I’m writing a quick follow-up about the Google engineer who was fired for writing a memo that questioned the company’s diversity initiatives. While many on Twitter are celebrating the firing, others are saying Google proved the memo writer’s point — that it can’t tolerate dissent. Should questioning corporate diversity policy be a firing offense? Is the reputational damage of a Twitter firestorm so great that employees should be shown the door for an internal email that leaks?
In a normal company, Damore’s letter would no doubt be a fireable offense. But Google is no ordinary company — not by a long short. To the contrary, Google prides itself on an unshakable willingness to challenge conventional wisdom — whether that means leaving China on principle, doing its IPO via auction, or bankrolling seemingly crazy R&D projects.
Indeed, Google’s founders are contrarian to their core. They often embrace ideas many of their competitors would sprint from. (Their original “founders’ letter” begins thus: “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”)
I understand why Google did what it did. After all, it’s currently being investigated by the Labor Department for paying women less than it pays men.
But firing a troublemaker is the easy thing to do. Using this controversy as a teachable moment — convening a forum on diversity; writing op-eds; leading the charge on transparency in HR — would have been the right thing to do. It also would have been in keeping with the best traditions of being Google-y.
Addendum (8/9/2017): Success!