There’s nothing worse than a leader who refuses to admit when he or she is wrong. That goes for companies too. If you’re a leader in your industry, a household name, whatever, that does not make you perfect – that just makes you popular.
Therefore, if you do something wrong, own up to it already. Why drag out the suffering? Eventually, we’re going to figure out everything anyway. Why not set yourself, or your company up for a comeback, and let the healing begin? Why not embrace those teachable moments, push forward with integrity?
But that’s what happens in a perfect world. I get it. I understand why Google, currently being sued by the U.S. Department of Labor over possible widespread gender discrimination, doesn’t want to go the mea culpa route given what’s at stake.
Even though I’m pleased as punch the tech giant is in the hot seat – and other women should be too given what the right outcome could mean for women in tech and elsewhere – some part of me feels a vague, nonsensical kind of pity because this is no little mistake. This isn’t even an FCC nipplegate fine type mistake. If the DoL finds that Google has been systemically underpaying women, not only will its salary band stretch beyond all recognition, it will be ripe for lawsuits from past employees and who knows what else. With the wrong damage control strategy, Google could conceivably hit the skids. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This is going to be one of those deny, deny, it wasn’t me, deny to the last breath scenarios because a guilty verdict here would COST, and I do mean dearly. There would be serious damage to Google’s brand reputation. There likely would be government sanctions, and the internal cost of fixing a broken pay system – and I’m not even talking about pay reparations, but how the company would proceed going forward – would certainly not be cheap.
Company leaders would have to look perplexed – “We just don’t know how this happened.” – blame some people, point some fingers, fire some folks to show they’re taking it all seriously. The clean out in the wake of being found guilty of a charge like this would naturally bring some hiring, recruitment and replacement-related talent costs, and the legal fees? Good night.
Of course, that’s assuming Google will be found guilty, not that we’ll see a resolution any time soon. I predict I’ll be watching this story unfold over the next few, dare I say, years? Google is going to engage in a gladiator-style fight to the death to keep from admitting wrongdoing here.
But if they did admit wrong doing, you know, rather than try to block the media from even covering the lawsuit – good luck with that, by the way – things might not be ruinous for them. At least, not from a brand reputation recovery perspective.
The company would going to take a significant hit. The issue is too big and involves too many people for them not to get a Floyd Mayweather style punch to the face on this one. But if they did say, you know what? We screwed up. And then did what was necessary to fix the problem, they could recover. They’d be significantly lighter in the purse, but they could recover.
First, it’s not like we can do without Google. Sure another company could take over or start something similar, but people will still say, “Google it,” when they don’t know something. Second, how stunning would it be if Google’s supposed downfall became its resurrection as a new industry standard with global implications for literally half of the work world? Olivia Pope – or her real-life equivalent – could spin that into comeback company gold.
It could totally happen. If a company as large and well known as Google not only admitted that women get short changed – pun intended – then fixed its pay policies to ensure that women didn’t perennially get the short end of the stick, that we would in fact be paid equitably? *whistles* That’s huge. That’s life-, no, that’s world changing.
But no. Google claims it has eliminated its gender pay gap globally thanks to “innovative compensation models.” Those would be good to share, Mr. Tech Giant. Even if you have to sell them, share.
Yeah, Google’s gonna fight the good fight on this one. I want to say they’ll lose because they should. Women should be paid equitably. Period. But I don’t know. So far, the DoL hasn’t been able to compel Google, a federal contractor, to reveal salary histories and other documentation for its internal pay practices. This despite having “received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in most common positions at Google headquarters,” according to a Forbes piece I read. And we all know, what’s right doesn’t always win, does it?