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Alphabet and Google Deal with a Toxic Organizational Culture

One of the highest paid executives at Alphabet, Google's parent company, is retiring amidst an investigation of his interactions with employees. David Drummond has served in various capacities at the company for almost 20 years. Alphabet's human resource management policies discourage employees from dating subordinates. In fall 2019, Drummond married an employee who worked in the legal department, but that employee does not report to, or work for him. It was just a year ago that Alphabet shareholders sued several officers and directors, including Drummond, over concerns about "active and direct participation in a multi-year scheme to cover up sexual harassment and discrimination at Alphabet," according to the filed complaint. The pending lawsuit includes accusations against Drummond of ongoing sexual harassment. Drummond did not receive a severance package upon his exit.

Google employees have previously shared their concern about workplace treatment with allegations of sexual misconduct against high-level managers and executives. Thousands of Google employees staged a walk-out in 2018 in response to their concerns about "a workplace culture that's not working for everyone," according to protest organizers. Google was accused of protecting high-level executives in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct. Another extreme case involved Android product leader, Andy Rubin, who was asked to resign and was paid a hefty severance package of $90 million after internal investigations revealed credible sexual misconduct claims.

In early December 2018, it was announced that the leadership at Alphabet and Google would change. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down, making the way for Sundar Pichai to serve as chief executive officer of both companies. It appears that under Pichai's leadership employees are being held accountable for significant violations of company policies and relevant laws.

Alphabet and Google have faced accusations of maintaining a hostile and potentially discriminatory work environment over the years. Working in the technology industry has historically resulted in a skew toward male hires. The co-founders of the company have stepped down from day-to-day operations in order to allow a new CEO to take charge and build an ethical organizational culture. Training, recruitment, hiring, and evaluation all need scrutiny as the company attempts to respond to current accusations and charges and rebuild a culture of high integrity. As we have witnessed in other high-profile companies, it is very difficult to reshape an organizational culture that is harming, or potentially harming, employees.

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