View profile

Work Futures Daily - Google Sexual Harassment Walkout

Google walkout; gamification of work is evil; Spotify’s personal development approach; Amazon Flex wo

Work Futures

November 5 · Issue #1025 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Google walkout; gamification of work is evil; Spotify’s personal development approach; Amazon Flex workers won’t be getting $15/hour; Profile of Asana; TeamOps; Hotel workers protest automation; ‘Freelancing in America’ Study

Beacon NY - 2018-11-05 — Google management has walked into a minefield based on its treatment of sexual harassment issues. Bad policies and bad optics.
If you’re getting this you probably signed up at (or one of its predecessors) or If someone forwarded this to you, sign up here.
Consider making a donation. We appreciate your support.
Long Takes
Google Walkout: Employees Stage Protest Over Handling of Sexual Harassment | Thousands of Google employees staged walkouts globally after a New York Times article last week that revealed the company had paid millions to executives forced to leave due to sexual harassment:
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.
Short Takes
Personal Development Done Right: The Spotify Way | The Corporate Rebels takes a deep look at the lighthanded approach to personal (and personnel) development at Spotify.
Amazon Raises Minimum Pay for Everyone — Except These Workers | Olivia Zaleski looks into the Amazon Flexworkforce, who average $5 to $11/hour after all expenses are calculated. They are ineligible for the new $15/hour minimum since they are contractors.
Two Facebook engineers built a tool to cut down on meetings. Now it’s a $900 million company | Simone Stolzoffprofiles Asana, mentions new features – portfolios, which links tasks to company-wide goals, and workload, a resource management capability – and the company’s 50,000 paying customers.
Introduction to TeamOps | Ross Mayfield introduces the idea of TeamOps (at least it’s new to me):
TeamOps empowers teams to achieve higher velocity and continuous improvement through the agile cycle of planning, acting and learning. TeamOps is the combination of practices, apps and cultural philosophies, prompted by the shift to group messaging like Slack, and the spread of agile beyond development teams. This speed allows business teams to continuously improve and more effectively deliver and compete.
Sounds like what I’ve been calling fast and loose business.
Will Kiosks And Robots Replace Hotel Workers? | Hawaiian hotel workers are protesting the growing use of kiosks and robots in the hospitality industry.
And with good reason. A 2016 report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. determined that hospitality jobs, which often involve routine physical tasks performed in controlled indoor environments, are especially vulnerable to being replaced by machines.
  • Americans are spending more time freelancing: Average weekly hours spent freelancing increased 72 million hours per week from 998 million in 2015 to more than one billion hours per week of freelancing this year.
  • Technology is making it easier to find work: 64% of freelancers found work online, a 22 point increase since 2014.
  • Lifestyle matters most: Both freelancers and non-freelancers prioritize achieving the lifestyle that they want but freelancers are more likely to get it.​ 51% of all freelancers say no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job.
  • Freelancers are more politically active: In this election season, freelancers indicated they are 19 points more politically active than non-freelancers. More than seven in 10 (72%) said they’d be willing to cross party lines to vote for candidates who support freelancer interests.
  • Freelancers place more value on skills training: ​93% of freelancers with a four-year college degree said training was useful versus only 79% who said their college education was useful to the work they do now; and 70% of full-time freelancers participated in skills training in the past six months compared to only 49% of full-time non-freelancers.
From the Archives
Millennials and the leadership gap | Stowe Boyd | My most popular post, ever.
The rate of change is often of no less importance than the direction of the change itself; but while the latter frequently does not depend upon our volition, it is the rate at which we allow change to take place which well may depend upon us.
| Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism
Crossposted from
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue
Stowe Boyd, 17 South Cedar Street, Beacon NY 12508