Google, Motorola May Be an Odd Couple

Google’s plan to purchase Motorola may result in an interesting culture clash if the two significantly different companies end up working together.

Midwestern Motorola could have a turbulent time adjusting to Google’s West Coast ways if the search giant buys the Android handset maker for $12.5 billion. Interviews with workers from both companies reveal possible relationship difficulties, ranging from dress codes to employee lifestyles to management issues.

Employees at Motorola tend to be older, dress in polo shirts, and drive SUVs or minivans, while Googlers are generally a young, t-shirt wearing, Toyota Prius-driving crew.

Moreover, Motorola’s Libertyville, Ill. headquarters lies outside a town of 35,000 and boasts just one restaurant in a one-mile radius. Google’s campus on the other hand sits in the middle of bustling Silicon Valley, less than an hour from San Francisco.

These seemingly superficial differences belie bigger rifts in management and employee culture that may hamper the companies’ ability to work together.

For example, Google employees make around $35,000 more than the average Motorola worker, possibly because, in the words of a former executive, Googlers’ IQs are on average 20 points higher. This debatable statement will likely not go down well with the Libertyville company.

“Over time, the engineers have been so beaten down,” said a former Motorola employee. “A Google employee starts dictating and that won’t be taken well at all.”

Motorola has in recent years suffered from the weight of its own bureaucracy. Google’s engineers, meanwhile, tend to be more independent and flexible, though as Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha points out, it’s easier to make changes on the fly to Internet software than it is to fix phones after they ship.

Edward Zander, Motorola’s former chairman and CEO from 2004 to 2008, voiced another major concern over the pending purchase. He warned Motorola must “stand alone and win in the marketplace, or Google will shut them down and just focus on the patents.”

Google does stand to win quite a few patents with its purchase, if the Federal Trade Commission approves the deal. Motorola’s 17,000 certified and 7,500 pending patents may help Google fend off legal feints from Apple, which has lately been suing Android manufacturers like Samsung and HTC.

Google denies it intends to scrap Motorola for parts, however, insisting, “As we have said repeatedly, we intend to run the company as a separate entity.”

Though there are undeniable differences between the tech giants, Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha has already made significant changes to his company’s culture that may help it transition to a Google partnership.

For example, Jha created quite a stir when he first wore flip-flops to the office before eventually doing away with shirts and ties. He also replaced older radio workers with younger, more Internet-focused employees in the wake of Motorola’s failure to catch on to smartphones.

Despite the wide gulf between Motorola and Google, Jha is nevertheless confident the two companies’ cultures will mesh. “Every culture which is successful gets a certain pride in its cultures and sometimes being challenged is a good thing,” he insists.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.