On Tuesday, Google fired engineer James Damore, who wrote a manifesto distributed throughout the company on why women are biologically unfit to be in the tech industry.
Damore’s 3300-word screed went viral throughout the web over the weekend, raising issues about how the Internet giant would respond. Google didn’t address the firing specifically, but said that with the document, Damore violated his employee code of conduct.
Was this a limitation on free speech? Not when the writing in question was created and released using corporate resources. We’ve seen individuals fired (perhaps unfairly) for sending out an inappropriate Tweet, but a 3300-word document isn’t a spur-of-the-moment emotional decision. This document required considerable thought and effort.
Who Damore was defaming is really not relevant. Imagine if the document said Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, or LGBT people–or perhaps even white men–are unfit to be in technology.
Now imagine how your organization would handle a similar situation. Do your employees know what’s included in your code of conduct? Do you even have a code of conduct? How would you handle such a situation, both internally with employees, and with your external audiences? What kind of discussions might you have within your organization that encourage ongoing dialogues rather than one-way rants?
The truth is that what’s said and done under the umbrella of your brand has consequences–for the company as well as for the individual expressing their thoughts.
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