This one weird trick will keep you from getting fired at Google

Here’s a little-known life hack: it’s best not to bring your political opinions to the office.

This is basic advice we all learned in one form or another from a young age, and doesn’t stop being true just because everyone else at work is doing it, or just because your company is implicitly or explicitly taking a political stand you disagree with. Your job at work is to do your job.

It’s easy to imagine this Damore guy at his final interview at Google, knowing he’s about to be hired by them, excited beyond his wildest dreams, thinking about the good news he’ll be calling his family to tell them about. Maybe it was the crowning achievement of his life up to that point. There are few employers as prestigious in Silicon Valley. Why then did he display such poor judgment and take such a risk once he had the job?

By the way, I walk in his shoes every day: I go to work at a large company whose official messages are all about diversity and inclusion, sometimes with complete blindness to the real world in which those philosophies are supposed to play out; coworkers in my department seem to be uniformly socially left-wing and casually throw around “white male” as a derogatory term during idle conversation; they talk unironically about “mansplaining,” and sneer at poor and working-class whites as being backward and deserving of ill fate. And they do this while I’m sitting right there in the room with them, so they apparently feel safe either assuming I agree with them, or at least that I would not be able to use systems in place to act on my taking offense to their words, should that happen.

But I put on my big boy pants when I go to work and that means keeping my opinions to myself as best I can. (I sometimes fail.) Even if my organization encouraged it I would know better. I value my job and my career, and I am in no hurry to martyr myself for the sake of some autistically reactionary internet movement. I have bigger fish to fry when it comes to problems in my industry’s culture.

This doesn’t mean I have to be an idle witness to atrocities (as such) either. I can tell my coworkers when I hear them say something unfair or hateful, or ask them questions that cause them to examine their own assumptions. I would investigate their willingness to be open-minded very cautiously and ensure our interpersonal relationship is strong before revealing my true feelings on any controversial topic.

The important bit of this is that I carefully vet people before I open up to them. It’s the same thing any gay person in a conservative community would be wise to do. I am in an analogous situation. This means I’m limited to local interactions rather than company-wide broadcasts, but that’s OK. As far as productive exchanges of ideas go, it works better at small scales anyway.

Maybe Damore had reason to think his coworkers in general would rise to his defense. Personally I find that hard to believe. I don’t think he deserved to be fired, but I don’t think I can give him my sympathy either.


One thought on “This one weird trick will keep you from getting fired at Google

  1. My impression is that Google in particular encourages people to bring their politics to work – they even have an internal “skeptics” mailing list – and the memo was written in response to an explicit request for criticism of their “diversity policies”, and many Google employees actually agree with Damore, so it seemed plausible that it would be taken more seriously than at other companies. We can be grateful to Damore for proving that wrong.

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