The walkouts capped a turbulent week for Google. After The Times article was published, the company revealed that it had fired 48 people for sexual harassment over the last two years and that none had received an exit package. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, and Larry Page, a co-founder of Google and the chief executive of its parent company, Alphabet, apologized. And one of the executives whom Alphabet continued employing after he was accused of harassment resigned, with no exit package.
But employees’ discontent continued to simmer. Many said Google had treated female workers inequitably over time. Others were outraged that Google had paid Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile software, a $90 million exit package even after the company concluded that a harassment claim against him was credible.
That led some Google employees to call for a walkout. The organizers also produced a list of demands for changing how Google handles sexual harassment, including ending its use of private arbitration in such cases. They also asked for the publication of a transparency report on instances of sexual harassment, further disclosures of salaries and compensation, an employee representative on the company board, and a chief diversity officer who could speak directly to the board.
A huge, steaming mess for the ‘don’t be evil’ company.
Gamification has a dark side
| I have always been opposed to the premises of gamification of work, and this piece by Vincent Gabrielle
sums up everything that is wrong about it, referring to gamification as the 'electronic whip’ [emphasis mine]:
Through gamified technology, corporations such as Amazon and Disney now have an unprecedented level of control over the individual bodies of their employees. Steve Sims, a vice-president at the gamification firm Badgeville, now CallidusCloud, in California said: ‘We like to think of it as behaviour management.’ In other words, how to get other people to do more stuff, more often.
This kind of micromanagement resembles Taylorism, a system developed by the American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor during the 1890s to codify the movements and habits of mind that led to productivity. To eliminate inefficiency and waste, Taylor followed around the ‘most productive’ factory workers, recording the timing of all their movements with a stopwatch. He set managers, similarly armed with stopwatches, to micromanage every detail of a job. Taylor was also famous for fudging his numbers in favour of speed-driving workers to exhaustion and, in some cases, to strike.
But the modern gamified workplace enables control beyond Taylor’s wildest dreams. Games are sets of rules prescribing both actions and outcomes. A gamified workplace sets not just goals for workers but precisely how those goals can be achieved. Managers don’t need to follow workers with stopwatches. They can use smartphones or apps. It’s micromanagement with unprecedented granularity. ‘This is Taylorism 2.0,’ according to the media expert Steven Conway of Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. ‘Activities are more rigidly defined and processed than ever.’ The gamified workplace is not a game in the original sense, nor does it cultivate playful ends.
The problem of the gamified workplace goes beyond micromanagement. The business ethicist Tae Wan Kim at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh warns that gamified systems have the potential to complicate and subvert ethical reasoning. He cites the example of a drowning child. If you save the child, motivated by empathy, sympathy or goodwill – that’s a morally good act. But say you gamify the situation. Say you earn points for saving drowning children. ‘Your gamified act is ethically unworthy,’ he explained to me in an email. Providing extrinsic gamified motivators, even if they work as intended, deprive us of the option to live worthy lives, Kim argues. ‘The workplace is a sacred space where we develop ourselves and help others,’ he notes. ‘Gamified workers have difficulty seeing what contributions they really make.’
Go read the whole thing. A must read.