How Google's culture of transparency helps it prevent 'backstabbing'

The internship20th Century FoxA still from ‘The Internship,’ which is all about working at Google

Google as a company believes in internal transparency.

On every software engineers’ first day, he or she gets access to almost all of Google’s code, every employee can view the personal goals and objectives (called “OKRs”) of every other employee, and the company holds all-hands meetings every Friday where anyone can ask the founders questions about anything.

The company, as a rule, likes to “default to open.”

That manifests itself in big ways — like how the company publishes “Transparency Reports” where it shows the data requests it gets from the government — but in more subtle ways too.

For example, in the name of transparency, Googlers often discourage each other from complaining about other employees via email.

“The way we solve the ‘backstabbing’ problem, for example, is that if you write a nasty email about someone, you shouldn’t be surprised if they are added to the email thread,” Google HR boss Laszlo Bock writes in his new book, “Work Rules!” “I remember the first time I complained about somebody in an email and my manager promptly copied that person, which forced us to quickly resolve the issue. It was a stark lesson in the importance of having direct conversations with colleagues!”

By valuing an open and transparent company culture, Google teaches its employees that it believes them to be trustworthy and have good judgement. That, in turn, empowers them.

Having more information also gives each employees more context, which helps them do their own jobs more effectively.

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