Like some of you who regularly follow our blog, I do the same by following some other blogs that report on workplace issues. OnLabor.org is one of those blog sites with professionals of various backgrounds reporting on some of the latest workplace news. This last week they reported on one workplace incident that provides a good example of what we have learned from the Deloitte 2018 Millennial Survey which we’ve also blogged about in recent weeks.
The workplace was about Google and the incident was about ongoing issues regarding the massive worldwide protest from their employees. The protest itself was about a number of problems that were occurring at Google.
A couple of them were about gender and racial harassment that had gone, for the most part, ignored. It had become so bad that some workers did not feel safe. Their personal information and photos were given to others and other websites which morphed into other problems for them. And then there was another issue employees learned about through a New York Times article which sparked even more outrage and that was concerning sexual harassment. The article included documentation of sexual harassment occurring between Google executives and staff. Some of the staff had to leave Google plus sign agreements that said their departure was voluntary. The executives, on the other hand, either stayed or had to resign but received huge payouts.
The employees organized the protest through workplace communication tools which Google did not appreciate so they complained to the National Labor Relations Board not just about the protest but about using the communication tools. NLRB sided with the workers and said in this era of technology and various work sites and arrangements, the communication process was appropriate.
But If you remember in the Deloitte survey from previous blogs, there was a significant downturn for the first time in several years on how Millennials and Generation Z workers view their workplaces and leaders. They see a greater emphasis on profits and unethical behaviors at their workplaces instead of addressing work related issues or social and environmental issues. The Google protest about diversity problems, ethical issues and other social issues help to provide a perfect example of what Millennials and Generation Z are complaining about.
The issues that occurred at Google could have been resolved but they were so badly mishandled that they all just ballooned together. What the Google example does is point out the importance for leaders to LISTEN to employees, not just hear them. Google CEO Sundar Pichai was at a conference the day of the protest. He made a reference to the protest so he heard the employees but did he really listen to them? Listening takes concentration and understanding of what is being said. Did Pichai really understand what was going on? Did he know what they were upset about or why they were upset? When someone really listens it helps with clarification. It also lets another person know what they’ve said is important. Listening also involves feedback and that may be painful but necessary. It doesn’t appear anything like that happened at Google but it could have. We’ve blogged before about a company that had a horrible strike and when it was over both sides had to listen to each other but when they were finished the owner of the company had a better understanding and sincerely responded with “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…,” which helped to improve the entire relationship.
It also goes beyond just listening. It’s acting on ideas that have been shared instead of ignoring them. Google employees offered ideas to help with the issues occurring within Google but nothing happened. It would have been even better if Google executives involved employees in the decision-making to help resolve differences. When people work together they can come up with some great ways to resolve workplace issues. The fact that Google employees were ignored only led to more anger, frustration and greater lack of trust.
Google continued to make problems worse by pointing fingers and placing blame at the employees when they took the case to NLRB. That, too, just exacerbated existing issues which will extend the time to overcome this entire episode and build trust within Google. Trust is so fragile. It only takes a second to break trust but it can take an eternity to build it back. Google executives will have to work hard to restore employee trust, if they can, and they’ll need patience because that trust won’t return over night.
Google can provide all the great perks, pay and benefits but those are extrinsic rewards. The joy in those are short lived and have less meaning. It’s the intrinsic rewards that reap benefits not just for employees but for employers. Intrinsic rewards last much longer. They help to build the strong relationships within the workplace so people work better together which allows organizations to have greater productivity and profits. It also helps to keep employees around longer which also helps with the bottom line. It’s endless what good things can happen when people feel like they are valued and what they do or say is taken seriously and with interest.
Treating people with respect and dignity, providing support for them can offer employers so much more than spending big bucks on perks that only last a short time. Creating diverse workplaces and allowing people to come together to share ideas can only help organizations sustain their ability to confront the challenges they face. That’s what Millennials and Generation Z workers want. That’s what they expect.
It’s amazing the stupidity Google has shown and the money they have spent on a problem they can’t resolve especially on the path they’re going. As somebody said, Google impacts not just their own organization but many others. Think what effect this can have on a lot of other organizations!
A lot of people complain about younger workers and the type of work ethic they have. There may be some truth to that but what I learn from these Millennials and Generation Z workers is wonderful! I have no complaints or concerns about them. Instead of being complacent as previous generations, these workers won’t sit by and allow bad behaviors to be the norm. They’re activists. Keep up the good work!