Magazine | October 2, 2017, Issue

Modified Limited Hangouts

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

Colleagues –

It has recently come to the management’s attention that last month a male member of Google’s software team launched an unprovoked attack against one of his female co-workers. I won’t repeat the odious specifics because they perpetuated stereotypes about women, but let’s just say that here at Google we do not believe that one sex is “fairer” than the other, and any intimation otherwise won’t be tolerated.

Upon learning of the incident, our team immediately launched an exhaustive investigation into the employee’s actions. What we uncovered was both disconcerting and alarming: a widespread, years-long pattern of intolerable behavior from not only this employee but many others.

Needless to say, our investigation, since leaked to the press, has now impacted our work family in ways that are both hurtful and destructive. We’re sorry this happened. For those who feel unsafe at work, take all the time you need. Yet we believe that this incident has become a teachable moment for everyone in our group on appropriate workspace behavior.

Here, for example, are some of the things you shouldn’t do.

In one interface late last year, a male department head told a woman co-worker through our reliable and intuitive Hangouts service that he found her far “more cooperative” than his male colleagues because she “listened” to his ideas and reacted to his bad ones with “tact” rather than mocking and dismissing him as male counterparts had been doing for years. In a related interaction, male engineers were overheard discussing their team leader using an inappropriate masculine frame of reference, calling him the “church lady.”

Neither is acceptable.

In another email missive, a male employee accused women engineers of “generally” displaying a “stronger interest in people” and of having “empathy” and “openness” to “feelings and aesthetics” and of being less “pushy” and showing more interest in “results” and less interest in professional “status” than his male colleagues.

This too is improper. Need it be repeated that pigeonholing women as more caring, friendlier, or more prone to finding a healthy “work–life balance” is hurtful and demeaning?

Another male employee committed dozens of similar infractions of the code of conduct, including referring to his life partner as his “better half” in front of a female cubicle mate, noting that a female co-worker’s skirt was “really cool,” and making a really big deal out of the that fact that a then-female intern hadn’t seen the movie Notting Hill.

This employee’s relationship with the company has been terminated.

As you know, at Google our ideology is quite simple: Everyone deserves respect, regardless of age, race, color, hair color, height, weight, religion, creed, national origin, ethnicity, “sex,” including male and/or female, gender, gender identity, gender expression, transgender gender, nongender, gender gender; those who are androgyne, androgynous, bigender, cisgender, gender fluid, nonconforming; those in the midst of questioning their gender; those on the verge of deciding their gender, intersex; gender variant, neither!, non-binary or binary or tri-binary; and those with predisposing genetic characteristics that do not comport with ideas pushed by “Western” “science.” This respect should be afforded equally to all people despite their pregnancy status (whether they be male or female), handicaps, disabilities, different-ableness [?], or alienage or citizenship status; including but not limited to self-identifying Americans, including past, current, or prospective Americans; marital status, including but not confined to monogamy, monogam-ish, polyamory, polyfidelity, quasifidelity, swinging! open marriages, and other fictional designations such as sapiosexualism and/or morophilia. The company expects this respect to be afforded regardless of self-identified victim status, familial status, economic status, noneconomic status, status, and all stati statuses of people who have not yet been identified but will be retroactively deserving of such status — and we sincerely apologize for failing to include you on this list. Finally, there is no excuse for enabling any stereotypes regarding sexual orientation. None. You must respect people of any actual or perceived sexual orientations or unrealized sexual orientations, and even those who once dabbled in a sexual orientation other than their own.

It is also worth noting that these simple rules should never inhibit our employees from continuing to engage in robust conversations and debates regarding the issues that affect them and the world around them. This, after all, is what we do at Google. We make the world a better place. Everyone has the right to express their opinions on an array of topics — in fact, we encourage the flourishing of an open and safe environment for dialogue and the sharing of viewpoints.

In these deeply troubling times, however, we implore you to use a measure of common sense when interacting with your fellow employees. Our Code of Conduct explicitly states (volume 8, section 76, part xii, number 29(b)) that “each employee must do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias, discomfort, upsetting opinions, or social science that does not comport with the rest of the group’s notions.”

It has come to our attention that while members of the video-chat team in the common area were exploring the chilling parallels between the rise of Nazi Germany and Donald Trump, an employee walked by and said, “C’mon, the guy’s not that bad.” A number of people in the discussion group no longer felt free to openly exchange ideas. Reminder: It is one thing to have an opinion and quite another to share it with those who might be offended.

If you have been put in a situation wherein your comfort level has been reduced, please contact our new human resources director VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance.

Don’t be evil,

Sundar Pichai

– Mr. Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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