Google: Awesome and not-so-awesome

Very few individuals have either all good or all bad qualities. Hopefully we have more of the former and less of the latter.

The same goes for companies, and few capture these extremes more than Google.

On the one hand…

I am not a Google power user, so I haven’t even started to tap its many features. But I am continually blown away by its capabilities as a search engine. In my experience it ranks multiple levels above its competitors.

I can type in bits of phrases and find exactly what I’m looking for. I can go on fishing expeditions and discover incredibly useful and interesting things. The other day I typed in an airport location to a home address, and up popped super accurate driving directions to help direct a cab.

In sum, Google has redefined how we obtain information. Its programmed “intuition” is brilliant.

Google also appears regularly on lists of the best employers, especially among high tech companies. It ranked no. 1 on the 2013 Fortune list of the 100 best employers. It topped a 2012 LinkedIn survey of most desired global employers. If you have the right skill sets, then this is a destination of choice.

Indeed, even Google interns make a fantastic salary. As reported by Glassdoor.com, software engineering interns are paid an average of over $6,000/month. This is a far cry from mega-gobs of unpaid internships offered by so many other employers that could surely afford to pay their interns.

On the other hand…

If you don’t have those high demand skills, however, your compensation prospects at Google may not be so great. For example, Laura Sydell reports for National Public Radio on how wealthy Bay Area companies like Google contract with firms that pay low wages to provide basic services:

Santa Clara County, Calif., is home to Google, Apple and eBay. So it’s no surprise that the median household income was $91,000 a year in 2012, one of the highest in the country. Yet one-third of the households in the county don’t earn enough for basic living expenses, even when they work at some of those big tech companies.

Take Manny Cardenas, a security guard at Google who lives in low-income housing in San Jose and commutes regularly to Google’s sprawling corporate campus in Mountain View. Cardenas, a stocky, soft-spoken 25-year-old, has been working as a part-time security guard at the search giant for the past year and a half. . . .

. . . Cardenas earns $16 an hour, has no benefits and never gets more than 30 hours a week. In a good month, he brings home about $1,400. If Cardenas didn’t live with his mother, he says, he probably wouldn’t have a roof over his head.

Granted, $16 an hour would be a living wage in other parts of the country. But it doesn’t go far in northern California. Because of the contracting arrangement, those wages will never be factored into Google’s average compensation figures. Google could, if it wished, exercise its economic clout and work only with contractors that pay living wages and benefits.

Unfortunately, Google also is using its abundant monies to advance a policy agenda furthering the interests of the wealthy and powerful. As reported by Nick Surgey for BillMoyers.com, Google funds a bevy of far right think tanks and advocacy groups:

Google, the tech giant supposedly guided by its “don’t be evil” motto, has been funding a growing list of groups advancing the agenda of the Koch brothers.

Organizations that received “substantial” funding from Google for the first time over the past year include Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union (best known for its CPAC conference) and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation that led the charge to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act: Heritage Action.

In 2013, Google also funded the corporate lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, although that group is not listed as receiving “substantial” funding in the list published by Google.

Assessing

Are remarkable high tech innovations incompatible with a public policy agenda that embraces the common good? Can attractive salaries and model work environments for highly skilled workers co-exist with a living wage and benefits for all?

Socially responsible capitalism means taking the moral high road, even when there’s no government regulator forcing you to do so. When private companies enjoy great success, they can opt to share their bounties and support a rising tide that lifts all boats. Google has immense economic and, hence, political power. Wouldn’t it be great if the company opted to become a standard bearer for ethical, inclusive business practices?

2 responses

  1. The title page of my some 225 page disquisition on workplace bullying I sent to the Sonoma County Grand Jury reads:
    “Google Motto: Don’t be Evil
    Sonoma County motto: Be evil in the workplace and you will be supported, shielded from responsibility, and injustice, abuse and suffering will be heaped upon your target.”

    Most of my grievance dealt with bullying and mobbing in my work as a public, academic, and law librarian. And in trying to remedy my situation, I became disgustingly aware of how little power I had to correct the situation. So what I’d like to do is try and put more responsibility for resolving bullying and mobbing on some of the most powerful members of our communities.

    I would like to suggest that an all-out effort be made in 2014 to raise awareness of, and remedies for, bullying/mobbing in legal-related workplaces.

    We, who have been targets and victims, all know that the effects of workplace abuse, incivility, and bullying/mobbing are just as devastating as any of the workplace harassments and hostilities pertaining to Title 7 protected class employees. The injustice is that bullying behaviors are not illegal for the non-protected classes. But that doesn’t mean that officers of our justice system should just ignore these violations to employees’ health and well-being.

    For legal system officers to ignore these things is to play a role in the unwinding of civil society. My experience is that not only do a good many of those in the legal community ignore opportunities for addressing and helping to remedy workplace bullying, but that they are some of the worst offenders in legal workplaces.

    I’ve been a county law librarian, a legal interviewer for a legal services foundation, and worked in a disability services and legal center. In every situation there was intimidation, psychological abuse, and bullying and mobbing. And it seemed that the attorneys in these situations couldn’t care less. We think of lawyers as being on the front lines for building, defending, and maintaining a civil society, yet they are often the cause of escalated incivility in the workplace.

    In my researching why this is, I found many references to sociopathy, conscienceless narcissism, lack of empathy, and a sense of entitlement to be high amongst our officers of justice.

    For 2014, I would like to see this message of “responsibility-now” addressed in every law school and bar association. Attorneys do not at this time have a professional requirement, and certainly not a cause of action, to address workplace bullying. But by and large their leadership status in their communities gives them the power to address the issue and work for positive corrections to this bullying epidemic. And the community privileges they enjoy suggests a moral mandate.

    I attended a seminar with Gary Namie in Sacramento around 2005, and the next day attended the campus anti-bullying policy development at Laney College in Oakland. I got Freedom from Workplace Bullying Week proclamations signed by Sonoma County and the City of Petaluma. If the least powerful can try to help, why can’t the most powerful?

    The Namies and David Yamada are the best things going for renewing workplace safety and civility in this country. But they can’t be everywhere. I would like to see the ethic that all attorneys need to get involved spread widely. I like Amitai Etzioni’ book, My Brother’s Keeper. I like Michael Lerner’s book, Surplus Powerlessness. I am a huge supporter of the Healthy Workplace Bill, but I’ve worked around powerful, community leader attorneys and know that if they want, they can individually be effective in helping surplus powerlessness victims of workplace bullying with finding another job, with restoring their career, with telling their story. I would like to help them want to.

    I would like to be able to sit down with the local bar president and discuss the workplace sociopathic, bullying behavior I’ve experienced from attorneys, what remedies there can be, and have him or her care, and care deeply about some in the profession contributing to the unwinding of civil society.

    Charles Page

  2. Congratulations to the poster on leaving before more injury deveoped. I stayed while the abuse continued and intensifed until I developed clnical depression/ anxiety and PSTD — untll I was forced out under dishonest pretenses aftert two years of intense targetting by my immediate supervisor and the manager above –which include sadism, lying directly to me, and lying about me, including my
    performance. My supervisor told me that the way to survive at the Agency (headquarters of
    the National Labor Relations Board, indeed on the Chairman’s staff) was to keep your head
    down and never express any concern about mistreatment of staff counsel (virtually all employees
    there are lawyers and labor lawyers at that) — and this was to a 60-year old lawyer who had worked with dedication for over three decade for this Agency. The top officials turned a blind eye. The legal staff is basically managed by fear and fiat, with no evidence of restraint of this by upper management. I think it is telling of the pervasiveness and profundity of workplace abuse that it so blatantly
    exists in this context. I can attest that nationally workplace abuse is rotten from the apple core’s
    outward. A pertinent note — the union there is a “company union” and has been for almost
    ten years — the work of the Federal Mediaton and Conciliation Service being called in because
    employee morale was at its lowest in the Agency’s 75-year history. This, of course, has only
    exacerbated the toxic situation.

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