As Google redoubles its efforts to change its corporate culture following an internal employee memo criticizing the company’s diversity efforts, employees could scramble to keep up with a work environment that might not no longer suit them.
Google fired the employee, software engineer James Damore, claiming the note violated the company’s code of conduct. The document claimed that Google was not receptive to conservative perspectives and argued that biological differences were to be blamed for not working in the tech industry in greater numbers. Reports Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal said Damore plans to sue Google’s parent company Alphabet GOOG,
for his dismissal.
In response to the controversy, Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance Danielle Brown wrote to employees condemning the document and suggested she was working to redefine the culture of the company. ‘business. “Changing culture is difficult and often uncomfortable,” she wrote. “But I firmly believe that Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.”
Even before the memo, Google had faced criticism over diversity – the US Department of Labor announced in April that it was suing Google for consistently paying female employees less than their male counterparts.
However, a company’s choice to revisit its corporate culture is not always a response to a negative event. Netflix NFLX,
in June rolled out a new corporate culture guide that clearly emphasizes performance. At one point, the document stated that an employee who scores an “A” for effort but a “B” for performance will get the boot with “generous respectful severance pay”. (Netflix was not immediately available for comment.)
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Redefining corporate culture, especially in response to toxic working conditions, can benefit employees by providing them with a more positive guide on what to expect from each other and from top management. But it can also create confusion and cause some employees to be unsure whether they want to continue working for a particular employer. “Culture shows up in every interaction,” said Lori Trahan, managing director of the Concire Leadership Institute, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. “This is what guides our behavior.”
Here are the steps workers can take to decide if they still have a place:
Learn about your business values
A natural starting point when assessing a company’s corporate culture is to examine its written statement of values or ethics policy. What senior management exposes in these documents won’t necessarily define or redefine the culture – nor will it always follow it – but in many cases, it will reveal what matters to the business.
Determine if you are a good candidate by asking five key questions
When it comes to judging a company’s culture, executive coach John Mattone suggests workers start by evaluating it against five qualities. If the answer to these questions is yes, then the cultural fit is probably strong. But if the answer is no, maybe it’s time to reassess if it’s the right job.
Are managers concerned about the development of employees’ skills?
Are the employees passionate about the company’s mission?
Do managers and their teams have the same expectations?
Are you doing your best?
Are you collaborative colleagues?
Answers to these questions will not only help uncover a company’s undeclared values, but also allow employees to determine whether they still fit into that culture, Mattone said.
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Customers can know more than employees
Customer satisfaction can also be a major indicator of a positive workplace, said Neel Doshi, co-founder of consulting firm Vega Factor. “You can deduce a lot from the fact that customers feel like the organization has treated them like individuals,” he said.
Take Uber. Over the past few months, the company has dealt with a slew of high-profile PR issues, ranging from allegations of sexual harassment to criticism of the company’s actions following President Trump’s immigration order. While Uber hasn’t necessarily lost a significant number of customers amid its various weaknesses this year, many have stopped using the app in favor of competitors.
Following the sexual harassment allegations, Uber asked an outside law firm to investigate and ultimately fired more than 20 employees. The report also called for removing some of the responsibilities of then-CEO Travis Kalanick, who later announced a leave of absence and then resigned at the request of shareholders. (Uber did not respond to a request for comment.)
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Decide what is best for you
Sometimes it’s not necessarily a question of good versus bad. Rather, it is a matter of individual adjustment. “People kept saying Amazon had a bad culture,” said Mattone, referring to past claims by employees about the difficulties of working at the e-commerce giant. “Amazon AMZN,
had a hectic culture – for some people it suits them and for others it isn’t, ”he added. (Amazon declined a request for comment.)
Take matters into your own hands
“If the culture goes south, I wouldn’t assume you can’t do anything there,” Doshi said. An employee could influence their team’s strategy or make the team more responsive to customer needs. And positivity, Doshi added, is contagious.
And while in the end, a career change may be the best way forward, Mattone said developing the ability to roll with the punches will serve workers well no matter where they work. “Everything is changing all the time,” he said. “The question is, what can you do to continue to be agile in the face of transformation? “
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At Wells Fargo, employee feedback has been essential in shaping the bank’s efforts to reshape its corporate culture. Last year it was revealed that employees of Wells Fargo WFC,
had opened up to two million accounts without the knowledge or approval of clients.
Executives and employees at Wells Fargo have blamed the company’s fierce, sales-driven culture for the accounts receivable scandal – an internal report found, among other things, that even senior executives were afraid to voice their concerns concerning the strategy of the company.
Since then, the company has strived to rethink how it solicits employee feedback, and it now does so through a variety of channels, including online surveys, town halls, and the internal social media platform of company, said Diana Rodriguez, senior vice president of corporate communications at Wells. Fargo.
“We have to change,” Rodriguez said. “The environment people work in is critical to their day-to-day experience, so we need to focus on that culture and the responsibility needs to be with senior leaders to take action around the culture.”
Know what you are getting into
Job review sites like Glassdoor are an obvious place to start, but job seekers should exercise caution as these forums often attract extreme opinions (much like other review sites like Yelp Better yet, connecting with current or former employees through LinkedIn or networking events can give candidates the opportunity to ask questions before stepping in the door. Otherwise, all you have to do is call them. “They’re going to give you the best answers,” said Brian Kropp, head of human resources practice at consulting firm CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner.