Why Are Companies Like Amazon And Zappos Paying Employees To Quit? An Employee’s Perspective.
Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate enough to work at tech companies that fully embrace the unconventional ways of attracting and retaining talent while at the same time weeding out the cancers within the company. In the fast driven world of tech, it is no longer just about whether you can do the job or not. There are layers upon layers of additional qualities that these companies are looking for like cultural fit and being mission driven. Companies want to make sure that you want to be there, that you believe in the what you are doing, and ultimately, that you will be happy. These things in turn drive the vibe and the culture of the company.
At a previous job of mine’s, the CEO would make an occasional, company wide, open offer for employees to quit. Yes, you heard me, to quit their jobs. Leave the company. Adios! Now this is actually nothing new. It was made famous, if not pioneered by Zappos and later adopted by its parent company, Amazon. Each company’s offer varies, for example, Zappos offers new employees $3,000 to quit roughly a week into working (post a 4 week paid training program). Amazon has a similar offer where they offer customer service employee $2,000 to quit after they’ve been working for a year. The offer then increases by an additional $1,000 per year, maxing out at $5,000.
While Amazon and Zappos’ offers are tempting to the disgruntled employee, the policy of one of my former employers was even more attractive. There was no cadence to the offer so it wasn’t something you could predict or count on as a sure bet, however once in a blue moon the CEO would, at the company all hands meeting, make an open, limited time offer, for anyone to leave the company. Our all hands were always on a Friday and you’d have until the following Tuesday to make your decision. The offer however was a pretty sweet deal. The company would pay you a month’s salary, whatever you were making, in addition to also paying all of your medical, dental and vision benefits for the additional month as well. There would be no hard feelings and the company would even write you a letter of recommendation if you wanted. Essentially the company was paying you for the following month to pursue something that would make you happy and not have to worry about the financial part. I will say that a lot more people took that offer than Zappos’ reported 3% offer takers but those that were retained really had a passion for the product and what they were doing.
Now that I have laid out the background, I will give you an employees point of view as to why there is a benefit to paying employees to quit. I’ve worked at both, places where I felt like a drone and disconnected from the company’s business, and at companies where I completely believe in the organization’s mission. I can tell you that on the basic moral levels, when everyone else in the company believes in that same mission, work no longer becomes a job. You do what you are doing out of a passion and you are with the people around you because of a shared vision. Being around such passionate people makes you put even more heart into it. It is hard to really understand if you’ve always just felt robotic and misaligned from your job but hopefully the following statements can help paint a clearer picture. When people used to ask me about my job, I used to tell them that my weekdays and my weekends were no different for me except that on the weekends I get to wake up later. That there, is when you have a fulfilling job.
To switch up the equation a little bit, I’ve also been at a company where a few of the people, including myself, do actually believe in what the company is trying to do however there is another half of the company that is more pessimistic about things. This situation makes it really hard for you to believe in what you are doing and subconsciously makes you second guess your own opinions. I view this as a cancer in the company. I would argue that sometimes, the moral alone can drive a company. This is like the momentum in the 4th quarter of a basketball game. If you go in saying you are going to lose, then you can’t be surprised when you fail. Same if half your team has already given up. However, the losing team can go in and score the winning basket at the very last second with the right mindset. My argument here is that these cancers do need to be removed from the company. If left unattended to, they just grow over time, infecting other cells within the organization. One way of doing this is by offering these people a dignified exit. In doing so, the company did not have to call anyone out and the employee can feel like they won because they “chose” to leave themselves. Conversely, with the reduced headcount, the company can refill those seats with talent that is far superior to those they are replacing as well with talent that has an aligned vision to what the company stands for. The long term benefits definitely outweigh the short term costs for both the employer and their employees.