My name is cleared.

This came from a very high-ranking person at Google, earlier today. It is posted here with the author’s permission.

Dear Michael,

Your continuing outspokenness, with regard to your time at Google, has come to my attention. After reading over your record in detail, I and many others on the senior leadership team agree that you were poorly managed and inaccurately reviewed. Your performance was strong given the short time you were here, and you showed very high potential for growth.

We find it regrettable that you left Google. Having reviewed your history, we want to impress upon you that we see your experiences as unjust and certainly not reflective on you in any negative way but, additionally, extremely unusual for Google. We hope that you will also see it this way, and not continue to regard it as reflecting any underlying pattern at Google. Had you been under different supervision, we believe that you would have been very successful here. You are clearly a driven, passionate, and talented technologist.

We wish for every person we hire to have a productive and successful career here, and of all the companies where I have worked, Google does the best job of achieving this. However, perfection in management is impossible for any company, especially given our size and the fast-paced nature of technology in general.

We wish you the best of success in your career going forward.

Sincerely,

[Googler]

My name is cleared.

I’m done criticizing Google. On the whole, Google is a great technology company in many ways, and has plenty of exceptional people with whom it was a privilege to work.

It’s time to move on. Back to building.

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36 thoughts on “My name is cleared.

  1. You are more charitable than I, assuming the sociopathic long term manager is still working for Google and still pulling the sorts of stunts you’ve detailed. E.g. when they say:

    However, perfection in management is impossible for any company

    I’d continue “that doesn’t give a damn about it….. The problem is not that they’re not perfect, but that their system doesn’t have the feedback necessary to remove such managers even after 5 years of damage as of when you left. Again, I’m at least in part reminded of Death by Lethal Reputation; Google is certainly a place I now recommend people avoid.

    (For that matter, after they went bat shit insane about Google +, I avoid their services to the extent that makes sense, and absolutely for anything that requires them doing the right thing for more than 5-10 minutes.)

  2. Huh. I can probably count the number of companies I know of that might have sent an email like that on one finger. Kudos, and glad for you.

  3. I have to agree with Mike C. Google’s response is exceptional. Most places don’t even want to hear what you’ve got to say at an exit interview; by the time you’re leaving, you think “what’s the point of complaining now?” It’s because you still respect and/or admire the organisation in spite of your own experience. Because you still believe in the organisation, you also want them to know about the poor treatment you received. If that treatment was common or endemic, you wouldn’t bother. Good management is rarer than you might hope and expect; once you’ve worked for and with good people, you develop a much lower tolerance for dickheads.

    • You can never know anyone’s intentions, but I think they were genuine in this case, especially as pertains to this particular person.

      I haven’t let on everything that has come to me in the past couple of days. There’s now a pretty clear knowledge of *why* my manager targeted me for adversity. He was in hot water on another case and I was a witness to an interaction that, while I saw nothing major in it because I did not know the context, was important to that. I was a witness. Nothing personal.

      Companies are complex beasts and don’t *have* intentions as entities, but there are a lot of people at Google. Some of them, it stands to reason, would be good people with good intentions.

      Of course, it says a lot about the software industry (and not good things) that someone’s career can be wrecked for over a year because of something totally random, but that’s not Google’s fault.

      • Most people in most industries can have their careers wrecked or set back over bullshit. I don’t think its a software thing.

      • I’m sorry that you got treated poorly especially because of clear BS reasons and sorry that you’re not working here anymore. I would’ve liked to work with you in the same company.
        Still I’m glad that all of this got sorted out and you are moving forward and most probably going to be very successful in life.
        Cheers and have a nice one.

    • I really doubt Google would go through the trouble simply to silence some guy on a blog. The time it takes along to have sent this message shows someone cared.

  4. Interesting. I sincerely hope this is true but feel skeptical. There’s a bunch of arrogant Googlers making fun of this in one of the internal mailing lists at the moment. Not that you should worry about this, as they’re a bunch of jerk offs anyway, but no-one has internally confirmed this to be real.

    • Hmm–I’m about to apply there. Just how bad are things there, culture-wise? Is this just a few people, or have they accumulated a whole gaggle of insufferable jerks over the years? Any pointers? Or alternatively, who’s better these days?

      • If he’s talking about the lists I think he is, those are the cesspool of Google and I wouldn’t take them as representative.

        No one who is posting on eng-misc on July 4 has any power.

        Some actionable advice, though: if you work at Google, stay away from non-work-related mailing lists, e.g. eng-misc.

      • There’s a fair number of insufferable jerks at Google. I’m not a Googler or ex-Googler, though — I just know some of them.

        Honestly, the blindness causes more arrogance than the straight-up “I’m better than you.” So it’s a familiar, geek-standard kind of arrogance, which you already probably have an established opinion on.

  5. I think you should sue. My reasoning is:
    – you’ve suffered financial harm as a result of their actions.
    – you’ve got a open and shut case (namely, this letter :))
    – Nothing beats getting sued as a incentive for driving change.

    • That’s actually the last thing I would do at this point.

      First of all, I left Google. I wasn’t fired. So there’s no termination suit. (You can sue for constructive dismissal if you’re pushed into quitting.) Even if, managerial incompetence is not grounds for a lawsuit.

      Second, I really just want to move on. Someone I know wasted 5+ years of his life suing an ex-investor (and lost). In addition to what it did to his reputation, he spent also spent half a decade out of the technical game, and could never get back into it. I’m 30. I need to double down on building, solving hard problems, and getting a solid *technical* reputation so I can fall into the “gray-haired badass” category– as opposed to obsolescence– when 35 hits.

      I care about my reputation, which should be healed after this. With regard to finances and incidentals, any losses I’ve experienced are a rounding error compared to what I want to accomplish in the next 25 years.

      Third, most of the financial harm I’ve suffered was a mix of my own bad choices (wrong startup picks) and random bad luck. Granted, I’ve had a lot of bad luck; but almost none of that’s Google’s fault.

  6. I’ve read a dozen or two of your articles. Your ideas are so impressive that I even think about co-founding a company with you. I mostly agree with your opinions regarding open allocation and corporate culture in general. Right now, I want to discuss or consult two things about career and corporate culture with you and only you, but I don’t know how to contact you except on this blog.

    Could you please contact me via email?

  7. Do you still believe that people in large organisations can act in good faith? Seriously? Maybe I will post links to a few upcoming posts of my mine which look at that bizarre belief which seems to underlying a lot of the BS called ‘civilization’.

    The very short synopsis of what I am going to propose goes something like this..

    Larger organisations or other similar human groupings, by their very nature, always act in bad faith. They are structurally incapable of any other behavior. They exist to create more problem while pretending to solve the ones they were supposed to solve in the first place.

    • Do you still believe that people in large organisations can act in good faith?

      Certainly. When acting as puppets for their organizations, no; but it would be a mistake to suppose that anyone is a puppet all the time. The IETF, among many other civil-society organizations, depends on this fact.

      In particular, I am not a puppet for $EMPLOYER, and I wasn’t a puppet for any of my earlier employers either. I was careful to make it clear on appropriate occasions that I didn’t speak for them, of course.

      • This is right-on, John.

        “Organizations” are neither good nor evil. They’re very neutral and occasionally show a very slight bias in the direction of their main players. I fleshed this out in prior posts on moral alignment (see: #14 in my Gervais series).

        The pessimistic view corporation or employer is just a pile of resources and a pattern of social behavior that emerges around such. The realistic view is that the pessimistic view is pretty much right.

        People, on the other hand, have as much variability in character inside of organizations as they do outside of them, so individuals often do act in good faith (and bad).

    • Move like (d)evolution; as Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy puts it:

      In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

      Restated:

      …in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

      The really exceptional big organizations (this is hardly limited to companies) are the ones that are best at resisting this.

    • This is the only post that focused strongly on my Google experience, and it will probably be the last.

      It’s not that interesting, really. A lot of people I’ve never met seem to care about it, and I’m not sure why. If it were any other company, it’d be considered wholly unimportant.

      • You mean you didn’t talk about Google directly? This line made me think that you did which is why you got Google’s attention:

        “Your continuing outspokenness, with regard to your time at Google, has come to my attention.”

        Unless you have a blog somewhere else…

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  13. It’s very nice of them to give this letter. As a peer in this industry, I have had to endure the very nasty comment of “you are not good enough” directly from the manager. I never complained, and I never blamed. I walked away image damaged, but saved the company’s reputation and their data integrity so much. He should and ought to be ashamed. Sometimes it is nice to be understood of our own intent to do great work.

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