The Happiest Company in Tech
August 13, 2019 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Long-form deep dive by Wired into the last three years of turmoil at Google.
ON A BRIGHT Monday in January 2017, at 2:30 in the afternoon, about a thousand Google employees—horrified, alarmed, and a little giddy—began pouring out of the company's offices in Mountain View, California. They packed themselves into a cheerful courtyard outside the main campus café, a parklike area dotted with picnic tables and a shade structure that resembles a giant game of pickup sticks. Many of them held up handmade signs: “Proud Iranian-American Googler,” “Even Introverts Are Here,” and of course, “Don't Be Evil!” written in the same kindergarten colors as the Google logo.
posted by octothorpe (16 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't had time today to dive into this yet, but I'm thinking of making a quick schadenfreude cake to eat when I do.
posted by rhizome at 6:26 PM on August 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm shocked--shocked! to learn that trying to keep the street happy has destroyed what seemed to be a decent (not perfect, but decent) company culture.
posted by Ickster at 6:29 PM on August 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

The cycle of public praise to private retaliation against the organizers of the women’s walkout at Google is very familiar. Over the past few years it’s felt like men in power were happy at first to go along with things like the Women’s March or Time’s Up, or to brand themselves as supporting women’s rights, but once the movement asks them to actually change, they’re suddenly tired of it and it’s no longer tolerated, let alone celebrated. Like “we gave you enough attention, why do you keep talking about this?”
posted by sallybrown at 7:25 PM on August 13, 2019 [25 favorites]

Why had they given so many years of their lives to make these men insanely rich?

The question of the decade.
posted by Reyturner at 8:57 PM on August 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Google can fuck all the way off. I spent a total of 10 years contracting for them - directly and through agencies - and they went from "mildly eccentric" to "greedy, abusive shitweasels" the moment they went public.
posted by MissySedai at 9:27 PM on August 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

I left Google this year after 5 years there - this is an excellent summary of why. The only thing they left out was that time Google gave male software engineers a raise right after the women's walkout, claiming that non-male engineers were overpaid (
posted by last_fall at 9:33 PM on August 13, 2019 [16 favorites]

I work for a giant company that has a culture which is not very well-publicized, but which touts most of the same principles about diversity and inclusion, and being ethical in our business practices. And the differences between my workplace and what I’m reading about Google are:

1. Communicating support for the alt-right and having conversations on company networks that encourage discrimination against women and minorities would get you fired so fucking fast.

2. When Trump came out with his travel ban, the CEO immediately sent out a company-wide email reiterating that discrimination was a termination-worthy offense, and that if any employee or contractor were experiencing problems in relation to their immigration status, they should contact the company’s legal team ASAP

3. When Trump made similar noise about trans people and the LGBTQ, same thing: discrimination is a firing offense

4. A focus on diversity and inclusion that involves the entire C-suite, and includes actual metrics around hiring goals, not just handwavy “Encourage diverse people to apply” statements.

Then the former CEO decided to step down and the new CEO is a woman.

Here’s Google bending over fucking backwards to allow all the assholes on their roster to have a safe space and have their say. Why? Fucking fire them. At the absolute bare fucking minimum, don’t give them a channel on your network to make you liable for violating federal law, holy shit. Just goes to show how Silicon Valley “diversity” is actually justification to preserve their monoculture, not change it.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:34 AM on August 14, 2019 [21 favorites]

I'm shocked--shocked! to learn that trying to keep the street happy has destroyed what seemed to be a decent (not perfect, but decent) company culture.

A company culture where executives are paid off to go away after sexually harassing and assaulting employees is not decent.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:06 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm conflicted.

Lots of people join Google not for the perks but because it - more than most tech firms, definitely most among the "big" firms - has individuals who really appear to work hard to sustain the cultural priorities the Google has purported to have.

The fact that leaders both historic and current have made choices exactly at odds with those values is a betrayal both of the values espoused externally and committed to internally. And a betrayal of folks who joined seeking the "least evil, most likely to do the work to stay that way" opportunity - not naively, but as a choice among many imperfect options - that choice was an exercise of faith.

There's a lot of gleeful vitriol in this thread, and it is deserved - by those leaders who either bent to the perceived will of Wall Street or their own interest and deserved by the predators they coddled and protected. It's deserved by the circled wagons of "Diva"-enabling founders who mistake luck for special sauce magic.

But it's not deserved by the huge bloc of real people who actively work to make the company better one decision at a time - who act and live the culture they want to see. Some were founders of the walk-out named in the story, many did not make news and still drove positive change or headed off negative action. But, they're not all in positions of authority or formal leadership, and there is definitely a growing gap in trust between those positions.

The United States should require board representation by workers.

Google should propose and be bound by the decisions of an independently funded joint HR authority for all FAANG companies and written in to the corporate charter with investigative and firing authority.

Break them up, don't, honestly that is barely the penalty people seem to think it is - a dozen profitable entities or one monolithic one doesn't make leadership behave any better when it's time to make hard decisions. Force reform at the corporate entity level if you want to make a difference because literally nobody should be allowed to self-regulate but that's what everybody is doing.
posted by abulafa at 7:44 AM on August 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

Completely agree, abulafa. If some of those things happen and/or employees unionize, I might even go back there.

My personal take on the question of why they allow the alt-right edgelords a platform within the company is that Google is terrified of regulation. And they see regulation coming from the right. So they bend over backwards to avoid any possible appearance of taking a liberal position. The days when Google took a stand for marriage equality are long gone - they would never take an equivalently controversial position today. They donate to Mitch McConnell and other Republicans, internally they treat all political opinions as equally valid, even the ones that harm real people - it's all to avoid pissing off Republicans in order to avoid regulation.
posted by last_fall at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Pretty hard to avoid regulation in a fascist society.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2019

Last_fall, can you elaborate on what regulation the right would impose?
posted by gregglind at 2:55 PM on August 14, 2019

Well, Trump is constantly complaining about anti-conservative bias in tech. Maybe the right comes up with some bizarre regulation to remove that 'bias' in search results. Or passes some law that prevents Google from entering the search market in China.

This isn't something I know much about, but Google has lobbyists lobbying for any number of things. Angering Republicans could cause any of those issues to be decided in a way Google doesn't like.
posted by last_fall at 3:39 PM on August 14, 2019

a dozen profitable entities or one monolithic one doesn't make leadership behave any better when it's time to make hard decisions

Two things about that. One, Microsoft, who does seem to have been chastened by their antitrust experiences. Two, splitting them up into a dozen entities may not "make leadership behave," but it will eliminate a lot of those hard decisions. They simply won't exist. "Should we force driverless cars on the world even though they kill people," is not a question that needs to be battled over when none of the entities have the power to force anything on anybody.
posted by rhizome at 3:59 PM on August 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

abulafa: "The United States should require board representation by workers."

This is part of Elizabeth Warren's platform, incidentally.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:57 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

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