Let me clarify: Jeff Bezos has done a good thing in raising the minimum wage for Amazon employees in the U.S. (from $11 to $15) and U.K (from £8 to £9.5). Actually, it will put Amazon above the U.S. average for retail worker salary, according to employment stats at the Department of Labor. 

Every one of the 350,000 people that Amazon employs in the U.S. is almost certainly happy about that news. For those who make the least, it represents a 36% boost in pay, which is significant. 

But as successful as Bezos has been at building his empire--the second company in history to be valued at $1 trillion--he doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on the type of leadership that most people want to trust in. 

This wage hike, for example, only comes after literally years of criticism aimed at Amazon's low salaries and questionable employment practices. Just consider what Bezos himself said: 

"We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead."

Uh, Jeff? The whole point of leadership is that it's proactive.

And honestly, as many others have pointed out, needing to 'think hard' about paying hard-working employees a few more bucks an hour when you're the richest person in the whole world isn't exactly a good look. 

To paint an even less inspiring picture, it's doubtful whether Amazon would have made the move at all, had it not been for a corporate tax break granted by President Trump earlier this year--one which he specifically intended as incentive for big companies to raise wages. 

It might seem like a party foul to point out the negative side of an overall good development. But the fact is that regardless of Bezos, Amazon is in a position of leadership. It's miles ahead of the competition in the e-commerce industry and provides all kinds of benchmarks for what a modern, innovative, successful business looks like. People want to--and do--imitate the retailer, so its ethical footprint should be more than just a passing concern. 

Who knows, maybe this is a turning point for employee relations at Amazon. If so, I don't think anyone would be complaining. 

Published on: Oct 2, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.