Google’s Sundar Pichai has failed the ultimate leadership test

Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have heard about the Google Memo drama that the company is going through right now.

The memo, written by former Google employee James Damore in pseudo-troll fashion attempts to explain why 80 percent of Google’s tech employees are male.

It points to large cultural biases but also suggests a potential genetic component by illustrating some of the ways the distribution of qualities differs across male and female populations.

Now I have actually read the memo several times. This is very important because most of the critics who are responding to this memo clearly haven’t read it.

The author was extremely meticulous about the way in which he made his points and the use of supporting data.

And yes, I do understand that this memo has become something of a rorschach test – people seeing what they want to. You could see it as a sexist dog whistle and you could see it as thoughtful discourse – I get that.

While I am not going to discuss the conclusions of the memo itself here, I will say this – the sloppy manner in which Google CEO Sundar Pichai has handled this has exposed serious problems both in Google and the valley in general.

The firing of James Damore

Just a few days after Mr. Damore’s memo came to light, he was fired.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai had sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” When Google representatives were asked about the dismissal, they referred to Pichai’s memo.

The quick firing of James Damore was absolutely the worst move Google could have made in a situation like this.

To understand why, you actually have to read the memo.

First of all, (once again) the author was meticulous about the points he made and they weren’t made flippantly or overtly disrespectfully.

Second, the author was careful to avoid drawing broad based conclusions but to basically throw out (in many cases) factually accurate data and start a conversation.

James Damore was fired because he wasn’t politically correct and “fake offended” Google and the PC valley’s sensibilities.

The hypocrisy of Google and the valley

The irony here is that most people skip over one of the reasons the memo was written in the first place.

“former Google employee James Damore in pseudo-troll fashion attempts to explain why 80 percent of Google’s tech employees are male

James Damore didn’t do that, Google and the valley did. While these companies in silicon valley talk the talk, you have to understand that they (in most cases) don’t walk the walk.

How do I know this? Oh maybe because I have lived in the bay area and worked in the valley before.

The bay area is one of the most racist and sexist parts of the United States. The really sad part is that it is racist and sexist in large part organically. They really don’t do it on purpose.

The chai-latte drinking, Tesla driving, stock option and IPO loving group are quick to jump on the James Damores of the world but he’s not the problem, he just exposed a much bigger one.

You see Damore is like the uncle at the family reunion who wants to ask about a rape everyone else would rather not talk about. Yes Uncle Bucky isn’t the most sensitive and it’s probably not the right time and place for the discussion but the rape actually happened.

Unfortunately it’s always easier to shoot the messenger.

What should the Google CEO have done?

This memo was actually a massive opportunity for Google.

Their CEO had the perfect opportunity to make this a teachable moment. He should have held a townhall meeting with all executives and streamed it live to the internet.

  • He should have acknowledged the existence and popularity of the memo and then using facts, ideas and science-based thinking, presented Google’s counterpoints.
  • He should then have made it clear that while Google is open to ideas from all idealogical parts of the spectrum, this memo came dangerously close to crossing the line and explained what that line was and why.
  • He should also have acknowledged that sexism in Google and the valley was a real problem and then, point by point, outlined what Google was doing to change things.

The bottom line is, he should have faced this head on – like a strong leader.

Rather, he chose the cowards way out, huddling with lawyers and HR and choosing to shoot the messenger. Disappointing.

The bottom line

At a recent Alphabet shareholder meeting, a shareholder asked executives whether conservatives would feel welcome at the company. Apparently, executives disagreed with the idea that anyone wouldn’t.

“The company was founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based thinking,” Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt said at the time. “You’ll also find that all of the other companies in our industry agree with us.”

This seems like total bullshit today.

Like it or not, with this firing, Google has made it abundantly clear that they only want to hear from employees who agree with their group think. What’s even worse is, they have shown that they don’t have the tools and capacity to thoughtfully deal with employees that don’t.

That is unfortunate.

P.S. This whole conversation is a conversation you should only partake in if you read the memo completely. To not do so and continue to opine anyway is just ignorant.

Leave a Comment Below

  • I couldn’t agree more! Well written! Unless you’re a lefty who loves Obama, Google doesn’t want to hear from you!

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