Google is a Failure in Corporate Culture in 2021
Google used to be the poster child of an open internal culture. Yet when companies get richer, they seem invariably to go sideways in terms of labor rights and free speech. It’s 2021 soon, where Microsoft is working on worker surveillance with productivity scores, Google is actually firing anyone who gets in its way. Amazon style!
So what happened? Years after sexist abuse of managers (Uber-style), Google is up to no good.
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google, alleging the company illegally terminated and surveilled employees. Not only that, it abruptly fired Timnit Gebru. If you look into both of these events, it shows the depravity occurring at Google that stifles its own employees.
Gebru, who was the technical co-lead of the Ethical AI Team at Google, shares a shady story. He is the co-founder of a community of black researchers called Black in AI. Surprise, surprise. She said the email stated leadership fast-tracked her departure because of an email she sent to women and “Allies” within Google Brain, Google’s deep learning artificial intelligence research team, earlier in the week. Let’s just keep AI white and male, Google, no allies within the Brain!
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board says Google illegally spied on employees, firing several employees in retaliation for attempting to unionize, and illegally blocking employees from sharing work grievances and information with each other using general tools like calendars, email, meeting rooms, and an internal communication tool at Google called MemeGen. You sure you want to work at Google?
As GAFMA companies become more powerful, they are also becoming harsher places to work at. Corporate surveillance is up, and firing for being a dissident is the new normal. The NLRB said it expects an answer from Google by Dec. 16th.
The agency said it will hold a hearing on April 12, 2021 in San Francisco. It’s not like Google suddenly becomes good. It has been wrecked by internal division in any number of ways in recent years while the founders have literally disappeared from leadership.
Eric Schmidt likes to boast, but he is part of the reason Google invented surveillance capitalism in the first place. He has $17 Billion and still doesn’t seem to understand what he created, a movement that turns China into a dystopian surveillance state.
The email Gebru sent to colleagues, according to a report by Casey Newton, stated that superiors suddenly asked her to retract a research paper while presenting almost no information about what was wrong with it or chances to defend herself.
In her email, she suggests this incident is part of a larger pattern at Google of paying lip service to diversity without making actual changes, adding “There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything.”
Don’t speak up against the Alphabet of the law, Gebru, the hierarchy won’t be happy. Not white, not male? Then you will be treated differently. She is drawing widespread statements of support from other Google employees and tech workers throughout the industry but that won’t change the state of Google’s internal culture. It’s a massive failure of leadership and values.
Google’s history of a bad culture is now in its history according to the law. Few people realize that there was a $310 million Google settlement to an Alphabet shareholder lawsuit which alleged the company had mishandled claims of sexual misconduct by executives there. Big surprise what happens in Silicon Valley. Where Amazon labor unions are suppressed and Facebook is above the law, well until next week!
The bad guys win. We live in a world where Tony Hsieh died before his time, and Google keeps doing bad things to its own people. Google employees aren’t allowed to talk about antitrust. Sure, let’s debate things. Oops, you’re fired! Let’s care about diversity, but not you! Gebru said her main corporate account had been cut off while she was on vacation.
A bad culture doesn’t care about the bigger issues. It cares about fixing the immediate problem. Don’t stand up to the corporations, or China. (The corporations will work for China, and Google knows it).
Born and raised in Ethiopia, Gebru studied electrical engineering at Stanford before joining Apple, where she worked on the first iPad, and subsequently Microsoft. Gebru is well known for her work on the race and gender bias of facial recognition systems.
Keep firing your good people, Google, let’s see what it does to your culture. Let’s just fire one of the few black women in the field of AI who cared the most about diversity and the inequality of the tech.
Tony Hsieh taught us why a good culture matters. Google taught us that in the end it doesn’t matter what we think. There are more activists at Google. They will just have to act in secret from now on. I feel like every month or so I’m reminding Google don’t be evil (a motto of its past), but nobody is listening to rule of law inside monopolies any longer.