- In a move to clamp down on vitriolic political debates in the workplace, Google issued new community guidelines for employees on internally discussing non-work-related topics. The tech giant made clear in a detailed, five-point public memo that while it supports "healthy and open discussion" as a part of its culture, it expects employees to be responsible, helpful and thoughtful in their communications. The guidelines advise employees to make Google a safe, productive and inclusive work environment and warn against making "false or misleading statements about Google's products or business."
- The guidelines represent an about-face for Google, according to media reports, including The Wall Street Journal. The Journal described the company as a pioneer in creating a campus-like environment where employees could freely discuss topics. The guidelines follow "a year of increased incivility on our internal platforms, and we've heard that employees want clearer rules of the road on what's OK to say and what's not," a Google spokeswoman said, according to the Journal. Fortune also reported that Google used to encourage debates among employees, but said that heavy recent scrutiny from employees prompted the company to tighten up its policy on internal discourse.
- "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 company said in its public post. "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."
Google's new guidelines follow a series of public complaints against the company by employees, including a global walkout of employees protesting the company's handling of sexual harassment allegations, the alleged mistreatment of part-time and underrepresented workers, forced arbitration and pay inequity. Two workers recently accused Google of retaliating against them for organizing workers. Another worker's internal post discussing her treatment before her maternity leave also recently went viral at the company.
Companies may be considering similar regulations to lower the risk of discussions and debates among workers that could escalate to disturbing or even violent levels, especially in a super-charged — often contentious — political climate. In a survey published by Indeed in Sept. 2018, one in five employees surveyed said they wanted more censure of political speech at work and 10% that said speech is being censored too much.
Employers may feel they are receiving some mixed messages. A 2017 Glassdoor survey found that 84% of employees wanted their company to take a stand on public policy issues that directly impact their lives and their employer's business. Poll results suggested that politically and socially engaged employers had a hiring and retention advantage over disengaged employers. However, a Clutch survey released earlier this month found that only 24% of workers thought it was important for an employer's values and stand on issues to mirror their own. About 40% of respondents disagreed that company leaders needed to take a stand on issues that impact their industry.