Lessons From Google
Long story short, I was reading up on the latest Apple vs The US Government face-off the other day and it sent me in a roundabout way to the article Why Are Google Employees So Damn Happy? I was instantly jealous. Oh I’ve heard the rumors of what the Google offices are like. Little girls with ponies couldn’t be more excited than I would be going to work knowing trampolines and smoothie machines were awaiting my arrival.
But that’s not what the article was about and unfortunately most of us don’t work at a place like that.
It was more about ‘contentment’ in the workplace…something I lack, to be honest, in my infantilish twelfth year in public education. (I say it like that because I think I have to do this job for at least 35 years before I can retire. I…I… I can’t even imagine.)
Google employees, in huge contrast to me, are super content and by default, also frenetically profitable and productive, sometimes by up to 37%! (I googled it.) Happy workers work harder, plain and simple. According to the Googlers interviewed for the pieces I read, their personal styles and individual preferences are valued and respected by their employers and that, the research shows, makes them indispensable, loyal, long-term employees. AND! what they create and produce for the world is rewarded and revered, or at least celebrated, and that makes them feel appreciated in a way that encourages them to reciprocate their efforts ten-fold. It appears to be totally WIN-WIN for both parties. You might also be surprised to learn, like I was, that it costs Google next to nothing to secure its rank at the top of America’s Greatest Employers. The observers researching these articles actually noted that the big slides and the Lego tables went largely unused in most of the Google facilities they visited because the employees preferred staying busy to goofing off, antithetical to most theories held and perpetuated by strong-armed bosses with penchants for micromanaging (like this: “Idle hands make the devil’s work” and other mantras that keep people from coming up for air.) So, then, what ARE all those Googleheads so damn happy about if they’re busy working their butts off all the time? Then I asked myself why public sector careers can’t replicate anything close to this, whatever this is. Knowing that “budget cuts” (gag) and “a lack of funding” (retch) are blamed for literally every single disheartening realization about teaching in public schools/medicine/bureaucracy, etc. it’s easy to always blame everything on withering budgets. Google executives disagree. It ain’t about the money.
Leaders can’t demand respect.
They must command it.
Google’s company motto is “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s parent company Alphabet follows suit with a more congenial “Do The Right Thing.” How simple this is! Most worn-out government employees could probably be super satisfied with just “Don’t Be An Asshole.” A company directive that simply charges its employees to be nice and respectful to one another shouldn’t be so impossible. There’s an internal humanity gauge we need to check within ourselves, as if we need to be reminded about how important it is to compliment each other. I never forget it when one of my coworkers says something nice to me. It makes a huge difference in my day. Leaders can’t demand respect. They must command it. Colleagues cannot rise to the ranks of ‘master teacher’ or ‘mentor’ without knowing how to wield kindness and offer something pleasant to others. Don’t be sanctimonious, don’t treat each other like children, don’t berate, don’t nag. Administrators must stand up for their teachers, they must defend them and the job they do. They should treat them with esteemed respect and protect them from parents who can’t conceive of the pressures we face. I try to be someone who can be critical to the students who must answer to me because I also make sure to balance my corrections with kindness and love. It’s a skill that must be practiced every day before it can be perfected and used effortlessly, naturally, from the top all the way to the bottom. To be a company, an institution or a school that people want to work for, there must be a lot of that kind of ‘leading’ behind all of our big, important desks.
Everyone has something to offer.
I am thankful for my job. I still like what I do as much as I did a decade ago, but the burnout is real. The interpersonal fatigue is wearing us all down and it isn’t just coming from the endless testing and the mountains of paperwork anymore. It’s coming from within. It comes from the Old-Timers, it comes from the Halfway-ers like me, and and it often comes from the Newbies and the kids, too. The Administrators, the Superintendents and the Highly Qualified Teachers about whom people are buzzing all over the internet, the ones with the quirky videos we like to relate to and nod along with, whose test scores are skyrocketing and whose data reports show ‘dramatically increased learning and productivity,’ they all have one thing in common: someone important makes those people feel like they matter to each other. It’s not that hard and it doesn’t cost anything. Just be kind to one another. Celebrate each other’s gifts and victories. Everyone has something to give to the world. Notice. Care.