Google was once the beacon for how a company should operate. Thoughts of Google’s culture often included things like innovation, risk-taking, and a fun, people-oriented place to work. Today, however, long-time employees are losing faith in the company, believing that Google has lost its soul with exponential growth. According to Steven Yegge, a former Google employee of over 13 years, “The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They’ve pretty much lost that ability.” He continues, explaining that “gate-keeping and risk-aversion at Google are the norm rather than the exception.”
Of course, risk-aversion isn’t something Google has intentionally sought to create. It’s just part of the problem of growing too quickly and forgetting your core ethos – something we regularly cover here at Culture-Strategy Fit. Growth makes it easy to let the attributes that made your culture special fade and things like risk-aversion slowly take hold.
“A Destructive Culture”
Of course, Google’s cultural issues run much deeper than merely failing to innovate. Google employees across the globe have staged walkouts following a New York Times report detailing millions of dollars paid to male executives over the years as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. To make matters worse, the company has been anything but forthcoming about the issue. This is in direct conflict with the company’s founding motto of “don’t do evil.”
Despite apologies by CEO Sundar Pichai and founder Larry Page, the company’s 94,000 employees are becoming increasingly frustrated – and downright fed up – with the corporate culture at the internet giant, feeling too much hush money has been shelled out to silence employees. “We’ve waited for leadership to fix these problems but have come to this conclusion: no one is going to do it for us. So, we are here, standing together, protecting and supporting each other,” wrote several of the organizers in an essay published in New York magazine. “We demand an end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture.”
The High Cost Of A Damaged Brand
In losing its way and allowing a culture to emerge that is adrift from its mission and core values, leaders have significantly damaged their personal credibility and Google’s brand. The cost is very high. It is a good bet that top talent is already looking elsewhere for employment opportunities. Attracting new talent becomes more difficult as people question whether this is the type of place they want to work and brand they want to be associated with. Similarly, with options to choose from, Google risks customers spending their money elsewhere rather than support a toxic culture. Then there is the market. Risk aversion, lack of innovation, hush money and leaders with low credibility do nothing to build investor confidence.
What Can Be Done?
With the recent firings and public apology, Google has taken the first steps toward rehabilitating its image both internally and externally. But this is only the beginning of what needs to happen. According to many disgruntled employees, instead of focusing on customers, Google has become too competitor focused. Combined with a toxic political culture, this lack of focus has suffocated the all-powerful tech-giant from its humble beginnings.
The company needs to decide what it stands for and critically examine all facets of its business model and operations. It needs to identify and eliminate everything that is preventing it from fulfilling its purpose and living its values. This means confronting widely accepted ways of working and making some tough decisions about people, process, structure and so on to ensure Google’s culture thrives and with it the company succeeds today and into the future.
If You Need Help Developing or Sustaining a Winning Culture, We’re Here to Help
The current issues at Google perfectly represent what can happen to any company if it loses focus on its purpose and core values. It’s something that should cause every business leader to pause and check to see if their corporate culture remains true to core values during periods of growth or personnel change.
Maintaining corporate culture can seem like a daunting task, especially during periods of growth, but it doesn’t have to be. Culture has a high capacity to help businesses achieve genuinely great things. If you need help defining or improving your business’s culture, check out some of Culture-Strategy Fit’s excellent cultural products and services, or give us a call today at (800) 976-1660 for a free consultation.
Dr. Nancie Evans
Dr. Nancie Evans is co-founder and VP Client Solutions at Culture-Strategy Fit Inc. specializing in the alignment of organizational culture and strategy. She has developed a unique set of leading-edge diagnostic tools and approaches that provide leaders with deep insights into the culture of their organizations, how it is supporting or getting in the way of strategy execution, as well as the levers that they can use to drive rapid culture change.
Culture-Strategy Fit Inc. is a leading culture and executive leadership consulting firm conducting groundbreaking work in leveraging culture to drive strategy and performance. It’s suite of culture surveys and culture alignment tools are used by market-leading organizations around the world.