Disrespect Not Dissent Was the Problem with Google Memo | Huffington Post
Dr. Bernice Ledbetter Affirms There is No Place for Harmful Rhetoric in the Workplace
August 10, 2017 | 2 min read
While it’s true there really isn’t free speech in the private sector workplace, employees should not be punished for having a different point of view than management or their peers. In fact, disagreement and thinking outside of the box is what often leads to innovation.
The problem with the infamous memo published by former Google employee James Damore was not that it went against the liberal grain of Silicon Valley, but that it was disrespectful. Instead of promoting different, productive ideas, the memo was a slap in the face to efforts to promote greater diversity in the technology industry. Instead of offering ideas about how to empower minorities and women to be more integrated at Google and other tech firms, Mr. Damore’s memo was demeaning and degrading. For this, he deserved to be fired.
If Mr. Damore was espousing his manifesto on a personal blog rather than in a company memo, it’s possible that he may still have a job at Google. But regardless, he was walking a dangerously fine line between who he is personally and who he is professionally.
Google has an ambitious diversity initiative saying that since 2013 it has invested in unbiasing trainings and over 74 percent of Google employees have participated in these workshops, and all new employees and managers are trained in it.
These corporate initiatives are very important, but the question is what else can be done?
A company cannot control – nor should it – what each of its employees think and does. But it can reward those who work to include others, positively improve their team or company, and identify ways to respectfully disagree. Rewards come in many shapes and sizes – bonuses, salary increases, accommodations for personal schedules, more vacation time, among others. By rewarding those who spur innovation through respectful dissent, those who embrace hurtful rhetoric will be less likely to make their views publically known.
We also can educate girls and young women that bias and prejudice is unacceptable. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote an eloquent response to the Google memo that was published in Fortune where she said “the language of discrimination can take many different forms and none are acceptable or productive.” I also love that her response to her daughter’s question of whether there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership was so simple and straightforward as she said “No, it’s not true.” This is the type of rhetoric we need to prop up and encourage; hateful, demeaning, and disrespectful discourse has no place in the corporate world or anywhere for that matter.