The New York Times ran a story last month on employee activism at Google and its firing of four employees involved in the movement.
No question, the topic warrants coverage. The two NYT journalists, Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi, dig into the topic with a touch of foreshadowing:
“The dismissals are expected to exacerbate rocky relations between Google’s management and a vocal contingent of workers who have protested the company’s handling of sexual harassment, its treatment of contract employees, and its work with the Defense Department, federal border agencies and the Chinese government.”
They call this teasing out the drama.
So far so good.
Still, this passage caught my attention:
“The changes are a remarkable turn for a company that has been considered a standard for the modern workplace. Google introduced many of the office perks that are now common across Silicon Valley, and its embrace of transparent relations between workers and management has influenced a generation of start-ups.”
I agree that Google is known for a progressive culture that attracts A+ talent and knows how to nourish that talent (literally).
I also understand that the journalists are striving the create contrast, the greater the gap between “before” and “now” and greater the drama. Classic storytelling.
Still, to say that Google is the company behind the perk-a-palooza that envelopes Silicon Valley misses the inventive benefits that surfaced way before Google’s founding in 1998.
A Look Back
One Silicon Valley company that comes to mind in breaking new ground in shaping the workplace is Tandem Computers.
Check out what The New York Times wrote about Tandem in 1982:
Companies in the Silicon Valley industrial enclave are known for their nonconformity and Tandem, with its employee swimming pool, volleyball courts, company beer busts and sabbaticals (six weeks every four years) is no exception.
“Sure there’s a lot of diversity here,” Mr. Treybig says, “but that’s the key to creativity. It’s a thin line, but you have to allow people to be fulfilled. The challenge of a great company is to have diversity while at the same time have respect for that diversity.”
The only thing missing is the vegan juice bar.
I’m not discounting Google’s quest to shape a progressive workplace.
But the real trailblazing when it comes to the workplace took place before Google arrived on the scene.