Accountability Arose at Google

Sam Silverstein Blog

Just recently Google fired an employee for statements he made in a 10-page manifesto that he posted internally at Google. In the document, the employee takes a position that being a woman is an obstacle to being part of Google’s technical staff. He put forth incorrect assumptions about gender and in the process supported gender stereotypes. Google displayed accountability in their actions.

This really is an issue of values. It matters what Google’s values are. It matters if Google is talking about the values and teaching the values. It matters if Google is living the values.

Organizational values teach, “how we do things here.” Organizational values teach the boundaries of an organization. Organizational values provide the guardrails that you must stay within.

It appears that Google has a handle on defining, teaching and living the values. As a matter of fact Google is well known for their values and the impact the values have on creating their unique culture.

If that is indeed the case then there is no place for the kind of thinking that was displayed in the manifesto posted by the former employee. He supported gender stereotypes. He created division inside the company. He violated Google’s values. He stepped outside of the guardrails.

Some people will say, “But this is America and I have freedom of speech.” And, they are right. But, inside of an organization, the values define what is acceptable and what is not. As an employee, a member of that community, you commit to live by the values. When you do you thrive. When you don’t you must go someplace else where your values align. It is that simple.

He doesn’t have to work there. If he disagrees with the values of Google he can leave and choose to work elsewhere. Organizations that thrive do so because their values are clearly defined, lived and the people who work at that organization fully connect to and believe in those values.

The values create strength inside of an organization. There is a cohesiveness that is created. The values connect people and bring them together. The values create an environment where people can feel safe and then thrive because of that “safe haven” they work in. Mastering tactics is important but mastering the side of your business that the values describe and define is imperative.

This is a perfect example of why it is so critically important that an organization discovers, defines and disseminates their values with crystal clarity. The importance of organizational values is often overlooked and under appreciated. The reality is that all of the tactics in the world will not differentiate you or pace you beyond your competition. It is your values that give your organization their unique fingerprint. It is the values that create a place where people either want to be or do not want to be. It is the values that either attract the best employees to your organization or send them to the competition. And, ultimately it is your values that will make your bottom line soar.

Please know and remember that, by definition, they are not your values because they are words on a piece of paper. They are your values because you live them, every time, all the time.

By law you have freedom of speech in this country, but when you step inside of an organization the values rule. By law, an organization has the right to define how they do things and what is acceptable inside of that organization. When you define gender stereotypes as unacceptable then being accountable means sticking to that when someone crosses the boundaries, the guardrails.

Accountability is never easy. Accountability is often making tough decisions at difficult times. Google rose up and made the right decision, defended their values and exhibited accountability.