really does happen. So what do you do about it? And where are people making change? And in my book, and also in a story that's just come out today, online in the Washington Post, I have spent a lot of time at Stanford, the medical school there. They've done something very interesting.

  • 10:44:07

    SCHULTEThey looked at not only physician burnout, again where one and two physicians are burning out where the demands of academic medicine are pushing people out of the field. After 10 years, surveys have found five in 10 people leave the field. You know, and we've got a physician shortage coming up.

  • 10:44:24


  • 10:44:25

    SCHULTEAnd there's also a huge gender gap, where women are graduating from medical school at about half the rate, or about half the graduates are women, but then you look down the road, very few go on to become full professors with tenure or deans.

  • 10:44:40


  • 10:44:41

    SCHULTEAnd so they were looking at, like, well, why is this? And it really took a dean to look at this, and he looked at his own daughters, who were really struggling with managing work and life. And he said, well, find out what's going on. And so he appointed a task force, and they looked, and they came back, and they said we have all the policies that should support work and life. What's wrong? And so they hired a sort of a design thinking firm called Jump Associates. They do innovative strategy thinking. And they followed these doctors around like, you know, anthropologists, so with -- you know, interviewed them, sort of acted like journalists or field anthropologists.

  • 10:45:13

    SCHULTEAnd they came back and said, you know, you've got all these great policies, but nobody will use them because the informal corporate culture, the core culture here, equates excellent work with working long hours, sacrificing your life, having no life, you know, work more, live less. And so they really had to look at, well, if we're going to change, you know, the burnout, and we're going to close the gender gap, we really have to attack that core belief.

  • 10:45:39

    SCHULTEAnd so they've done that through a really interesting, innovative program called a time bank, and they're really starting to make shifts. And they're seeing more women spending time on research, which is usually men spend more time on research, and women spend more time doing mentoring, teaching and service work. And so that's starting to change.

  • 10:45:59

    REHMBut I wish they'd look at the practitioners, the ones who are really seeing patients day after day, and the number of minutes that doctors can spend with patients. Now everything is revved up. Let's go to Penny in Morris, Oklahoma. You're on the air.

  • 10:46:24

    PENNYHello, Diane, you're my favorite show. I really love listening to it. I'm calling because I was a music specialist in the Milwaukee Public Schools, and I had a music room to begin with, with the pictures up, and I would push the desks to the side, have the kids put on plays and say this is where the stage ends. And I put in a lot of work with it.

  • 10:46:53


  • 10:46:54

    PENNYSuddenly, they took -- suddenly they took my music room away, and I had to cover three floors. I had a cart on each floor, and I would push the cart and then have to dash up to the next floor, where I had another cart.

  • 10:47:16

    REHMSo Penny, clearly you were working hard. Is that what you're getting to?

  • 10:47:22

    PENNYOh, very hard.

  • 10:47:24


  • 10:47:25

    PENNYAnd I -- if I wanted to put on a show, it meant really skipping my lunch because I had to go down and get things set up quick.

  • 10:47:34

    REHMAll right, so what it means that there are a lot of people who have been in positions where they were expected to do a heck of a lot more than they thought they'd have to do, and they did it because that's what meant holding on to the job.

  • 10:47:56

    KROPPI think there's -- I think it's absolutely true, especially coming out of the global financial crisis, the pressure on if something happens, am I going to be let go or not. But I think there's another factor here, as well, which is how work has actually change. Fifteen, 20 years ago, work was very vertical, very command and control, and the vice presidents told the managers what to do, and managers told employees what to do and so on.

  • 10:48:13

    KROPPBut work today is so much more horizontal and collaborative. So that commitment that you have as an employee is not just to your manager, but it's to all your peers, as well. And when you feel like you're not working and responding to emails on vacation and doing those sorts of things, you're not just letting down the company, you're letting down all of your co-workers and friends and peers that you work with because work looks different, that who you're supporting and not supporting as an employee looks very different. And I'm not part of the team and not helping the team if I'm not engaged in these things, and that's very different.

  • 10:48:47

    REHMSo has email and texting helped or hurt people in the workplace?

  • 10:48:53

    SCHULTEWell, it's both, really. It's a blessing and a curse. But in that instance that we were just talking about, there are really good models where there was a study done at the Boston Consulting Group where you work as a team and figure out what is the work that you need to get done and then figure out can you come up with a schedule, like an on-call schedule, so you have predictable time off so that you have at least some time to kind of unplug and feel like you don't -- you're not going to let down your colleagues, you're not going to let down your -- you know, the mission of your work because when we're always on, you've kind of got that constantly jet-lagged feeling that you're never able to unplug.

  • 10:49:31

    SCHULTEThere's really good data from neuroscience, as well as productivity data and innovation data. You're just not up -- you're not able to work as effectively, and you're certainly not going to have the ability to be creative or innovative when you're just constantly vigilant and always on.

  • 10:49:47

    REHMAccording to a poll we posted on our website, 54 percent of our listeners have left a job because of workplace conditions or culture, and 53 percent said they felt pressure to not take vacation or sick time. You can weigh in on that poll yourself at And here's a tweet from Marcos. "Is there a difference in employee culture, attitude, treatment in companies headed by women versus men?" Stewart?

  • 10:50:33

    FRIEDMANWell, we know from various studies that women tend to, you know, just in general terms approach work differently than men do. There's a greater expression of compassion and interest in the whole person. And a lot of the movement that we see to create more flexible, more humane workplaces comes from initiatives led by women. It's very clear that if women ran our companies, we would be better off.

  • 10:51:05

    FRIEDMANAnd we're also seeing, as Brigid alluded to, the dean of Stanford Medical School, he's worried about his daughters. We know that flexible and supportive work environments are more likely to be seen in companies where the CEO, if he's a man, has daughters because he's worried about his daughters and their lives and of course his grandchildren.

  • 10:51:27

    FRIEDMANSo ultimately, you know, these things come down to some very, very personal considerations.

  • 10:51:29

    REHMInteresting. Brigid?

  • 10:51:32

    SCHULTEWell, you know, what Stew was saying is very true in terms of when you look at the data. People who are the CEOs who are more progressive do tend to have daughters, who can kind of look at that through that lens. But I don't know that we can say that all companies would be better off if they were run by women. I think just we need to be careful. I don't know that there's any data on that, but I think what -- the data that is out there that clearly shows what, you know, Catalyst or Sylvia Ann Hewlett, others that have really looked at it, is that the more diversity that you have on an executive team, the actual -- the more productivity you have, and actually the better you do financially, as well. So I think that's important to remember.

  • 10:52:09

    SCHULTEWhen you have -- the studies have shown, you know, there's always -- we talk of the queen bee and, you know, women were really targeted for that. When you have just one woman or one somebody from an out group in a kind of a group or an executive position, they tend to act just like that in group. So I think the studies show that you've got to reach a certain critical mass to have a real honest diversity, where people are not trying to just fit in but are really seen and valued and their opinions and decisions valued for who they are.

  • 10:52:41

    REHMAll right, let's go to Richmond, Virginia. Hi there, Tyler, go right ahead.

  • 10:52:48

    TYLERThanks, Diane. I just wanted to say I love your show, by the way.

  • 10:52:50


  • 10:52:50

    TYLERI was just calling in because I've worked at Amazon two separate times for -- I mean, I think more than a year. I've had friends who work there, and I haven't read the article, but I've heard a lot about it, and I just think the corporate culture, it sounds very similar to -- like I was on the low end of the spectrum, you know, like pulling packages for shipping and stuff like that and stocking, counting, things like that.

  • 10:53:23

    TYLERAnd the general culture is -- it's all about numbers. And while Amazon has these, like, 12 guiding principles or something like that, it's -- it just starts to feel like hollow words after a while, you know. And I'm wondering, like, is any of this actually going to change until, like, the economy gets better? Because Amazon's general strategy at the low level was to take an employee and kind of just basically burn through them until they're so, like, burnt from the job that they just replace them with another employee, or like during peak season, where, like, more than a third of the workforce is temp, temp services.

  • 10:54:03


  • 10:54:04

    TYLERAnd I was just wondering.

  • 10:54:05

    REHMOkay, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. What do you have to say, Brigid?

  • 10:54:14

    SCHULTEWell, you know, there are a number of companies that are charged with kind of churning and burning their employees. You know, and again, it depends on where you sit. Some people in the very same company wouldn't have that same impression. But I think what -- one of the things that he's pointing out, what we do need to look at, is this kind of growing temp worker, contract worker, freelance worker, you know, the gig economy, if you will. That is -- certainly there are indications that that is a very powerful way that we're going to go in the future.

  • 10:54:46

    SCHULTEAnd, you know, then it's really kind of every person for themselves.

  • 10:54:50

    REHMAnd the question becomes, as these situations do become more apparent to the public, does the consumer have a role to play here? And will consumers be willing to forego some of the ease or some of the price cuts in order to help employees who are at the lower level?

  • 10:55:18

    KROPPThere's a couple things there. I want to take a step back to the data part of it and the amount of data that Amazon uses to drive performance and productivity in the organization. What's fascinating is that companies today have an access to an incredible amount of data that they never had before. And we're just starting to figure out how to use it.

  • 10:55:36

    KROPPOne of the things that's really interesting, when you look at the average person and their average Fantasy Football league, they've got better access to data and information and the implications of it than the average company does in terms of managing their workforce. And so as this data is starting to come into the workplace, there's a lot of companies that are managing to the metric rather than understanding the implications of it.

  • 10:55:56

    KROPPAnd data's not going to go away. It's going to become everywhere. It's a question of how do we interpret that data to make smart decisions about the workplace, and that will be fundamentally different going forward.

  • 10:56:07

    REHMAnd also the separation between those at the top and those at the lower levels. And Jeff Bezos says that's not the Amazon I know. Well, maybe he has been disconnected from the people who are actually at work because he is at the top. And it would -- one would hope that those corporate leaders would begin to learn a little more about the reality of what's going on in their companies. Brigid Schulte, congratulations on your new position at the New America Foundation. Brian Kopp, he is a -- sorry, Brian Kropp, he's an HR practice leader at CEB Company. And Stewart Friedman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Thank you all.

  • 10:57:13

    FRIEDMANThank you.

  • 10:57:13

    SCHULTEThank you so much.

  • 10:57:14

    REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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