All Blog Posts

News

Google’s Manifesto is an HR Nightmare

By

This weekend, Google experienced an HR nightmare—the release of an anti-diversity manifesto by employee James Damore – a so called “Google Manifesto.” The ten-page document outlined the “biological” reasons why women are incapable of succeeding in tech, why efforts to increase diversity are inherently useless, and how Google discriminates against those with conservative viewpoints.

The internet exploded with reactions from current and former Google employees, as well as HR managers. Several Google executives made public statements, and Damore was ultimately fired on Monday.

Here’s a look at some of the opinions and controversies surrounding Google’s manifesto.

The New York Times

“The memo put the company in a bind. On one hand, Google has long promoted a culture of openness, with employees allowed to question senior executives and even mock its strategy in internal forums. However, Google, like many other technology firms, is dealing with criticism that it has not done enough to hire and promote women and minorities.

Before being fired, Mr. Damore said, he had submitted a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Google’s upper management was ‘misrepresenting and shaming me in order to silence my complaints.’ He added that it was ‘illegal to retaliate’ against an N.L.R.B. charge.”

Brian Kropp, HR consultant

“I’m glad when I woke up this morning I wasn’t the head of HR at Google. If you think about the continuum of the workforce, you’ve got one end where people are going to say this person should be fired. Whatever Google decides to do, they’re going to be potentially disappointing somebody along one of those groups or making them angry.”

Danielle Brown, Google Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

“First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it.

However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.

It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.’”

Recode

“Still, this is a corporation with rules and managers who rule on those rules. So, what is also true is that most free speech is allowed when it comes to the government and within society, but not necessarily within companies. In, fact, it is common for people to lose their jobs for making sexist and racist remarks.

That said, Pichai also noted that the memo did raise some important issues, such as the need for more willingness at Google to include more points of view at the company, including more conservative ones.

It’s really a no-win situation for him or anyone, as these issues engender really profound and often ugly disagreement to take place.”

Motherboard

“‘Honestly, more people have been agreeing with it than I would like,’ a current Google employee who spoke to Motherboard on the condition of anonymity told us. Motherboard is granting Google employees anonymity because of the company’s notoriously strict confidentiality agreement. The employee said the comments they saw came in internal company email threads.

‘From what I’ve seen it’s been a mix of women saying, ‘This is terrible and it’s been distracting me from my work and it shouldn’t be allowed;’ Men and women saying ‘this is horrible but we need to let him have a voice;’ and men saying ‘This is so brave, I agree,’ the employee said.”

The Los Angeles Times

“Google’s hiring and promotion practices have come under scrutiny because, like much of the tech industry, the company’s workforce looks little like the world around it. Almost 70% of its employees are male, including 80% of its technical workers. Only 2% of its workers are African American.”

Patty McCord, former Netflix HR

“In the hallways, people are going to chatter about whose side are you on. It will drive a wedge even deeper into what they’re trying to do.”

Yonatan Zunger, former Googler

“I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function.

And as for its impact on you: Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them.

You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.”

Jonathan Segal, employment lawyer

“He can think what he thinks, but he can’t say things like that in a workplace and not expect others to be uncomfortable with working with him.”

What do you think about the Google Manifesto? How would you handle a similar situation at your company?