Tuesday, January 24, 2012

His way or the highway

Larry Page to Googlers: If You Don’t Get SPYW, Work Somewhere Else

Word this afternoon is of an email that Larry Page sent to Google staffers, telling them to get on board or get out; if they don't understand that Google is all-in on the integration of products -- one effect of which is the promotion of Google social properties to the exclusion of competitors in the social space -- then they "should probably work somewhere else."

It's a delicate thing, internal communications. On the one hand, company founders rightly feel that the company is theirs to do with as they choose; if they make a strategic decision, employees are required to support that decision. On the other hand, though, Google has in the past sought to inspire its employees with a sense of values and higher purpose. That inspiration served a business purpose. High-morale employees can be expected to work harder, stick with the company for a longer period, and do it for less than top dollar. High-morale employees are a positive business asset. So the question: in the wake of that email, how is that morale trending?

Founders forget this at their peril: they can treat their employees as cogs in the wheel, as temporary work-for-hire laborers who won't be around long enough to care about them, and in return they can expect a minimum level of effort and quality from those employees. When they expect more than the minimum, it is incumbent on the founder to invest more: respect employees more, value them more, listen to their opinions and give sufficient weight to their perspective on business-critical issues as to allow that perspective to influence important decisions.

Those are two business paths -- the low road and the high road -- and either can be profitable. The worst path is the one that Larry Page chose, to start down the high road and then double back with internal communications more appropriate to the low road. Employee disillusionment is not an easy thing to fix.