Close this search box.
Close this search box.

What CEOs Can Learn From Google’s Fiasco

CEOs paying attention to the Google fiasco will recognize their organization is not immune from similar breakdowns in leadership, breaches of employee boundaries and limits, and weak oversight.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google has a brand problem. It just might not yet realize that yet.

It’s not only facing external pressures, but more importantly pressures coming from its own employees. The company’s dirty laundry has been aired over its widely reported mismanagement regarding rampant sexual misconduct towards women and Google’s approach to dismiss, silence and harm those who file claims.

CEOs can learn from Google’s negligence and missteps. Those who pay close attention to such widely-reported incidents will realize that their organizations are not immune to similar breakdowns in leadership, breaches of employee boundaries and limits, weak oversight and damage within the ranks, the media, in public relations, legally, in brand stability, financially and with investors.

What kinds of breakdowns? Well, Android leader Andy Rubin received a $90 million out-the-door going away present despite reported “credible” and startling allegations of behavioral impropriety against women. That gets the media’s attention, it gets a workforce’s attention and inspires employees in other organizations to re-experience their own trauma and speak out.

Another recent story reports that as many as four dozen other Google employees, including 13 senior managers, have been terminated over the last two years for a lack of self-control towards women.

What do these reports infer about the offending males’ belief systems, the workplace culture, management oversight, views of women teammates and leadership competence? The issue goes much deeper than just the topic of the dispute and the severity of the behavior. In a macro sense, it is a public relations challenge and there could potentially be a larger legal mountain climb to come.

It is additionally a negative for recruiting and talent acquisition, as people see stories of Google’s administration turning a blind eye to the offensive behavior towards women, and the perception of tolerance and acceptance for the illegal, unprofessional, immoral actions of a percentage of the male workforce within the company.

As significant as that is, the bigger crisis is Google’s deteriorating relationship with a presumed large segment of women employees. Repairing that should be priority number one. How can your female workforce feel safe, respected, valued and trust leadership and the Google brand if the company does not recognize the ongoing issue and respond with the strongest caliber of intelligent, ethical urgency?

Google could choose to ask itself what message does it think it has been sending employees, especially women? Is that perception accurate? Has it done wide-spread, deep, consistent, anonymous research to learn if its perception is congruent with what is factual? What message would Google to send? Would it like for employees—especially women—to feel the message is aligned with reality?

Google’s response to its problems will clearly reveal, through its sustained actions, its business philosophy, how it values women and the type of relationship health with its people (partners) it desires. Will it drive out predatory or exploitative behavior and set up safeguards prevent it in the first place? Will it give its people, women and men both, a stronger voice for protection against behavioral dysfunction and abuse?

CEOs who have been paying attention to this disaster of a situation should:

• Increase awareness of the potential risk of sexual harassment at their organization, ensure ongoing coaching of employees with videos or role playing.

• Commit to highest-level successful oversight, and encourage employees to step forward immediately.

• Be sincerely empathetic of the pain people feel, detailing the steps that will next be taken next in response, keeping them apprised of progress and showing, with action, that you are an advocate for civility, respect and mutual gender appreciation and protection for all.

• Immediately coach transgressors or terminate them for egregious or repeated violations.


Read more: Trust Is What Fuels Great Leadership Teams


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.