Tech giants hire lobbyists, but why?

Google appears to be finding out the hard way that there is no possibility of being correct in dealing with modern day gender diversity claims. For, after that James Damore memo and firing we’ve now got someone claiming they were fired because they protested about it. It is possible to read a little between the lines here and think that the parting of employment ways wasn’t so much about what was said but about the time taken to say it. But then that’s not quite how these things work out in the court of public opinion, is it?

A former Google engineer has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was fired for speaking out against James Damore’s controversial memo about gender, the latest development in a litigious battle over diversity and speech at the technology company.

Tim Chevalier, a site reliability engineer who worked for Google until November 2017, sued his former employer in California state court on Wednesday. Chevalier, who identifies as queer, disabled and transgender, alleges that Google terminated him over posts he made on internal forums advocating for diversity at Google and criticizing Damore.

Those varied characteristics of Chevalier, at least some of them being protected, aren’t quite the point here. Or at least that’s what Google appears to be saying:

The suit alleges that Chevalier was chastised by his manager for spending too much time on “social activism” and by human resources for a blogpost he wrote criticizing the Damore memo as “misogynistic”. According to the suit, Google objected to Chevalier’s use of the phrase “white boys” in his blogpost because it “could be perceived as a generalization about race and gender”.

We would read that as “time to do some work not social justice activism at work” but perhaps that’s just us.

But to move from the specific to the more general. How can anyone manage a workforce with these sorts of rules in place? Google itself seems to think it has a problem with diversity – especially the female/male mix – in the workplace. The company is famed for being engineering driven, attempting at least to find the root causes of problems before trying to fix them. Damore might have been misguided (we don’t think he was but that’s another matter) but it was an attempt to find that root cause. And yet when that’s dealt with according to progressive mores, we’ve this claim from the other side, that the discrimination is pro- those ideas that got Damore let go.

What actually is a viable line to take when this sort of thing is going on? And yes, it does need to be defined otherwise no one will be able to get anything done in any large organisation.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Chevalier, who identifies as queer, disabled and transgender

    Yes. I expect his next job will not be in Tech.

    Appeasement never works. They should have defended Damore and the right to have a robust work place. Instead they opted for micromanagement of everyone’s opinions. Well, live by Speech Codes, die by Speech Codes. I am just sorry they all can’t lose.

  2. Well we’ll see whether Danmore’s suit is successful or not. Ultimately if you require a specialist from a general population unless that specialism is evenly distributed among that general population then you won’t have a workforce that represents the general population. So then a firm’s got a decision to make. Live with things as they turn out and get on with business or apply a selection policy not on the specialism per se, but on various other factors designed to get an even demographic mix in the company?
    One problem with that latter course is that underrepresented demographics with that specialist skill become more in demand but you’re not allowed to pay them more to attract and keep them nor are you allowed to favour a particular demographic in promotions. This becomes a big problem with scale and the more specialised you are and none are more so than the silicon valley big firms. The usual corporate solution is fudge. Say lots of encouraging things, institute various programs, celebrate like crazy the individuals who both achieve and possess the underrepresented characteristics. It doesn’t usually make all that much difference to the fundamental reasons because it doesn’t, it can’t address those reasons. In google’s case there was a particular evangelical pursuit of the correct demographic mix and a few of the more recent demographic classifications to boot. To the point that it wasn’t a fudge anymore. I suspect that google’s size and spotlight and location in California means that it will still be a fudge but one with upper bounds. And the employees will live with it. It’s not as if they’re asking them to wear a tie or anything.

  3. There is only one driving principle here: “Something happened to me and it’s your fault.” To reprise one of Tim’s earlier posts, a person with a surgically forked tongue who pretends not to be a human has more latitude within Google than a person writing that there may be factors other than hatred (perhaps even self-selection) to explain lack of numerical equality of outcome in the Google management suite–though Damore has only himself to blame; he presumably had a work assignment when he diverted hours of time to his futile memo trying to Change The World inside Google.

    A good, no-nonsense, lead-by-example department head will send the message that employees are in the building to make the enterprise more profitable, not to pretend. An executive or a rulebook won’t do it.

    • Spike: “Damore has only himself to blame; he presumably had a work assignment when he diverted hours…

      As I understand it, employees were encouraged to respond to a “diversity seminar” or some-such, and that is what Damore was doing in in writing his memo. I’m not sure that wouldn’t ordinarily be counted as a working activity. In any event, Google didn’t fire him for spending working time on the memo, but for the contents – I doubt he could have retained his position by proving that it had been written on his home computer in his own time.

  4. Chevalier, who identifies as queer, disabled and transgender

    Yes. I expect his next job will not be in Tech.

    Appeasement never works. They should have defended Damore and the right to have a robust work place. Instead they opted for micromanagement of everyone’s opinions. Well, live by Speech Codes, die by Speech Codes. I am just sorry they all can’t lose.

  5. Gender Diversity has always been a problem in the workforce, we all know blokes who like girly lovely long hair.

    They are at the pre- tranny stage and in most cases keep it in their bedrooms at home.

  6. Well we’ll see whether Danmore’s suit is successful or not. Ultimately if you require a specialist from a general population unless that specialism is evenly distributed among that general population then you won’t have a workforce that represents the general population. So then a firm’s got a decision to make. Live with things as they turn out and get on with business or apply a selection policy not on the specialism per se, but on various other factors designed to get an even demographic mix in the company?
    One problem with that latter course is that underrepresented demographics with that specialist skill become more in demand but you’re not allowed to pay them more to attract and keep them nor are you allowed to favour a particular demographic in promotions. This becomes a big problem with scale and the more specialised you are and none are more so than the silicon valley big firms. The usual corporate solution is fudge. Say lots of encouraging things, institute various programs, celebrate like crazy the individuals who both achieve and possess the underrepresented characteristics. It doesn’t usually make all that much difference to the fundamental reasons because it doesn’t, it can’t address those reasons. In google’s case there was a particular evangelical pursuit of the correct demographic mix and a few of the more recent demographic classifications to boot. To the point that it wasn’t a fudge anymore. I suspect that google’s size and spotlight and location in California means that it will still be a fudge but one with upper bounds. And the employees will live with it. It’s not as if they’re asking them to wear a tie or anything.

  7. There is only one driving principle here: “Something happened to me and it’s your fault.” To reprise one of Tim’s earlier posts, a person with a surgically forked tongue who pretends not to be a human has more latitude within Google than a person writing that there may be factors other than hatred (perhaps even self-selection) to explain lack of numerical equality of outcome in the Google management suite–though Damore has only himself to blame; he presumably had a work assignment when he diverted hours of time to his futile memo trying to Change The World inside Google.

    A good, no-nonsense, lead-by-example department head will send the message that employees are in the building to make the enterprise more profitable, not to pretend. An executive or a rulebook won’t do it.

    • Spike: “Damore has only himself to blame; he presumably had a work assignment when he diverted hours…

      As I understand it, employees were encouraged to respond to a “diversity seminar” or some-such, and that is what Damore was doing in in writing his memo. I’m not sure that wouldn’t ordinarily be counted as a working activity. In any event, Google didn’t fire him for spending working time on the memo, but for the contents – I doubt he could have retained his position by proving that it had been written on his home computer in his own time.

  8. “What actually is a viable line to take when this sort of thing is going on? And yes, it does need to be defined otherwise no one will be able to get anything done in any large organisation.”

    “Your job is your job, and that’s all we care about. Make £20K in sales. In your spare time, if you suck dick in saunas, attend PETA rallies, or even attend furry conventions, I don’t care. Don’t make £20K in sales, I do.”

    Weak CEOs get jumpy about the press. It’s right to respond to bad things that are core to your company, but most of the public do not give two shits about bad stuff outside of work. All those feminists are still using Google rather than Bing, and if Sundar Pichai had told them to fuck off, they still would be.

    What’s unseen is the cost. Google is now an easy target for the activist media. They gave in, they’ll give in again. And it is terrible for the company, because now, employees don’t know the rules. Which means they’ll be paralysed. They won’t want to contribute to discussions or suggest ideas, fearing the downsides. Google will gain bureaucrats, not smart people. They’ll go and find some new startup where you can do what you like and redesign the world.

  9. “What actually is a viable line to take when this sort of thing is going on? And yes, it does need to be defined otherwise no one will be able to get anything done in any large organisation.”

    “Your job is your job, and that’s all we care about. Make £20K in sales. In your spare time, if you suck dick in saunas, attend PETA rallies, or even attend furry conventions, I don’t care. Don’t make £20K in sales, I do.”

    Weak CEOs get jumpy about the press. It’s right to respond to bad things that are core to your company, but most of the public do not give two shits about bad stuff outside of work. All those feminists are still using Google rather than Bing, and if Sundar Pichai had told them to fuck off, they still would be.

    What’s unseen is the cost. Google is now an easy target for the activist media. They gave in, they’ll give in again. And it is terrible for the company, because now, employees don’t know the rules. Which means they’ll be paralysed. They won’t want to contribute to discussions or suggest ideas, fearing the downsides. Google will gain bureaucrats, not smart people. They’ll go and find some new startup where you can do what you like and redesign the world.