• International Workplace
  • 6 June 2017

Google employees boycott HR and deal with grievances themselves

Employees at Google have ditched human resources as a route to airing and solving their grievances and are instead utilising an employee-run message board, which is then created into a weekly email sent to subscribing employees, in order to get their grievances heard.

Named ‘Yes, at Google’, the list offers employees the opportunity to submit their allegations of unwelcome behaviour anonymously and for those allegations to be tracked and communicated across the company, in what employees are calling “an attempt to make the company more inclusive”.

The list is not unknown to Google, but equally the company does not control content.

In a statement, a spokesperson said:

"We work really hard to promote and preserve a culture of respect and inclusion. Our employees have numerous ways to raise issues – both negative and positive – with us, including through grassroots transparency efforts like this one. We take concerns seriously and take appropriate measures to address them."

A dispatch from early May viewed by Bloomberg reportedly listed dozens of alleged incidents, including:

  • One person reported a manager to HR for allegedly "joking about raping one of his direct reports.”
  • A ‘Noogler’ – new Googler – was invited by an engineer to get drinks with a group of colleagues off campus. It was her second week of work. "Upon arriving, discovered there was no group," the email said. "Subsequently informed by the engineer that she was expected to 'sleep with everyone' because that's the culture here."

Bloomberg reports that not all the complaints in the Google mailing list include allegations of misconduct such as sexual harassment. Other entries allege workplace comments that might not be obviously offensive to everyone but made some employees uncomfortable.  The mailing list also includes actions or changes that employees found praiseworthy, according to staff that have viewed them.

Peter Cappelli, a Management Professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School, commented that if a submission were proven libellous, that could be a legal complication for the company. And having a fifth of a company's workforce reading a weekly collection of complaints could amplify discontent among employees. However, he said, despite the risks that such a list poses, a collection of complaints from employees is also a valuable resource for management -- especially about sensitive topics that employees may be reluctant to talk about.