Zappos' Bizarre Work Culture Will Blow Your Mind

CEO thinks no bosses, new lingo, and flexible rules will revolutionize workplace
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2015 3:00 PM CDT
Updated Oct 11, 2015 10:03 AM CDT
Zappos' Bizarre Work Culture Will Blow Your Mind
Former President Bill Clinton speaks with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh during the Clinton Global Initiative in Denver on June 25, 2014.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Amazon may have acquired Zappos six years ago, but it's likely the work culture at the latter is dramatically different from that of the former. That's because Zappos, under the direction of CEO Tony Hsieh, is pioneering a total revamp of its workplace, including getting rid of all its managers, replacing "jobs" with "roles," and adopting an entirely new lingo—for example, you don't resolve conflicts, you "sense a tension," an in-depth article in the New Republic details. It's all part of Hsieh's attempt to create a self-actualizing, self-organizing corporate culture where one's outside life is tightly intertwined with work, a "tribal identification" is instilled (workers proudly call themselves "Zapponians"), and an "arcane" management system called Holacracy is designed to equally distribute power to structure Zappos "more like a city and less like a bureaucratic organization," which Hsieh hopes will lead to more innovation and productivity in the long term.

The reorg was inspired by Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organizations (Zapponians call it "the book"), which describes a color-coded organization spectrum that corresponds to "different stages in the evolution of human consciousness," starting at "Reactive-Infrared" for hunter-gatherers and ending at "Evolutionary-Teal," the stage Zappos has just supposedly entered. The internal workings sound ... interesting: To get a raise, you have to earn a currency called "People Points," and people who don't do well in their roles are banned to the "Beach," a "holding pen" for undesirables. An employee the New Republic kept in touch with says there's still lots of confusion about who can make decisions, and the magazine notes "it seems that most of the self-organizing and self-actualization ... is being carried out by Hsieh," but he tells the magazine there's "so much untapped potential" among his 1,500 or so employees—and he's convinced this is the way to unlock it. (Read all about the fascinating Zappos culture here.)

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