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Delivering Happiness book review: How Zappos gives bad bosses the boot

Delivering Happiness is further proof that the workplace doesn’t have to be hostile and ruthless in order for companies to succeed.  In his book, Tony Hsieh explains how his career evolved from starting an unsuccessful worm farm business as a child to investing in and managing Zappos, the online shoe retailer, as its revenues grew from nothing in 1999 to over $1 billion in gross sales in less than ten years. 

Tony Hsieh - Zappos CEO

Zappos was able to build such a successful brand because it created and developed a culture that was focused on treating one’s customers and coworkers well.  Hsieh realized that unparalleled service is critical in order to thrive in competitive markets such as shoe retailing, and that happy employees are best equipped to provide great service to customers.

Zappos’s culture is based on ten core values, which include:

  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Be Humble

While many companies claim to support values such as building a family spirit, Zappos has truly weaved these values into its DNA.  For example, Hsieh describes how Zappos has developed a recruiting process that helps filter out potential bad bosses.  Hsieh writes, “Be Humble is probably the core value that ends up affecting our hiring decisions the most.  There are a lot of experienced, smart, and talented people we interview that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line.  But a lot of them are also really egotistical, so we end up not hiring them.  At most companies, the hiring manager would probably argue that we should hire such a candidate because he or she will add a lot of value to the company, which is probably why most large corporations don’t have great cultures.  Our philosophy at Zappos is that we’re willing to make short-term sacrifices (including lost revenue or profits) if we believe that the long-term benefits are worty it.  Protecting the company culture and sticking to core values is a long-term benefit.”

With regards to building a positive team and family spirit, the goal at Zappos is “to create an environment that is friendly, warm, and exciting.”  The key to developing a healthy work environment is to have bosses “that lead by example and are both team followers as well as team leaders.”  Whereas most companies are organized and managed according to a top-down hierarchical structure, Hsieh and other Zappos executives “believe that in general, the best ideas and decisions are made from the bottom up, meaning by those on the front lines that are closest to the issues and/or the customers.  The role of a manager is to remove obstacles and enable his/her direct reports to succeed.  This means the best leaders are servant-leaders.  They serve those they lead.  The best team members have a positive influence on one another and everyone they encounter.  They strive to eliminate any kind of cynicism and negative interations.  Instead, the best team members are those that strive to create harmony with each other and whoever else they interact with.”

If more companies developed a culture like Zappos, then workplace bullying probably wouldn’t be such a widespread problem and people wouldn’t need to rely on services like eBossWatch to evaluate the work environment at potential employers.

Delivering Happiness book review: How Zappos gives bad bosses the boot
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