Employee Rants Against Company Strategy

The internet age is a scary place in a lot of ways related to talent, but I'll focus on one today - employee rants that are mistakenly posted to public sources or leaked out of a company and broadcast globally.  

I've posted a lot of those here - mostly memos from CEO that have been leaked by a recipient in the company.  It's good material to review.  You get a sense for how the leadership of a company is communicating issues that are important, etc.  

But the CEO memos are the easy ones.  It's a memo, it was distributed throughout the company.  It was prepared for mass consumption, if only internally.  

Here's something that's much harder for HR pros to figure out what to do with.  The rant from an employee that says the company is missing the mark and goes into painstaking detail on why, and calls out the C-level and the founders for not "getting it".

Case in point, this Google+ rant from Google engineer Steve Yegge.  Here's the rundown of how the story broke and a couple of choice excerpts as reported by Silcon Filter:

"Last night, high-profile Google engineer Steve Yegge mistakenly posted a long rant about working at Amazon and Google’s own issues with creating platforms on Google+. Apparently, he only wanted to share it internally with everybody at Google, but mistaken shared it publicly. For the most part, Yegge’s post focusses on the horrors of working at Amazon, a company that is notorious for its political infighting. The most interesting part to me, though, is Yegge’s blunt assessment of what he perceives to be Google’s inability to understand platforms and how this could endanger the company in the long run.

The post itself has now been deleted, but given Google+’s reshare function, multiple copies exist on Google’s own social network and elsewhere on the web.

Selected excerpts from Yegge via the Silicon Filter reporting:

"That one last thing that Google doesn’t do well is Platforms. We don’t understand platforms. We don’t “get” platforms. Some of you do, but you are the minority. This has become painfully clear to me over the past six years. I was kind of hoping that competitive pressure from Microsoft and Amazon and more recently Facebook would make us wake up collectively and start doing universal services. Not in some sort of ad-hoc, half-assed way, but in more or less the same way Amazon did it: all at once, for real, no cheating, and treating it as our top priority from now on.

Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don’t get it. The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought. We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: “So is it the Stalker API?” She got all glum and said “Yeah.” I mean, I was joking, but no… the only API call we offer is to get someone’s stream. So I guess the joke was on me.

Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there’s something there for everyone."

You should go read the whole post from Yegee, the entire thing is available at Silicon Filter.  For most of the world, the first reaction would be to fire this person for writing this rant and making it public. Certainly most of the CEOs we work for would want someone's head for this.

But Google is interesting in this regard.  If what's being reported is true, Yegge meant to share this with everyone at Google, and in hat tip to that, he's actually saying hi to the leadership and founders of the company in his rant....while he's taking a shot at the DNA of the company (he said a bunch of positive stuff earlier in the entire rant, so it's balanced in that way) and saying the new product to compete with Facebook (Google+) sucks.  

What would happen if one of your employees emailed a rant like this to the global distribution list? Would he be embraced or fired?  Would he keep his job, but be on the s##t list for the rest of his career?

I like to have fun with Google and challenge the conventional wisdom that they're the golden child, but I'll say this.  If an employee can write a rant like this, distribute it to the company and the world and the response of the company is to think about the content instead of being pissed, that would be the type of company I'd want to work for.

It would also be the type of company you and I would want to build.   It would be great to be on the inside and see what happens next.  With Yegge, his interactions with other Googlers, etc.

Fascinating stuff.

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