At Google, employees can’t talk about politics anymore

Amid the polarizing, political and social issues surrounding the world these days, California-based tech giant, Google, told their employees that they could no longer engage in political debates with their colleagues at work, in a new set of internal community standard published by the company.

The world has known Google as a company with a rather open policy within its workplace and has earned the admiration of many because of Google’s new approach to employee management. However, in light of recent events, Google sent a public notice to its employees detailing a new set of community guidelines which every Googler should follow during work hours and within the premises of the company.

Doing what they are hired to do

“Community guidelines exist to support the healthy and open discussion that has always been a part of our culture. They help create an environment where we can come together as a community in pursuit of our shared mission and serve our users,” said Google in the announcement.

Google said that working in the company is a “tremendous responsibility” because people rely on their employees every day for high-quality, reliable information.

“It’s critical that we honor that trust and uphold the integrity of our products and services,” Google added.

The new set of Community Guidelines tell Googlers to refrain from having “disruptive” conversations that come with the warming that employees will be held responsible for whatever they say inside the office. As part of the new measure, Google is developing a tool that would allow employees to “flag” problematic internal conversations and posts, and is creating a team of moderators that would police the conversations on company chat boards, a spokeswoman said.

“While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not,” the policy states. “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do.”

“As a Googler, your comments–wherever you make them–can have a serious impact on other Googlers, yourself and our company. We’re all free to raise concerns and respectfully question and debate the company’s activities– that’s part of our culture. Be sure to speak with good information. Don’t assume you have the full story, and take care not to make false or misleading statements about Google’s products or business that could undermine trust in our products and the work that we do,” they added.

Furthermore, Google also requires its managers to monitor the conversations happening within their respective teams and address discussions that violate the new rules set by Facebook.

But Google’s Community Standards isn’t just about political conversations and “debates.” Google wants its employees to not “troll, name call, or engage in ad hominem attacks–about anyone.” Google said that employees should not make any statements that insult, demean, or humiliate and individual employee or a group of employees, their extended workforce, business partners, or others, including public figures, or that violate other standards of conduct or policies against harassment and bullying in the company.

Silencing dissent

In the past, Google has thrived in an open communication framework in their company, encouraging employees to freely express opinions and ideas. However, the culture of openness has been seen by the company as a source of problems. Over the past few years, Google employees have been using the internal chat boards to persuade other employees into pushing the management back from some of its controversial projects. Employees were previously successful in stopping the company from developing a censored search engine for the Chinese market and an artificial intelligence contract for the U.S. military.

Because of this, many employees believed that the move of Google to impose community guidelines on what employees should and should not talk about is an effort from the multi-billion dollar company to silence internal critics and dissenters.

“I think it’s specifically intended to silence dissent,” Irene Knapp, an engineer at Google, said. “This is the end of the important parts of Google’s open culture.”

Employees feel like Google’s trying to silence them or what they are about to say because of ulterior business motive and are reflective of the company’s values.

“Ultimately, business interests will always win out over ethics in terms of what we’re allowed to say,” Knapp said.

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