Normally, I am very much on the employee’s side. Maybe I am biased by not being an employer myself, but I like to think that is not the case. I just base my opinions on observation, logic and interpersonal research. There are plenty examples in which the employee’s hard work is never appreciated. However, this time around, I am against the employees.
The news pieces that sparked my controversial thoughts relate to the fact that Google decided to pull out of working on a project for the government just because of their employees’ objections. In case you did not know, Google was working on what is called “Project Maven”, which uses AI (artificial intelligence) to sort through hours of potential video/ images captured by drones, and to interpret it. Sounds benign enough. Does it not?
About three thousand Google employees signed a petition asking their employer to withdraw from the deal. Their petition included quotes like this: “(W)e ask that Project Maven be cancelled and that Google draft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” Quite demanding. What was their reasoning, you ask? They argued that that project would ruin the company’s reputation and make them “evil” for engaging in warfare technology, despite the fact that Google’s representative stated that the company was only involved in the non-offensive part of the DoD’s work.
It was not 100% confirmed what exactly the technology would be used for, but worst case scenario – it is used for drone strikes. In such situations, it would make the strikes more precise, lowering the number of deaths of innocent civilians. It would target the bad guys, making sure that they never hurt anyone ever again. And it would allow for less boots on the ground, keeping more people out of immediate danger. Sounds good to me.
However, I do understand that some people can be totally anti-war, meaning they want no part in it, even if it means defense, or being proactive. Even though I see this as a bit naive, I can understand and respect that. What I have a bit harder time understanding, is the lack of self-preservation. Maybe it is all about defying authority. Or maybe it is the lack of fear in those employees. They do not seem to be worried about getting fired. Last time I checked, when my employer tells me to do something, I should do it, or risk being labeled “insubordinate” and potentially fired.
It was estimated that extending the contract with the US Department of Defense would bring Google about 10 million dollars, which is not really all that much in Google’s world, but it could lead to further partnership and more revenue. Should the company (and their employees) not care about income?
What I find a bit ridiculous is that some people even resigned because of this whole “Maven” mayhem. They list ethical concerns as the reason why they quit. They also expressed worry about potential user trust dissipation. Do you care what people think about the company you are working for? I know I do not. It provides me with a paycheck and that is what I care about. Apparently, these people do not need a job, or maybe are very confident about finding a different/ better one.
I am not defending Google by any means. Actually, I, as a customer/ user, am unhappy with their latest actions as well. However, if I was to be their employee, I would not resign just someone does not like the product I work on. The company is still huge, and I do not see it being overthrown anytime soon.
One of the employees that left, said: “I wasn’t happy just voicing my concerns internally. The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave.” This made me chuckle. Do you think a company with a looooooooooooooot of money, and people knocking on their door for jobs every day is going to care about your statement? We seem to think that we are so high and mighty. So important. A lot of the time we are not. We are just another ant stomped by the giant.
By now, you probably realize that I do not care for entitled individuals, who do not care about holding their jobs, when there are so many unemployed people who would love to take their place. If you do not need to work, more power to you. But do not expect pity from me just because you do not like a specific deal your company is working on. Chances are these people would not even be the ones working on it. I am sure that not all Google employees will have the necessary clearance and access to some of the aspects of the project.
What I also am not a fan of is the effect the Internet and Social Media have on all this. No one would dream about writing, signing a petition and then publicizing it. It is like we can no longer deal with our own problems. We either have to get involved in other people’s problems, or we have to post our grievances on Facebook/ Twitter, etc. for the whole world to see, so someone can see it and maybe save us.
It seems like the biggest changes nowadays are made by a click of a button. We write 140 (or whatever the number) characters, hit “Tweet” and then wait for reactions. It can be used for wonderful things, but most of the time it is being overused. And because of it being overused, it is becoming harder to actually get the important stuff across. One tweet can ruin someone’s life. Someone’s career. Why do we feel the need to post everything online? What makes us so special? What makes us think that anyone out there cares?
We live in the times of “movements”. It is noble to “stand up for what we believe in”. While I wholeheartedly agree with fighting for what is right, going against the current has become so mainstream and easy that, to me, it is not as applaud worthy as it used to be in the past. We can post something online, we can join a march. Simple. Easy. No resistance. That is not heroes were made. Those are the actions of cowards. But I digress.
What bothers me about this whole thing as well, is how people are so self-centered. The whole world does not revolve around you. If you work for such a big company like Goggle, what makes you think that you have all the necessary information to make an educated decision? Actually, the size does not even matter in this argument. Most people in ANY company, do not have all the pieces of the puzzle. You might be working on something important, but you are not aware of how things are in another department.
You might not have access to all the statistics, the analysis, etc. I would like to think that the employer (I mean a CEO, or such, not middle- management) wants the best for their company. They want to turn a profit. So would you not let the executives make deal decisions? When was the last time you were consulted by your boss about a merger, or a buyout, etc? Chances are you probably were not. And it is for a good reason – you are good at what you do, so trust that others are good at what THEY do. You do not have the CEO telling you that you are connecting the cables in a wrong way, or mopping the floor or wrong. So do not go telling them how to do their jobs.
Also, consulting anyone is a risk nowadays. With everyone putting everything online, nothing is sacred. Imagine, Google sends out a detailed memo, followed by a survey regarding the project in question. It would be leaked right away. That might make a lot of things more difficult. Sometimes keeping people in the dark IS the right thing to do.
Do you have a say in your workplace?
Do you think employees should have such great power over employers?
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