Google has reissued its internal rules related to harassment, discrimination, and doxxing following months of employee criticism of its workplace culture.
CEO Sundar Pichai announced the new policies in a company-wide email last week, writing that they’re meant to reinforce a respectful culture while continuing to encourage discussion and debate, according to a copy of the message seen by CNBC.
Google has long been known for having a particularly open and communicative workforce, where employees use hundreds of internal mailing lists and forums to discuss topics both relevant and unrelated to work.
These internal platforms were thrust into the public spotlight late last year after the firing of James Damore, a Google engineer whose internal memo attributing women’s underrepresentation in the tech industry to gender differences went viral. Screenshots of internal communications were leaked to the press and included in Damore’s lawsuit against the company, and named employees faced harassment from inside and outside the company.
Meanwhile, several reports have described internal turmoil and employee frustration about harassment on those channels and about how the company handles diversity-related hiring and retention, generally. At Alphabet’s recent shareholders meeting, an that called out the “chilling effect” that doxxing and harassment had on productivity and company culture.
Google’s new guidelines now specifically prohibit “doxxing,” or the act of revealing personal information or contact details of a person without consent. However, they also warn that "actions on our corporate systems leave a footprint and may be discoverable in court or shared externally without your permission."
The policy tells employees to “avoid blanket statements about groups or categories of people,” and prohibits “trolling, name calling, and ad hominem attacks.” It also says that the goal of conversations on internal forums "should be to understand more, not be right."
In many ways, the debate about how to have respectful conversations within Google reflects the broader discussion happening in the United States as people from opposing sides of the political spectrum struggle to find common ground on issues like immigration.
One employee who is critical of Google's new rules, Dan Pittman, agreed to have an internal email with his thoughts shared with reporters, and wrote that Google is taking too "neutral" a stance, particularly in regards to respecting all points of view.
"I certainly hope this will be an improvement over the previous situation, and am cautiously hopeful that it will at least reduce the ongoing harm, but I do not believe it can ultimately succeed while it demands the tolerance and respect these guidelines demand of intolerance," Pittman writes.