Google tells employees ‘Keep your head down and do your job’

Google tells employees ‘Keep your head down and do your job’

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Google has long been lauded for its cool image and is frequently listed at the top of the rankings for most desired employer among employees. But the search-engine giant has put its “most desired” status at risk with new guidelines.

On 23 August, the company sent a memo to its 100,000 (give or take) employees on how to conduct themselves. The overriding message: “Head down and do your job,” it was reported in The Washington Post.

“The spirit of the recommendations appears to fly in the face of Google’s famously uninhibited culture, where workers are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on personal side projects and new ideas are bandied about in a virtual sandbox,” the newspaper went on to say.

Free-ranging discussions about politics, news stories and other non-work related topics are out, as are name-calling and bullying. While strictly work-related conversations and manager-organised crackdowns on offensive speech or behaviour, are in.

“Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics. Avoid conversations that are disruptive to the workplace or otherwise violate Google’s workplace policies. Managers are expected to address discussions that violate those rules,” wrote Google in the memo, posted to its website.

Jenn Kaiser, a company spokeswoman, said in an email that the guidelines were in reaction to “a year of increased incivility on our internal platforms”.

“We’ve heard that employees want clearer rules of the road on what’s OK to say and what’s not,” she added.

But there are concerns the guidelines could create a divide between employees who have long cherished the devil-may-care attitude of Google’s workplace and the organisation’s top management which appears to be looking to instil a more buttoned-up culture.

The company has been rocked by criticism from the White House over apparent anti-conservative biases and by employees who have openly protested against its handling of sexual harassment claims against executives with a highly visible public profile.

Google has also sought to curtail the overuse or misuse of online forums, warning that “we will remove particular discussion forums, revoke commenting, viewing, or posting privileges, or take disciplinary action”, adding that leaking classified information could result in being fired.

“Working at Google comes with tremendous responsibility. Billions of people rely on us every day for high-quality, reliable information. It’s critical that we honour that trust and uphold the integrity of our products and services,” Kaiser said.

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