Google & Leader Bias: Do They Get It? [Updated]

By | August 8, 2017

[August 8, 2017] [Update]  When people speak their minds and they depart from a prevailing ideology, bad things are likely to happen to them.  Earlier today I posted this article under the heading in the form of a question to the leaders at Google; “Do they get it?” … referring to their biases and the effect of those biases.  Apparently not.  Dissenters are not welcome at Google.  The author of the internal Google memo has been fired from his job (see link here).  Much can be learned from the incident. What follows is my blog posting below in its entirety and unchanged:

It is unusual for me to highlight an article about leader bias, but an anonymous author at Google has written a substantial piece that deserves reading.  In it, he details the strong institutional biases at Google that are centered on their “diversity” program and how, in its current form, it is detrimental to a strong company, a positive work environment, and encouragement of diversity in senior leader positions.

The piece is an internal memo (now public and widely distributed on the web) and is called “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”  What makes this article worthy of praise is its call for the leadership of Google to recognize their biases, face them by acknowledgement, and openly discuss their aims, mission, biases, and those policies that purport to support their mission.

Note that Google is in the midst of a wage discrimination investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor that has found the company routinely pays women less than men in comparable roles.1  Gizmodo, a design website that writes articles on politics, brought the memo to our attention and is to be credited with opening what would normally be a senior leader level discussion.

While the anonymous author writes about Google’s unseen yet strong biases (political, social, racial, and gender) that affect wage gaps, he nevertheless is on target regarding all organizations and points to common human psychological frailties.

When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber. 

He addresses the fact that Google is overwhelmingly biased toward a leftist political ideology and while not necessarily a bad thing in itself, such a position can be a problem if authoritarianism is used to block any other viewpoint.  It is a leadership failure, he notes to examine our prejudices.

Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.

One would expect that a call for self-examination in a world where ideology trumps all discussion, that there would be serious pushback.  And that is exactly what is happening (could it explain why the internal memo went public?).  Gizmodo’s article is titled Exclusive: Here’s The Full 10-Page Anti-Diversity Screed Circulating Internally at Google [Updated] – also a bias.

He discusses why we’re blind, confronting Google’s biases, having open and honest discussions, being open about the science of human nature, and other suggestions about how to improve the work environment and achieve the company’s diversity agenda more pragmatically.

Very interesting.  I recommend reading it, keeping in mind that we all have biases (often unseen by us) and that only through open discussion with others will we be able to discover them and, if we so desire, change them for the better.  See article link here on Gizmodo’s website (link here).

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.