Zappos has apparently decided it is no longer good enough to be a qualified hire who is interested in the job. An interested applicant must also spend unremunerated time pretending to engage in virtual social relationships with existing employees. The American economy has become so warped that it now appears reasonable to a subsidiary of a leading public company to require people who may never be hired to spent large amounts of time pretending to be friends with people with whom they may never work.
This represents the convergence of at least three disturbing trends in the current American economy: the long-term unemployment of large numbers of people and the consequent power given to any company which is hiring; the technology industry’s revival of old prejudices under catchy new names; and the way that technology increasingly erodes any sense that our work selves are merely a component of our lives, rather than the entirety of our existence.
Formality is more than a dress code, of course. It infects how people talk, write, and interact. It eats through all the edges and the individuality, leaving only the square behind. In other words, it’s all about posture, not productivity.