A few weeks ago, as Google and Silicon Valley were still grappling with the fallout from the viral ‘Google Manifesto,’ Google employees, women in tech and social scientists flooded the media and internet with strong rebuttals, circling the more widely accepted research that counters James Damore’s biological argument. Inside Google, the aftermath included the Manifesto author being fired and a series of controversial decisions by executives at the company, including canceling their regular town hall meeting. The chain of events has raised questions — even reaching beyond tech and Silicon Valley — about free speech, workplace rights, leadership and culture building.
For tech founders and startups — many of whom reside in Google’s backyard — the Manifesto has a special set of implications. As a founder of an early stage tech startup in Silicon Valley, I started reflecting: What if this happened in my company? How would I deal with this as a leader? Do I have the right processes and documentation in place to address an event like this? As a founder, what can I do to build a healthy culture that combats bias and fosters diversity of thought?
Build a strong infrastructure.
The Google saga highlights how quickly controversial events can unfold, especially once it attracts media attention. Executives and HR at Google needed to make urgent decisions following the Manifesto situation, all while under the harsh spotlight of public scrutiny. These decision makers were able to lean on their established processes and procedures to help make the right decision for the company.
Building a strong core employment infrastructure is a great first approach for startups, beginning with establishing a code of conduct. When you have an endless list of competing priorities near the start of a company — and your goal is just to get to the next step of existence — the last thing you’re thinking about is establishing employee guidelines, processes and procedures for employees that you may not even have (yet). I’m guilty of this.
A code of conduct and supporting processes can set a solid foundation that helps to ensure that you and your team will take the appropriate steps as the company grows.
Leave room and make space for diverse perspectives.
Hiring practices can help ensure you’re growing a diverse team, but a diverse team does not guarantee an inclusive culture. Unfortunately, the decision at Google to fire the Manifesto’s author, gave credence to his claim that Google has a pervasive culture that shuts down differing points of view. What is Google doing about the unknown (but not insignificant) number of employees sympathetic to the author’s viewpoint? (They cancelled their regular town hall.)
Read more: Forbes