Tech CEOs are both threatening and reassuring employees over Trump's election

The great American melting pot is in full force at most of the Valley’s tech companies.

From startups to big companies, tech companies have been pressured over the past couple of years to increase their diversity, not decrease it.

At the same time, they need specialised, hard-to-find technical skills and have been hiring from a worldwide talent pool, using H1B visas. Tech CEOs have been pressuring Washington to increase the number of visas they issue each year.

President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to disembowel the H1B program. And he’s also said a lot of divisive things about Mexicans, Muslims, and other racial groups while promising mass deportations and something called “extreme vetting.” That’s a vague term that seems to mean he’s going to ask immigrants and visitors about their religious and social beliefs.

His election has lots of Valley employees, Americans and immigrants alike, very scared for their future as well as their safety.

Safety first

This is causing Valley CEOs to spend time reassuring their employees while also threatening that if anyone takes Trump’s win as a licence to intimidate people at work, they will be fired.

Travis Katz

Travis Katz is CEO of the startup that makes travel app  Gogobot. He says he’s never seen the nation react this way after an election. He began his career as an economist at the World Bank, worked at Fox Entertainment before getting into tech as international manager of MySpace, back in its heyday.

“My company is so diverse. I employ immigrants, Jews, women, gays, Asians, Indians, a Muslim Arab guy and white people. They are all so traumatized,” Katz told Business Insider. “I’ve been clear with my employees, were talking about it yesterday, that as a CEO and a white guy, I don’t support racism, I don’t support misogyny, I don’t think women should be treated differently than men or people with white skin should be treated better than dark skin. Having that reassurance, with me being a CEO, is knowing that this is a safe environment to be working.”

There’s still a gut feeling of worry in the Valley, just as there is in many parts of the nation. “Trump has very specifically singled out Silicon Valley CEOs and companies as bad actors,” Katz says. This includes Amazon, Apple and companies hiring H1-B workers.

Several emails from tech CEOs to the troops by various CEOs have gone public, and some tech CEOs have made public statements about the election. For instance, HP’s Meg Whitman who was vocally critical of Trump’s divisive tone during the election, are telling their employees to give Trump a chance to prove himself.

Others, like GrubHub CEO 
Matt Maloney, are telling employees that Trump’s standard of behaviour during the campaign will not be tolerated. He wrote:

“While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that this behaviour – and these views, have no place at Grubhub. Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination.”

And he said that those that don’t believe in the company’s culture can resign.

“I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can….If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.”

A story on Fox News saying he was telling all Trump supporters to resign went viral, subjecting him to all kinds of online abuse and causing the the stock to drop 4% in a day. But Maloney told Forbes Brian Solomon that the story was wrong.

“I have no problem with an employee voting for Trump….I have no problem with an employee agreeing with Trump’s hateful statements. However, I will not tolerate discriminatory activity or hateful speech at Grubhub, and I will stand up for our employees when they are demeaned or defamed.”

Tech CEOs and CEOs in general have become increasingly involved in all sorts of social activism, in large part thanks to billionaire activist cheerleader Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.

For instance, to protect his employees, Benioff went to war in 2015 with vice president elect and Indiana governor Mike Pence over a law in Indiana that threatened to discriminate against gay people. He then went on to fight against similar laws in other states and just plain encourage CEO social activism generally.

Like most Silicon Valley executives, Benioff also publicly backed Hillary Clinton.

Business Insider reached out to Benioff to ask if he had sent a message to his employees after the election. We were pointed to a single tweet that congratulated him on the victory.

But as Trump sets about enacting an agenda that could do everything from curtail internet access to stymie international tech hiring, more tech CEOs may up their social activism, not shy away from it.

As Katz told us, instead of ramping up the economy some of Trump’s policies look like they “will put a choke hold on the core growth engine in America, the tech industry.”

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