When a Memo Gets You Fired
Begin by reading the memo written by the fired Google employee, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”
Next, read the memo written by the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, “Our Words Matter,” (https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/this-email-from-googles-ceo-to-employees-teaches-s.html.) in response.
Then, read the below articles sourced from various news outlets to contextualize the memos a bit more:
Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/business/google-women-engineer-fired-memo.html.)
This Email From Google’s CEO to Employees Teaches Some Major Lessons in Leadership https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/this-email-from-googles-ceo-to-employees-teaches-s.html.)
Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd (https://athena.ecs.csus.edu/~buckley/CSc192%20Web%20Files/Tech-Damaging-Myth-of-the%20Loner-Genius%20Nerd.pdf.)
If you prefer, you may also view these articles in the alternative format below.
Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber .pdf
Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech 2 – The New York Times-1.pdf
Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd.pdf
This Email From Google’s CEO to Employees Teaches Some Major Lessons in Leadership _ Inc.com.pdf
Note to employees from CEO Sundar Pichai-1.pdf
After you have completed the readings, write a five-to-seven-page APA-formatted paper using the following questions as a guide.
1. Based on your readings, what do you think the fired engineer’s intended message was? What did he do right, and what did he do wrong in conveying his message to his intended audience?
2. It has been argued that the fired engineer’s memo was not intended to belittle women or minorities but rather to encourage Google employees to take account of their own biases to reduce the so-called gender gap in tech employment. Putting your opinions aside, refer back to his memo, and cite examples where this viewpoint might be justified. Then explain in detail, referencing your citations from his memo, ways he could have changed his memo to communicate the intention of “reducing the gender gap in tech employment.”
3. Many of the offensive statements made by the Google employee were based on opinion rather than fact, such as “most women are biologically unsuited to working in tech because they were more focused on ‘feelings and aesthetics than ideas’ and had ‘a stronger interest in people rather than things.’” How could the employee have strengthened his memo to persuade his audience (whatever his intention might have been), using facts rather than opinion?
4. Google has dealt with criticism that it has not done enough to hire and promote women and minorities. The fired employee simultaneously questioned Google’s recruitment practices for a diverse workforce and argued that the reason there are not a lot of women in tech positions is not that they are being discriminated against but because they do not want high-stress jobs, are more anxious, and crave more work-life balance than men. Google has long promoted a culture of openness, with employees allowed to question senior executives and even mock its strategy in internal forums. Do you believe this memo crossed the line in advancing harmful gender stereotypes while criticizing Google’s hiring practices? Why or why not?
5. In his response memo, Google’s CEO did say that portions of the memo had “violated the company’s code of conduct and crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Your readings highlight some of the leadership lessons the CEO conveyed in the message of his memo. What are the most meaningful lessons he demonstrated as a leader? (You may want to cite not only your readings from this assignment but also refer to Part 1 (Chapters 1-3) in “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age”).
6. Social media are digital media/channel combinations that empower stakeholders as participants in the communication process by allowing them to share content, revise content, respond to content, or contribute new content. How does this complicate communication in the business context, and in what ways is this memo an example of how complicated things have become for companies?
7. Similarly, social media reduces the control businesses have over the content and process of communication. Google has learned how to adapt its communication efforts to this new media landscape and to welcome customers’ participation. When memos like this go public, why is it so important for companies to respond appropriately, for example, on Twitter or Facebook?
8. Consider the memo a product of Google’s internal communication structure, which welcomes input from employees. As noted above, companies must respond to the public if internal communications become public. How do you feel that social media has affected the business communication structure of Google in revolutionizing its internal communication processes and promoting the flow of ideas?
9. How do you think the internal communications processes, in combination with recognizing the role of digital communications in modern business environments, have broken down traditional barriers in the organizational hierarchy (you may want to refer back to Chapters 5-7 from Business Essentials to answer the question fully).
10. In what ways do you think the impact of digital networks has enabled networks of individuals and organizations to collaborate, share information, and request information? How has it become easier, and in what ways has it become more difficult?