Silicon Valley tech companies isolate workers inside a bubble

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.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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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.

Topic: Tech Industry

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4 comments
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  • Reminds me of the ending of "The Borne Ultimatum"

    "Do you even know why you're supposed to kill me? Look at us. Look at what they make you give"

    Google doesn't give them time to think about what they've given up in their lives "for the company", and this impersonal interaction shows in pretty much every product they make, nothing more so then Google glasses, the tech that encourages you be a thousand miles away while standing right next to your neighbor.
    William.Farrel
  • But what the difference between Google and an Factory worker?

    "- 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."

    Except for free food and laundry and haircuts ; there not much different when I work manufacturing. One punched in punched out bought one lunch or eat at the company canteen, punched in punched out and maybe drink a few beers with the fellow workers off line before going home. One did have time to mingle with the local community.
    Still I had my time off so I still need to go to local store for groceries, medications, etc..
    If anybody though a store going to make much money during working hours, by parking near the complex, except for a food truck, need to think again. I see this complaint as just fine whine.
    Richardbz
    • Pizza is your overtime pay

      Sorry, but you cannot compare factory jobs with Silicon Valley tech jobs. I'll bet you never worked late for free, with only free pizza as your reward. As a matter of fact, the only comparison is that you really couldn't leave the premises because you were not given much time for lunch.
      saucymugwump
  • We know where you work

    Good article, but this is one of those situations where both employer and employee play a part.

    Someone who worked at a Silicon Valley company told me that he was at a party when fellow employees declared, in all seriousness, "Let's do some use cases!" I got the impression that those employees were devoid of a personal life before they started working there.

    Google and other companies realized long ago that they could get more work out of their employees if they make it difficult to leave. I would also wager that the people who tolerate that behavior are young and unmarried, as spouses have real-world obligations, e.g. children waiting at daycare. I would further wager that interviewees who scowl at the mention of working late every day are shown the door quickly in the interview process, especially if they are 30+.

    But we have not reached the bottom yet. When Google starts paying employees in script, valid only in Google stores, just like George Pullman did before the Pullman Riots, we will have come full-circle.
    saucymugwump