When a Memo Gets You Fired

26Jan 2022 by

Chapter 10 in Business Essentials, “Human Resource Management and Labor Relations”, discusses the legal issues surrounding equal employment opportunities, importance of workforce development, and new challenges in the changing workplace. 

In August 2017, a Google engineer wrote a memo that got him fired. The memo was highly criticized, and The New York Times, in the article “Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech (Links to an external site.)” indicated that the reason the memo, titled Googles Ideological Echo Chamber, angered many is because it “relied on certain gender stereotypes, like the notion that women are less interested in high-stress jobs because they are more anxious, to rationalize the gender gap in the tech industry.” 


Assignment Readings:

Begin by reading the memo written by the fired Google employee, Googles Ideological Echo Chamber.
Next, read the memo written by the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, “Our Words Matter,” (Links to an external site.) in response.
Then, read the below articles sourced from various news outlets to contextualize the memos a bit more:
Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech (Links to an external site.)
This Email From Google’s CEO to Employees Teaches Some Major Lessons in Leadership (Links to an external site.)
 (Links to an external site.)Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd (Links to an external site.)
You may also view these articles in the alternative format below if you prefer.

Googles Ideological Echo Chamber .pdf 

Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Questioning Women in Tech 2 – The New York Times-1.pdf 

Techs Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd.pdf  

This Email From Google’s CEO to Employees Teaches Some Major Lessons in Leadership _ Inc.com.pdf

 Note to employees from CEO Sundar Pichai-1.pdf 

Assignment Details:

After you have completed the readings, please respond to the following questions:

1. Based on your readings, what do you think the fired engineer’s intended message was? What did he do right, and what did he do wrong in conveying his message to his intended audience?

2. It has been argued that the fired engineer’s memo was not intended to belittle women or minorities, but rather intended to encourage Google employees to take account of their own biases as a means of reducing the so-called gender gap in tech employment. Putting your own opinions aside, refer back to his memo, and cite examples where this viewpoint perhaps might be justified. Then explain in detail, referencing your citations from his memo, ways he could have changed his memo to communicate the intention of “reducing the gender gap in tech employment.”

3. Many of the offensive statements made by the Google employee were based on opinion, rather than fact, such as “most women are biologically unsuited to working in tech because they were more focused on ‘feelings and aesthetics than ideas’ and had ‘a stronger interest in people rather than things.’ In what ways could the employee have strengthened his memo to persuade his audience (whatever his intention might have been), using facts, rather than opinion?

4. Google has dealt with criticism that it has not done enough to hire and promote women and minorities.The fired employee simultaneously questioned Google’s recruitment practices for a diverse workforce and argued that the reason there are not a lot of women in tech positions is not because they are being discriminated against, but because they do not want high-stress jobs, are more anxious, and crave more work-life balance than men.  Google has long promoted a culture of openness, with employees allowed to question senior executives and even mock its strategy in internal forums. In what ways do you believe this memo crossed the line in also advancing harmful gender stereotypes even while criticizing Google’s hiring practices?

5. In his response memo, Googles CEO did say that portions of the memo had “violated the companys code of conduct and crossed the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Your readings highlight some of the leadership lessons the CEO conveyed in the message of his memo. What do you believe were the most meaningful lessons he demonstrated as a leader? (You may want to cite not only your readings from this assignment, but also refer to Part 1 (Chapters 1-3) in “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age”).

6. Social media are digital media/channel combinations that empower stakeholders as participants in the communication process by allowing them to share content, revise content, respond to content, or contribute new content. Why do you believe that this complicates communication in the business context and in what ways is this memo an example of just how complicated things have become for companies?

7. Similarly, social media reduces the amount of control businesses have over the content and process of communication. Google has learned how to adapt their communication efforts to this new media landscape and to welcome customers participation. When memos like this go public, why is it so important for companies to respond appropriately for example on Twitter or Facebook?

8. Consider the memo as a product of Google’s internal communication structure in welcoming input from employees. As noted above, it is important for companies to respond to the public if internal communications become public. How do you feel that social media has affected the business communication structure of Google in revolutionizing its internal communication processes and promoting the flow of ideas?

9. How do you think the internal communications processes in combination with recognizing the role of digital communications in the modern business environments has broken down traditional barriers in the organizational hierarchy (you may want to refer back to Chapters 5-7 from Business Essentials to fully answer the question). 

10. In what ways do you think the impact of digital networks has enabled networks of individuals and organizations to collaborate, share information, and request information? How has it become easier, and in what ways has it become more difficult?


Submission Requirements:

Please submit an APA formatted five-to-seven page paper. Your paper should be typed in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5″ x 11″), and have 1″ margins on all sides. View the APA Sample Paper (Links to an external site.) on the Purdue Owl website.