“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell
The Information has conducted an extensive review of Google’s apparently hostile work environment and one thing is clear–all the stories we heard about Google’s headman, Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt really have had the predictably corrosive effect.
The romantic relationships within the walls of Google made ideal fodder for gossip columns and magazine profiles.
Co-founder Larry Page dated Google lieutenant Marissa Mayer in the company’s early days, and co-founder Sergey Brin later drew attention for dating Amanda Rosenberg, a younger colleague. CEO Eric Schmidt dated publicist Marcy Simon when she did work for Google. The stories had sex, money and power against a backdrop of one of the world’s largest tech empires. It was like something out of a rebooted soap opera—Dynasty 2.0.
But an examination by The Information found that those interoffice relationships, and others featuring some of the company’s top leaders, have for years been a flashpoint of frustration and anger among Google’s employees. The relationships often violated at least the spirit of a company policy that prohibits superiors from secretly dating subordinates. But employees noted that there had been no apparent repercussions for the powerful, mostly male, leaders who had such relationships.
As a result, many Google employees expressed the opinion that the company’s culture appears to tolerate, or even endorse, such workplace relationships. In interviews with nearly 40 current and former Google employees, many said the issue had tainted the perception of women who earn promotions, created uncomfortable encounters at off-site events and had raised concerns over whether human resources would address inappropriate conduct. Some described their own experiences with sexual harassment at the company.
And it goes on from there. While you may ask, where was the board, the Google board of directors was actually exactly where Uncle Sugar wanted them to be: In the words of the Rolling Stones’ classic, under his thumb.
The Roman dictator Sulla is credited with originating the practice of decimatus from which we derive the word “decimation”. The practice was military in origin and was a punishment meted on a Roman cohort often for the dishonor of the unit such as mutiny or abandoning the line. The cohort (about 500 men) was divided into groups of 10 and each group drew lots to identify a single soldier to be killed by the others, usually clubbed to death.
Google practices a kind of reverse decimation as the three Google insiders Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergei Brin are the only Google stockholders who are allowed to hold a class of stock that gives them 10 votes for each share. And extending the Roman motif, holding this 10:1 voting power over other Google stockholders affords them a kind of co-emperor status–for you Roman Empire fans, think Diocletian and Maximian. I guess you could say that Schmidt is the senior co-emperor and Page and Brin are the junior co-emperors.
But co-emperors they are indeed with a 10:1 power to decimate the lesser stockholders who dare challenge them.
The futility of stockholder votes at Google is obvious at Google stockholder meetings where ordinary stockholders are routinely decimated by the 10:1 voting power of the co-emperors. The predictable results of the voting are often announced by David Drummond, the company’s head lawyer, who is himself implicated in The Information’s report.
So when you are reading The Information’s report on the internal workings of Google, just remember that not only were the employees captive to the Google culture, the perpetrators also had complete control of their board of directors. In addition to the other takeaways from this sorry episode, it should be obvious that not only should Google be broken up, but the Google method of insider control needs to be thoroughly investigated.