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Amazon Has a Peer Jury Feature In Their PIP Program Called "Pivot"...

Back when I was working for companies that were primarily non-union but routinely had some organizing "bubble-ups", a mentor of mine had the following saying related to making changes to employment practices that felt similar to a union:

"We can give them OUR union or let them choose THEIR union"

The point - and it's a significant one - was that corporations have built employment practices that limit risk, organizing and representation by borrowing the practices from unions. Amazon

Need an example?  How about your progressive discipline process?  Does any company really want a 4-step process?  No, they do not.  It's a standard piece in most people operations because it increases fairness/communication and protects the organization from stupid managers. It was also ripped from the handbook of your local union.

Thanks union folks - we'll be over here doing our thing, using your tools.  

This practice - borrowing best practices from unions - continues and was recently in the news with Amazon.  Last year, Amazon launched a program called "Pivot," designed to help underperforming employees improve their work.  Here's more on how the program works:

"It's been eighteen months since Pivot was introduced and, as Bloomberg's Spencer Soper and Business Insider's Prachi Bhardwaj reported, some employees are protesting that the hearing process isn't fair.

Under the Pivot program, employees who are put on a performance-improvement plan have three options, Bhardwaj reported:

  1. Quit and receive severance pay
  2. Spend the next couple of months proving their worth by meeting certain performance goals set by the manage.

  3. Face a panel of peers in a courtroom-style videoconference, in which the employee and his or her boss present arguments about whether the employee should stay in the Pivot program

Seventy percent of employees lose the trials, meaning they must choose between the first and second options above. If the employee wins the trial, they are removed from Pivot and have the choice to return to their current team or be placed on another team."

This practice is straight from the union playbook.  It's called the grievance process, and the fact that Amazon has started to use it shows us that some of the best ideas have been around forever - and at times came from unions.

Under the Pivot program, employees choose either one manager or three non-managers as their jury, Bloomberg reported. They're also allowed to dismiss some panelists if they think the panelists will be unsympathetic to their case, according to Bloomberg. But overall, the employee doesn't get to select the jurors.

There's a lot of problems with this type of program.  But the intent is clear and always comes back to the manager.  If they manager has clearly communicated goals, they'll get the ability to continue on the Performance Improvement Plan route once they clear the hurdle of the Pivot program.  If they were unclear or didn't communicate at all, there's a chance the employee will be removed from the PIP.

How would you like to return to your manager after saying they were wrong via the Pivot program?  Ugh.  People enter pivot when their managers sucks or - wait for it - they suck.  It's rarely not one of those two things.

Still, Amazon borrowed this step from the union grievance program because there was no better way to handle this step once things have become hostile and adversarial between manager and employee.  

"We can give them OUR union or let them choose THEIR union"  Since my mentor taught me this early, I get it.  Play on, Amazon.


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