Stop. Don't Be Like Google - There is Nothing Situational About Ethics

 Image courtesy New York Times

Image courtesy New York Times

I purchased a copy of Eric Schmidt’s book “How Google Works.” I highlighted section after section. I could not wait until my next university class to have the highlights distilled by my students. After all, my teaching was as much about changing behavior as it was about establishing an ethical culture. I had explained there was nothing situational about ethics. The right thing is always the right thing.

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My excitement subsided when I recently heard of Google having paid Android founder Andy Ruben over $90 million involving sexual harassment. Colleagues involved in sexual harassment and even leadership training dismissed this as simply business. Now that Googles real policy on bias has been exposed, how really different are they from you?

I find it interesting how Google is lauded for their bias training while conducting business in the shadows like any other company. We expected more from Google. In some circles Google has been described as sentinels of all things embodying employee engagement and increased productivity. It was after all merely a campus like sorority where people at the top continued to be well compensated when their ethics fell short of the very issues a front-line worker would be fired for. Sadly, most training makes little change in behavior and these pseudo leaders of whose books we gobble up, are good at their jobs but not good people.

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Writes Karen Weise, Adam Satariano and Raymond Zhong in the New York Times, “Many said Google had treated female workers inequitably over time. Others were outraged that Google had paid Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile software, a $90 million exit package even after the company concluded that a harassment claim against him was credible.

That led some Google employees to call for a walkout. The organizers also produced a list of demands for changing how Google handles sexual harassment, including ending its use of private arbitration in such cases. They also asked for the publication of a transparency report on instances of sexual harassment, further disclosures of salaries and compensation, an employee representative on the company board, and a chief diversity officer who could speak directly to the board.”

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What is the job of HR in such cases? Any insights?

About Jim Woods

Jim Woods is President and Partner of Woods Kovalova Group in Denver, CO. He and his staff gives speeches and seminars on bias, diversity, and leadership. For over 20 years, he’s worked with Fortune 1000 clients and small business owners to reduce inefficiencies, execute more quickly, improve output, and increase profitability. Clients include Whirlpool Berkshire Hathaway, MITRE, and the U.S. Army. He is delightfully married to his partner Lucy Kovalova-Woods.