Silicon Valley tech companies isolate workers inside a bubble

Summary:Silicon Valley firms use cult-like practices to isolate their workers but it breeds conflict in neighborhoods.

San Francisco is rapidly polarizing against its tech workers as protests mount about shuttle bus use, and a huge rise in rents and evictions.

There would be less of a problem if tech workers were better known in their communities but they aren’t. I know exactly one Googler outside of my work circles. And he used to work for non-profits for several years downtown, so he’s more of a local than many of his colleagues. 

Here are the many ways Silicon Valley tech workers are deliberately kept isolated:

- The tech workers are scooped up in shuttle buses early in the morning and dropped off late in the evening. No time to socialize locally.

- During the day tens of thousands are inside guarded campus enclaves. No one goes out to local stores and restaurants and around Google’s HQ, there’s a struggle to stay in business. 

- Tech companies provide free food, hair cuts, dental appointments, gym, laundry, dry cleaning, even apartment cleaning. No need to shop local or interact locally.

- Mealtimes are important social events and here, tech workers are encouraged to eat in company facilities. Yet another interface with local people is removed. 

- There's very little time during the week to make friends outside of work.

Company culture and cults…

Building a company culture is the same as building a cult and the practices are well known, studied and effective at controlling people, and are used by many mainstream organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, not just Google.

They tell their members to use anonymity and secrecy. Google, for example, discourages staff from identifying themselves as employees.  

Cults keep their members in groups and indoctrinate them daily with an ideology that is designed to separate them psychologically, not just physically. Group dynamics indoctrinate faster than can be done individually.

Members are repeatedly told they are not like the rest of the world. Cult members often travel with a minder (bus driver) that makes sure they don’t stray along the way.

When criticized by outsiders, a cult’s hold on its members is strengthened,  it emphasizes the ‘us and them’ isolation.  

All cults are bad because they isolate and continually indoctrinate people with a self-serving ideology that promotes its agenda above all others. Integration, and broad access to ideas and conversations builds relationships between neighbors, and creates strong communities. 

Google says that buses and free services aren't needed...

Todd Carlisle, Director of Staffing, at Google says the free perks aren’t necessary. He said no one ever turned down a job at Google because there was no free lunch.

Astonishingly, he also said that Google analyzed all its data and found absolutely no difference in productivity between office and home-based workers.

So why does it insist on bussing its workers?

It’s because it helps build a strong company culture —  it binds its people closer together. They are less likely to leave.

Pop the bubble…

If I were in charge I would shutter the canteens and garage the shuttle buses for one day a week, and turn off the spigot of free services. And see if my staff can figure out how to get to work on time, and how to feed themselves, and maybe even figure out how to use a laundromat.

They might even come back with some new ideas.

Original ideas require original experiences. You won’t get them from inside a bubble.

Topics: Tech Industry

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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