google

The Monopoly Curse: Bad Management at Google

Dissident artist Sabo's work

Dissident artist Sabo’s work

The recent Google news will be reviewed in another post soon. The Damore Google Memo affair, in which management threw a high-level employee under the bus for wrongthink and thereby assisted in damaging Google’s image of political neutrality among a large share of the population, is another sign that their management has been made stupid by the easy profits of its monopoly on search and near-monopoly on advertising. With the initial corporate motto of “Don’t Be Evil,” the company had built its business on the trust of its billions of users, who had came to believe the company would not abuse its power by manipulating its search results or targeting advertising by scanning private email and search terms. That trust is being rapidly eroded by an increasingly careless management.

The story presented in most media:

White male engineer James Damore blasts fellow employees with email alleging females can’t be good software engineers. This makes women and minorities at Google feel unsafe, so in order to support a diverse work environment, management wisely fired him. They should have done it sooner, and should also fire every employee who didn’t condemn him.

The more complicated, true story:

Geeky science guy James Damore, who left a PhD program in evolutionary biology to join Google, wrote a memo circulated internally in a group set up by Google for diversity discussion. He used stats and studies to argue for changes to diversity programs to more effectively recruit women, who he argued were not choosing to be software engineers in large enough numbers to increase their representation at Google. Much internal discussion, then a group of offended — who turned his words into “women are unfit to program at Google” — started emailing management asking that he be fired. When that didn’t work, they leaked his memo to Gizmodo, which ran it without cites and labeled it an “anti-diversity screed” (pre-slandering him because it really wasn’t, it was more tactless but well-meaning.) Outrage and Twitter mobs descended, more leaks revealed managers keeping internal blacklists and employees threatening to leave unless he was fired, employees asking for everyone who supported his memo to be fired as well. Threats and doxxing all around, employees not getting work done while they had emotional breakdowns or spent all day engaged online.

In other words, a really bad week for Google. Meanwhile at Apple, everyone knows taking internal business outside via leaks is a firing offense. This kind of emo firestorm is much less likely where employees haven’t been told over and over again they’re the most perfect snowflakes on the planet and they can do as much online activism as they want since they have no lives outside Google, the free food, the 60-hour weeks, the relentless pressure to conform that comes from having only below-30s on a campus without deeper knowledge.

Why did management abandon their commitment (even restated in the announcement of Damore’s firing) to free expression? Because the company was already under attack by activists for supposed equal pay violations, with the EEOC asking for an unprecedented level of disclosure of employee salary information and data. Stepped-up efforts to increase the ratio of women and minorities had already failed to do much (other than filling the ranks with progressive activists from academia), while straying across the line of illegal discrimination against others, as alleged by Damoor’s memo. And meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit seeking damages for Google’s long and well-documented history of discrimination against older applicants continues to make its way through the courts.

Having employees leak internal emails to outside journalists to gain external allies in their disputes had already damaged the company’s image, and the firing doubled down on that by illustrating just how easily management would bow to activists. If they cave so easily, how long before they allow private customer data to be used against their own customers to satisfy governments and intelligence agencies? Many suspect they already have.

The resource curse is the observation that countries blessed with lots of natural resources like oil or minerals have a tendency to waste that endowment, through mediocre and corrupt administration. The politicians of such countries tend to use the easy revenues to maintain repressive regimes while making family and friends incredibly wealthy. The payoffs to residents raise incomes, prices, and currency exchange rates, making it hard for other kinds of economic activity to survive in the territory of the regime. This becomes most noticeable when the resource revenues begin to decrease and the hollowed-out local economy collapses, as in Venezuela or for a less extreme example, Saudi Arabia.

But companies can have the analogous problem. Blessed by a near-monopoly in some market because of network effects or patent protections, the company can lose its competitiveness. Its management can’t easily help or harm the monopoly revenue stream, but can easily create the appearance of activity by investing in many other areas and buying back its own stock, which keeps its value high and avoids stockholder complaints and attacks by dissident investors. When the fountain of monopoly revenues is suddenly reduced by new technology or the appearance of a disruptive competitor, what appeared to be an unassailable position can start to crumble, laying bare the malinvestment of decades of revenues.

The article “Microsoft, Amazon and the ‘Resource Curse'” at Crash/Dev of April 4, 2013, describes the “resource curse” at Microsoft and calls out Google as a likely future sufferer:

Microsoft could be the tech industry poster child for the resource curse — a company seemingly blessed with a massively profitable and “sticky” core franchise (Windows + Office), but that has failed for over a decade to deploy that wealth productively in support of new initiatives.

Even the way the company prosecutes innovation — dumping billions into late-mover attempts to imitate industry leaders (Apple and Google most notably), or grossly overpaying for “strategic” acquisitions that somehow fail to thrive post-deal (e.g., Avenue A / Aquantive, Skype, Yammer) — seems to reflect a misplaced faith in overwhelming force over persistent excellence as the decisive factor in any given strategic battle….

P.S. — Google is the next in line to suffer from the resource curse — their core search advertising franchise is the magic cash machine that feeds their culture of abundance — but so far they’ve done a better job of deploying that cash against genuine innovation that matters (Gmail, Google Maps, Android, Google Docs) than Microsoft. Only time will tell, but the realist in me thinks that the resource curse will eventually erode that culture’s competence from the inside out no matter how well the leaders play their cards.

Steve Jobs was right when he said “stay hungry, stay foolish” — too much of a good thing never turns out well.

Recently this problem has been made worse by what had previously been seen as a European-style abuse, the use of nonvoting stock classes to allow small groups or families to control big companies without holding the majority of equity. This kind of structure concentrates control with insiders, which works well enough and has some advantages when the insiders are especially good managers. The downside, of course, is that insiders rarely stay good for the life of a firm. There’s a reason most growth companies eventually put their founders aside, as long-term, mature businesses need a different set of skills than startups and young growth companies, and the two are rarely combined in the same people. Studies show companies with dual-class shares tend to perform poorly, with many looted by insiders, and that a better arrangement would give insiders nonvoting shares to reduce the corrupt feedback loop of insider control of the board that results when voting shares are mostly held by insiders.

Google’s ownership structure is especially problematic:

The new Class C shares have no voting rights. The Class A shares have one vote each, but collectively those votes are dwarfed by the 10-votes-per-share Class B shares. Those shares, which do not trade in the public market, are owned by Google insiders, who will also get Class C shares in the distribution.

As originally proposed by the company, the move would have made it easy for Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt, to cash in a large part of their holdings without giving up their voting control. But that ability has been limited after the company settled a class action suit filed by angry (Class A) shareholders, and reached agreements with the three top officials to limit their sales.

In essence, for every share of Class C they sell, they must also convert one Class B share into Class A. Presumably they will sell that share as well. So their voting rights will fall as they would have under the old structure, when they would have converted Class B shares into Class A shares before selling them.

But Google is expected to issue primarily Class C shares in the future, for acquisitions and in grants of share options. So the total number of votes will not be rising, and that will delay the day when the company’s leaders lose voting control of the company. Currently they own less than 16 percent of the company’s shares, and have 61 percent of the votes.

This structure has left Sergey Brin and Larry Page as founders, along with Eric Schmidt the politically-minded CEO, in control of Alphabet, parent of Google and Youtube. It appears from a Recode report on the internal meeting where management decided to fire Damore that Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki, former sister-in-law of Sergey Brin, was instrumental in arguing for his termination against free speech advocates in management:

It’s a split reflected at the very top of Google’s owner, Alphabet, where its top lawyer, David Drummond, has been one of the most vocal advocates of free speech over the years. As an Alphabet exec, he was not part of Monday’s decision-making meeting.

Meanwhile, another longtime Google leader, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who was at the meeting, penned her own essay that appeared in Fortune this week, with an opposite take.

“While people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender,” she wrote. “Every day, companies take action against employees who make unlawful statements about co-workers, or create hostile work environments.” …

Family and friends of the founders, it appears, bring their personal hobbyhorses to work at Google. The investors who have disfavored classes of shares are left holding the bag.

But there’s more evidence of management inattention to business. The same issues were seen at Microsoft, which blew near-monopoly profits in Windows and Office on a series of failures and spent a decade investing unwisely in other areas. Google appears to be similarly failing to invest wisely, and inattention to costs and employee productivity is apparent in the phenomenon of “rest and vest” — engineers given little oversight and delivering little work product when the company fails to manage them effectively or has bureaucratic reasons to keep them idle. In the article “Tech workers are sending this ‘Silicon Valley’ star some surprising pictures from their offices,” by Melia Robinson, Business Insider, Aug. 24, 2016:

Actor Josh Brener, who plays Big Head on “Silicon Valley,” has no doubt there are tech workers living out his character’s storyline. The proof is on his phone.

“Since the show has been on, I’ve actually had a number of people — including today at Google X — I’ve had people send me pictures of themselves on a roof, kicking back doing nothing, with the hashtag ‘unassigned’ or ‘rest and vest,'” Brener told Business Insider. “It’s something that really happens, and apparently, somewhat often.”

Management also seems to not only tolerate but encourage employee political activity and activism during work hours — and since Google intentionally erases the line between work and nonwork hours to as much as possible keep its young employees on campus or doing work remotely, many young employees don’t see any distinction between the professional and personal. Use of hours and company resources in approved political causes is common, and the young activists can be forgiven if they believed their work for social justice allowed them to leak inside communications to recruit outside allies to force the company to fire Damore — how would they know otherwise, since all their internal and external campaigning on behalf of Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ causes, and progressive politicians was accepted without rebuke? The problem is that only some points of view were so tolerated, while others, as pointed out by Damore, were stifled and punished.

And the results of Google’s investment of near-monopoly profits in new business segments aren’t especially promising despite the excellent PR they’ve had. Ventures in phone software (Android) and media sales (Google Play) are inferior and despite great market impact, generate little revenue. Self-driving cars are the wave of the future, but there’s no sign Google will ever make much money from its pioneering investments. The first quarterly income report breaking out business by segments shows the problem:

For the first time in Google’s history, we finally have an idea of how those side projects—self-driving cars, Nest thermostats, attempts at defeating death, etc.—actually perform. And unsurprisingly, they’re bleeding a lot of money.

Alphabet, Google’s new parent company, reported its earnings today (Feb. 1) and revealed that its “Other Bets“—a bucket that includes Google Fiber, Calico, Nest, Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), Google Ventures, Google Capital, and Google X—had an operating loss of $3.57 billion in 2015. These speculative, “moonshot”-type businesses generated $448 million in annual revenue, up 37% from the previous year, but the reported loss was 83% wider.

https://www.theatlas.com/javascripts/atlas.js

Google’s dominance in search and advertising will most likely continue, but the number of people who question whether that is dangerous to freedom of expression and privacy leaped enormously because of this episode — I was personally happy to trust them with my email and docs until now but will find alternatives where practical.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat…. It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More reading:

“High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work

“Death by HR” – IndieReader Review: “Skillfully written… to plant seeds of doubt among HR devotees”

Indie Reader Approved

Indie Reader Approved

The first reviewing service review is in. Indiereader says:

IR Rating 5.0 out of 5.0IR Rating

 IR Verdict: Skillfully written and meticulously edited at an advanced reading level, this politically incorrect study does a great job using facts and figures to reinforce the author’s thesis, or at least to plant seeds of doubt among HR devotees.

Approaching his subject from historical, political, social, and economic perspectives, author Jeb Kinnison makes a strong case against Human Resources and its enforcement of Affirmative Action (AA), an outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Convinced the only way to protect America’s future and preserve competitiveness in the marketplace and in the global community is to hire on merit alone, Kennison uses charts, graphs, citations, and historical events to prove his points….

Focusing mostly on labor regulations and how government intrusion damages productivity, he examines specific hiring and employment practices of companies such as Google. According to the author, companies working under AA regulations assume the cog model, which drawing from a deep pool of job candidates can meet the minimum competence requirements and then further select to meet diversity goals. “These will typically not be the best candidates for the particular position and team environment, but team managers are not given a choice.”

Though mainly about U.S. hiring practices, the book explores foreign lands as well, citing studies in India, Malaysia, and Nigeria. Wherever the location, however, the author comes to the same conclusion. “A bright future doesn’t come with thousands of pages of laws and regulations dating back to the last century and designed to hold a tottering status quo in place.” Instead, he writes that the success of a county and its people comes from individual striving, strong growth companies, new technologies, and people free to choose their destinies.

Skillfully written and meticulously edited at an advanced reading level, this politically incorrect study does a great job using facts and figures to reinforce the author’s thesis, or at least to plant seeds of doubt among HR devotees. Up-to-the-minute analysis in the final chapters looks at controversial subjects including universal health care, the science of stereotypes, [and] the culture of victimhood, among many other hot topics. For readers who want to seriously delve into the problems with Human Resources, this is the book for you.

DEATH BY HR: HOW AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CRIPPLES ORGANIZATIONS is a well-researched, thought-provoking, articulately expressed book sure to inspire controversy and evoke strong emotions in readers, whether they agree with the author about the described workplace injustices, or whether they disagree with his right-leaning, conservative conclusions.

~Carol Michaels for IndieReader

“Right-leaning”? Not really, though we’ve reached the late-stage decay where any dissent from the Establishment progressive consensus is labelled “right wing.” I should do a post about how lack of background historical knowledge has led us to this point.

I was wary of a review site that costs a bit less than Kirkus and checked to be sure they weren’t just churning out positive reviews. As you can see from a look through their reviews, they’re not afraid to low-rate books that deserve it.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now in Kindle and as a sumptuous trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More reading:

Death by HR: Progressive Dirigisme Takes Over the US
Death by HR: Affirmative Action and Hiring
Death by HR Introduction: HR Pushes Damaging Regulations Into the Enterprise
Election 2016: Clinton vs Trump vs ?
A Clinton Christmas Carol
John Podesta Nagged to Complete Diversity Training
“Death by HR” – High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Death by HR – Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind

“Death by HR” – Available Now

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.]

Two more reviews on Amazon today:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Why I Can’t Get a Job I’m Overqualified for….
By Joseph F. Collinson on October 17, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Caveat: I received a pre-release copy for review but I have bought a kindle copy and will be getting the paperback to give to friends.

To start off, this book hacked me off. or once, someone has, through careful research and thought, and in concise easy to understand language has explained why the hell our country is falling to pieces. It should have been obvious to someone with my 35 years in the work force in a wide variety of jobs.

I’ve been fighting HR stooges for years and years. Now I know why it I can’t make much forward progress. Why it took six months to hire me as a paramedic for a major health system despite paying hundreds of thousand dollars in overtime to fill shifts that there were no warm bodies available. Why, after three attempts to fill a job I am more than qualified for, I can’t even get much more than a postcard saying “thank you, but no thanks.” Hey, I’m a paramedic, give me minimal training and toss me in, I’ll do just fine.

I now know why LinkedIn is so popular as a way to essentially bypass HR so people can make direct contact with the people who actually do the hiring and establish relationships.

So, if you have been in the workforce for years and are thinking about a new job or have been trying to find one and can’t get anywhere, this book shows you why and how.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A book that every CEO should read.
By John Carlton on October 17, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition

Death By HR is a book that every CEO should read. As should the rest of us. Anybody’s who has been looking for work, or working for an American corporation currently or in the last few years has experienced the lunacy and extreme dysfunction in just about every function related to Human Resources. Death By HR examines why the dysfunction came about and provides the start of a road map to escape the tyranny being imposed on us.

The book does not pull its punches, nor should it. Right from the introduction the book lays out the case for what has happened in all too much of American business.

 

On the first day of release, it reached the top of Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list for Human Resources:

Death by HR hits #1 Hot New Releases for HR

Death by HR hits #1 Hot New Releases for HR


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat. For it is now fairly impossible for any company not to erect an HR wall as a legal requirement of business with the sole purpose of keeping government diversity compliance enforcers as well as unethical lawyers from pillaging their operating capital through baseless lawsuits… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  to craft counter-revolutionary tactics for dealing with the HR parasites our government has empowered to destroy us. All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


“Death by HR” – First Review: “All CEOs Should Read This Book”

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, to be published Oct. 17th but available now for pre-order in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat. For it is now fairly impossible for any company not to erect an HR wall as a legal requirement of business with the sole purpose of keeping government diversity compliance enforcers as well as unethical lawyers from pillaging their operating capital through baseless lawsuits… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  to craft counter-revolutionary tactics for dealing with the HR parasites our government has empowered to destroy us. All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward

Death by HR: Google and Yahoo Age and Sex Discrimination Cases

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[An updated excerpt from Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.]

Another useful tactic for the largest companies is to buy off the Democratic politicians who are promoting labor regulations and can be persuaded to go after some other company provided you send them campaign contributions and hire their friends as lobbyists, as Google has. This has the benefit of being relatively cheap and can hobble your competition. Google has used their campaign contributions to enlist US politicians to defend it from EU antitrust enforcement—David Smith of UK’s Guardian newspaper wrote:

Google has made political donations to 162 members of the US Congress in the latest election cycle, figures show, as concerns grow over the internet giant’s lobbying influence in Washington…. Google enlisted American politicians whose election campaigns it had funded to pressure the European Union in a carefully coordinated campaign to drop a €6bn ($6.5bn) antitrust case that threatens its business in Europe.

The disclosure underlined the close relationship between the company, the US Congress and even the White House, where the chief technology officer is among several ex-Google employees. Critics say that while the firm born in a garage in 1998 tries to present itself as breaking the mould, it has an army of more than a hundred lobbyists and buys influence just as big corporations have done for decades.

Google has reportedly spent more money on federal lobbying than any other company since 2012. And its political action committee has given donations between $1,000 and $10,000 to some 34 senators and 128 members of the House of Representatives in the 2016 cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In the Senate this breaks down as $78,500 to Republicans and $46,500 to Democrats; in the House, as $126,250 to Republicans and $131,500 to Democrats.

Google’s earlier violations of age discrimination laws in hiring went unpunished for years, with one 2004 lawsuit settled out of court. But lawsuits are catching up to them. Patrick Thibodeau at Computerworld wrote:

Just over a year ago, two people who had been turned down after applying for jobs at Google filed a lawsuit against the company. They claimed they were rejected because of their age. Both were over 40. A federal court in San Jose is now being asked to decide whether many others who sought jobs at Google and were also rejected can join this case…. Cheryl Fillekes, a programmer and one of two parties in this case, is pressing forward with this collective-action claim… Fillekes, who earned a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Chicago and who also undertook postdoctoral work at Harvard, said she was invited for in-person interviews on four different occasions and was rejected each time.

The lawsuit alleges Google “engaged in a systematic pattern” of discrimination against people over the age of 40. It cited data from Payscale that put the median age of Google’s workforce at 29, with a margin of error of 4%. It says the median age for computer programmers in the U.S. is 43.

The other party to this case, Robert Heath, a software engineer, was rejected after a technical telephone interview….A trial is scheduled for May 2017. A Google spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

One woman seeking a job at Google said an “interviewer expressed concern about a cultural fit, noting that she might not be up for the ‘lifestyle.'”

According to the court document, this unidentified woman assured the interviewer “that she was willing to work long hours,” but “the interviewer replied that he was still worried that she was not Googley enough.”

The judge broadened the case Oct. 7th to allow other class plaintiffs to enter, so it could get very expensive for Google. Julie Bort at Business Insider writes:

…The judge has approved turning the suit into a “collective action” meaning that people who “interviewed in person with Google for a software engineer, site reliability engineer, or systems engineer position when they were 40 years old or older, and received notice on or after August 28, 2014, that they were refused employment, will have an opportunity to join in the collective action against Google,” the ruling says.

Google says it’s fighting the suit. A spokesperson told us, “We believe the allegations here are without merit and we will continue to defend our position vigorously. We have strong policies against discrimination on any unlawful basis, including age.”

Interestingly, the judge is particularly not buying that “policies” defense from Google, writing in the ruling: “Having such a policy does not necessarily shield a company from a discrimination suit, particularly in light of the evidence and allegations presented here … today, most, if not all, companies are well versed in anti-discrimination and make great efforts to ensure their written policies comply with anti-discrimination law.”

In terms of allegations, one of the plaintiffs alleged that a Google recruiter told her she needed to put the dates of her graduation on her resume so interviewers could determine her age. That same plaintiff argued that she had found seven others who say they had similar experiences at Google. She also presented evidence to the court that the median age of Google’s workforce is 29 while the median age in the US for programmers is 42.8 years old.

Google has about 61,000 employees and we asked Google if the company has publicly released statistics on its median age. Age is not included with the company’s published diversity report, which discusses sex and race. Google didn’t respond.

… Some folks on Hacker News, a site where programmers discuss news items of interest to them, worry that instead of solving the tech industry’s age discrimination problem, it will make it worse. One wrote: “Fallout from this: Companies will go to great lengths to avoid contact with people who submit resumes that imply they are old. No phone screens, no responses. It’s going to be wintertime for folks in their late 30s now.”

Google has actually improved considerably from its early days when you were unlikely to be hired if over 28 — I have friends in my own advanced age group who have done well there. But Google may end up paying dearly for their casual age discrimination.

Yahoo, on the other hand, brought in Marissa Meyer to turn the business around in 2012. It hasn’t gone well… the Economist reports:

A failed turnaround and then, last month, the biggest data breach from a single site in history. Yahoo, an online firm, has had a bad run of news. On October 4th came a fresh blow when Reuters, a newswire, reported that the company had written customised software to scan all incoming e-mail for certain keywords, complying with a request either from America’s National Security Agency or the FBI.

Not only is the entire business of Yahoo worthless if you take away their stake in Alibaba (the Chinese internet sales giant), but Marissa Mayer brought in women executives to feminize the entire organization with a rapidity only possible through blatantly illegal sex discrimination — against men. Ethan Baron at The Mercury News writes about the ongoing sex discrimination case there:

“When Savitt began at Yahoo the top managers reporting to her … including the chief editors of the verticals and magazines, were less than 20 percent female. Within a year and a half those top managers were more than 80 percent female,” the lawsuit said. “Savitt has publicly expressed support for increasing the number of women in media and has intentionally hired and promoted women because of their gender, while terminating, demoting or laying off male employees because of their gender.

“Of the approximately 16 senior-level editorial employees hired or promoted by Savitt … in approximately an 18-month period, 14 of them, or 87 percent, were female,” the lawsuit said.

“Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of (an employee performance-rating system) to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees,” said the suit by Scott Ard filed this week in federal district court in San Jose.

Ard, who worked for Yahoo for 3 ½ years until January 2015, is now editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal. His lawsuit also claims that Yahoo illegally fired large numbers of workers ousted under a performance-rating system imposed by Mayer. That allegation was not tied to gender….

Ard, hired at Yahoo in 2011, said in the suit that until Savitt and Liberman took over management of the firm’s media section in early 2014, he had received performance reviews and stock options reflecting “fully satisfactory” work. But in June 2014, Liberman told him that his role as head of editorial programming for Yahoo’s home page was being given to a woman Liberman had recently hired, the suit said.

Then in January 2015, during a performance review phone call, Liberman told Ard he was fired, effective that day, because “his performance was not satisfactory.”

This will be another reason for Verizon to demand a lower price than it agreed to for purchasing Yahoo, if the allegations are backed up by testimony. Yahoo, of course, is denying all. Expect a settlement. But it’s yet more evidence that Yahoo has been mismanaged.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, to be published Oct. 17th but available now for pre-order in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat…. It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More reading on other topics:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward

Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech

Google Sign

Google Sign

GigaOm has a good overview of the recent diversity data released by major tech companies after a push by Jesse Jackson. The data shows women, and blacks underrepresented compared to total US population ratios, but no comparison to Silicon Valley-specific numbers. Asians are massively overrepresented, but this reflects the large number of Indian and Chinese engineers who have migrated to the Bay Area. There is no data on age, which would likely show a deficiency of older workers.

This is a fine example of the conflict between meritocratic equality of opportunity and equality of outcome proponents. The lack of representation of women and blacks in computer science and engineering courses, majors, and graduates means it is impossible for all or even one company to recruit enough qualified women or minority workers to show proportional representation. Great pressure to do so would mean compromising quality and hiring less capable employees, and less capable programmers are actually worse than useless to a team — they hold back progress on a task. A super-programmer is capable of producing 100x as much valuable output as a mediocre programmer, and a bad programmer produces output that actually decreases the viability of the product.

The apparent belief of our bureaucratic masters is that there is a binary function: qualified or unqualified. A company which hires the objectively best candidate for a job is not protected from claims of discrimination; the bar must be set low enough so that there is a pool of “qualified” candidates, and the hiring should prefer the candidates from underrepresented classes until the workforce is representative. This views employees as replaceable cogs that each have the same value to the work product, very much an old industrial union idea — where those who did more were pressured to stop overachieving so as to make slackers look average.

This is, of course, a recipe for failure in a competitive, international marketplace. We all await their efforts to equalize men in nursing and teaching, as well as all the other fields where there are notable group differences in interest and ability.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.