Why You Should Care About Jeff Bezos’ “Business Question”
Amazon’s CEO took to Instagram to ask his followers a confusing question.
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Jeff Bezos has reportedly increased his net worth by $13.2 billion in recent days, due to a surge in the stock price of Amazon, so it’s easy to understand why he might be in a jovial mood. Maybe it was his convivial spirit that led him in a rather uncharacteristic fashion onto his Instagram to ask his followers a “Business Question”.
Bezos’ intentions behind this post could have been written off as a product of his affable mood, were it not for the fact the question doesn’t seem to make much sense at all:
“Let’s say you’re at a big cocktail party and someone you don’t know comes up to you while you’re talking to your dad and girlfriend and asks for a meeting. Let’s say this person is the kind of person who actually uses the word “minions” to describe the people who work for you.
How do you respond:
A) Yes, I’ll definitely meet with you.
B) No, I won’t meet with you.
C) Tell you what. Call so and so and they’ll work something out.
D) Quietly resolve to become a shut-in.
E) Something else (fill in the blank)
A Seinfeld “Serenity Now!” button (second pic) for whoever comes up with the best answer.”
After reading this you would be forgiven for being confused. As you might have guessed, there’s a hidden meaning to this question which extends beyond an effort on Bezos’ part to selflessly connect with his Instagram followers.
The hidden meaning of Bezos’ question
I’ll cut to the chase and give you the breakdown:
- Last year there was an expose on the extremely high amount of counterfeit products being sold on Amazon.
- Last month the White House declared an interest in this counterfeiting issue, they published a 54-page report called “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods,” in which it was alleged that “e-commerce giants such as Amazon have become marketplaces for counterfeiters, undermining U.S. firms and hurting consumers”.
- Consequent to the release of this report, it was reported in the Washington Post that White House adviser Peter Navarro approached Bezos at a dinner party (the “cocktail party” in the Instagram post) and “pressed him for a meeting” regarding how Bezos was planning on dealing with the accusations made in the report.
- In the same Washington Post article, Navarro claims Bezos initially agreed to meet, but went back on his word and sent “senior executives” to meet with him instead, which apparently left Navarro “fuming.”
Three days after the Washington Post had published this story detailing Navarro’s grievance with Bezos, the “Business Question” arrived on Bezos’ Instagram.
If there is any doubt that there two things are related, Navarro later confirmed himself and his request for a meeting with Bezos as the posts intended target — labeling it “A wonderfully banal passive-aggressive post”.
Should we admire or chastise Bezos’ actions?
It seems clear that Bezos was perturbed at how Navarro approached and asked him about this meeting, but is he justified in his annoyance?
It would appear that Navarro has come up to Bezos at the cocktail/dinner party in question, without introducing himself, and whilst Bezos was already engaged in conversation with other people. Additionally, Bezos’ specific reference to the addressee of this hypothetical question having his workers labeled as “minions” suggests that Navarro referred to Bezos’ workers in a similarly derogatory manner when he talked with him.
Irrespective of the important issues that motivated Navarro’s approach, it seems evident that he displayed a severe lack of people skills when doing so, which seems rude enough to merit Bezos’ annoyance.
The fact that a man in Bezos’ social and financial position has made a stance against the rude and insensitive manner with which he was approached is refreshing to see, he is putting importance on the value of simple human decency and surely that’s something that should be admired.
It could be argued that Bezos was simply trying to wrangle his way out of a White House meeting that could lead to legislation being put in place that would damage his bottom line. The trade of counterfeit goods on Amazon is no minor issue and one wonders how much disruption it might cause to Amazon’s cash flow if every effort was made to put a stop to such illegal activity.
However, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Bezos and Amazon have not shied away from tackling the issue of counterfeit goods on their platform — last year they created a brand registration system called “Project Zero” which was designed to tackle this exact issue.
People skills are essential in business
There is an important lesson to be learned from this recent social media spat between Bezos and Navarro — irrespective of your social status or the rank you hold in your workplace, you will not get far in the business world if you don’t have people skills.
The simple things that most of us are taught as children — not interrupting others when they are talking, waiting our turn to ask a question, not referring to other people in unnecessarily disparaging terms — all of these things seem to have deserted Navarro when he approached Bezos to ask for a meeting.
It didn’t matter that Navarro came to Bezos with the weight of the Trump administration behind him, his lack of simple manners meant that he was getting nowhere fast.
We would all do well to remember that irrespective of how high we might rise in our status at work or in life, we should never forget the vital importance of good people skills. As soon as our morals desert us, so will our business opportunities, and if we’re particularly unlucky we might end up being the butt of a billionaire’s joke, plastered all over his Instagram, for the whole world to see
This article was originally published by Antony pinol on medium.
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