“Dystopia”: The Dark Side of the Googleplex?

Posted June 28, 2008 10:03 am by

One of the media’s favorite Google related topics has been the work place and culture the company fosters in their “Googleplex.” Countless outlets have covered the admittedly incredible number of perks employees have access to from swimming pools, to bringing their pets to work, to being able to spend 20% of their time on projects of their own creation and creativity.

Utopia or Dystopia? Which is the real Googleplex?

However, as Michael Gray pointed out today on Sphinn, Not Everyone Thinks Google is the Greatest Place to Work. The submission was an Economist.com article from August of last year that actually covered quite a bit of ground surrounding Google as the main topic.

However, within the story are several interesting glimpses into the ‘Plex that you don’t usually hear about from the media. This isn’t about riding segways or scooters to the meetings, it’s actually about the downside to Google’s culture.

The article first talks about a former executive that’s actually suing the search giant for the way she was treated while working there.

She started receiving detailed e-mails “enforcing” Google’s outward informality by reminding her that high heels and jewellery were inappropriate. Before the corporate ski trip, it was explained that “if you wear fur, they will kill you.”

Now obviously this is only one side of the story, but I’ve got to be honest, this type of behavior wouldn’t surprise me at all. Google absolutely MUST keep up the appearance of being this 100% positive, organic, amazing company that of course everyone loves because they “do no evil” and are simply making our lives better.

Not only that, but the perception they’ve built up about their working conditions helps them land the best talent in the industry.

However, before you simply dismiss the first quote as just the bitter ramblings of an ex excutive, consider another quote from an ex-Google employee (an Xoogler).

Another Xoogler, who held a senior position, says that by trying to create a “Utopia” of untrammelled creativity, Google ended up with “dystopia.”

It certainly appears that life at the Googleplex might not be quite the fantasy land we’ve all been lead to believe. Of course, Google’s not quite the company they portray to the general public so why should this surprise us?