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Bizarre Workplace Policies? Our Listeners Experienced Them


And let's zoom in now from the global economy to your workplace - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had to respond this week to reports about his. The New York Times amplified long-standing concerns about Amazon’s workplace culture.


The story described employees so traumatized by a harsh and competitive culture that they openly wept at their desks. Bezos wrote a memo to staff saying he did not recognize the company as portrayed, although he did not specifically deny much of the story.

GREENE: Amazon's corporate pressure and conflict is at least designed to push the giant company forward. It is a little harder to understand the workplace eccentricities at other firms. We heard about them when we invited our audience to talk about their own workplace practices.

INSKEEP: Here are some examples. Smells are a big deal at work. Lots of you said your offices have outlawed microwave popcorn, especially the burnt kind. OK. Listener Kristi Ketchum (ph) told us that at her first job out of college, her boss had an extremely sensitive sense of smell.

KRISTI KETCHUM: She required all staff to purchase from a list of approved laundry detergent, shampoo, body lotions. If you came to work and she was disturbed by your smell, there was a clothing room with properly laundered clothing items to put on.

GREENE: I'm still angry about that popcorn ban. Come on now. Well, you also told us about shoe policies in your workplaces like the three-toe rule. Some of your workplaces have rules on how many toes can be exposed in a shoe. Apparently three is the magic number in many of your offices.

INSKEEP: And no matter how many toes were exposed, Christine Boone (ph) says she had to be careful where she was stepping.

CHRISTINE BOONE: I worked for a company where the president said we couldn't come in through the front door of the building because it wore on the carpet.

GREENE: Another tail of neat freak bosses came from listener Pat Lowe (ph).

PAT LOWE: You could only have one personal item in your cube, such as a photo, and it had to be framed. So I took a "Dilbert" cartoon and framed it and put it on my desk.

GREENE: Other policies you shared were maybe a little ironic, like no bereavement leave for hospice worker and no maternity leave at a women's college.

INSKEEP: And then there's the funeral home that allowed beards but banned mustaches. Lauren Shiner (ph) shared her story about the awkward yet mandatory gaps in her shifts at a hotel chain.

LAUREN SHINER: I'd waitress the lunch shift and then have two hours without pay before the evening shift began.

GREENE: She didn't have time to go home between shifts, and so she would hang around unpaid. And Ms. Shiner says this enforced idleness turned out to be good for her. It motivated her to quit and go to college.

SHINER: Sometimes a bad job is just the push you need to create a better life for yourself.

INSKEEP: So maybe those crazy bosses serve a purpose after all. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.