Is Just Accepting Your Mistake Enough?

'It's been a difficult time here. There's been anger and frustration within the company,' says Sundar Pichai

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In the mid of the global #MeToo movement, several big names from the corporate world have come to the surface. Google is one of them. It is currently facing a major backlash across the globe, especially after thousands of employees yesterday decided to walk out of their workplace in protest of the technology company’s work culture.

Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai responded to the criticism at the DealBook conference of The New York Times yesterday itself, saying, “Moments like this show we didn’t always do it right.” Is just accepting the mistake enough?

While speaking at the conference about how the company has dealt with sexual harassment cases, Pichai said, “It’s been a difficult time here. There’s been anger and frustration within the company. We all feel it. I feel it too. At Google, we set a very high bar, and we clearly didn’t live up to our expectations.”

He added that the company has “drawn a very hard line” on inappropriate behaviour in recent years and that Google is now “a different place”. Pichai promised that there will be concrete steps coming up, but he hesitated to say that Google has a toxic culture.

“Sexual harassment is a societal problem and Google is a large company,” he said. “We are definitely doing our best.”

Google employees in more than 20 offices staged the protest worldwide. From Singapore and India, to Berlin, Zurich, London, Chicago and Seattle, the employees went out to protest against the way the company managed its sexual misconduct claims.

Past Actions

The protest gained momentum after a report by The New York Times, which was published on 23 October, showed how Google had protected its three senior executives from the allegations of sexual misconduct by offering them large payouts. One of them, Android founder Andy Rubin, was paid a $90 million exit package, says the report.

Google, however, denied the allegations, with Pichai writing an email to his employees, saying the management had fired 48 employees over sexual harassment allegations and none of them received any kind of exit package.

Safety at Stake

This is certainly not the first time a leader has accepted his mistake in public. There have been several such instances. Last year, Uber’s now-former CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from his position months after a former employee made allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg too publicly accepted his mistake in how his company mishandled the data of 50 million users after the Cambridge Analytica Data scandal. The world’s largest social media company faced Europe’s and the US government’s scrutiny over allegations that users’ information were used to build profiles on American voters, which were later used to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016.

Admission is the first step to correcting a mistake, not the last one. While Pichai accepts the mistake, it remains to be seen how he will actually address the issue. 

Komal Nathani

Written By

A firm believer of hard work and patience. Love to cover stories that hold a potential to change the momentum of business world. Currently, a part of all-women web team of Entrepreneur’s Asia Pacific edition to jig the wheel of business journalism!