Sign up FAST! Login

A radical experiment at Zappos to end the office workplace as we know it

First Let s Get Rid of All the Bosses The New Republic


All of a sudden, as the deadline for the completion of Supercloud loomed at the end of 2015, instead of thinking about how they were going to get the web site's shopping cart to work on an Amazon server, Zapponians were worried about whether they should stay at the company or take the severance package. As a result, almost immediately after the original offer, damage control kicked in, and the tech department was given a deferred offer and a deadline of January 1, 2016. “If we hadn't put together the deferred offer,” he said, “I think we would have seen a level of attrition in tech that probably wouldn't have allowed us to complete it at all this year.”

Even so, the offer hit tech hardest. Whole teams were devastated. Now Van Beek had to worry about replacing extremely talented and expensive employees. Then, once the April 30 deadline had passed, Zappos published a list of who had taken the offer. That took everyone by surprise. “A lot of people didn't get to tell their colleagues and friends that they took the offer before the list came out.”

For the engineers, developers, and programmers who stayed, the road to Teal will not be easy. Each of them must grapple with significant questions. As Van Beek put it, “Not only do I have to decide whether I want to work at Zappos anymore, but is my role going to be relevant? Is it even possible for me to stay, and if so, in what context? Will I be using the skills that I'm passionate about?”

I asked Van Beek if he would have preferred for Hsieh to wait until after Supercloud to make the Teal offer. He laughed pretty hard at that question. “Oh, absolutely. I call it executive interruption. That's expected, especially at Zappos. But when Supercloud began, I wouldn't have been able to imagine executive interruption at this scale, especially toward the end of what we're trying to do. Not saying that the decision was right or wrong. Just happens to be at a time when we're trying to finish what is probably the most complex thing we'll ever work on.” 

Van Beek told me he is confident Supercloud can be completed, but he worries the disruptions caused by the offer, as well as unforeseeable delays on the Amazon side, will slow their progress. When Zappos does complete the migration, he hopes the tech department will be able to turn its attention to innovating in the e-commerce space, tackling challenges such as the size and fit problem. 

Stashed in: Management, @zappos

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Never heard the phrase "executive interruption" before. I feel for the guy. 

You May Also Like: