OAKLAND, Calif. — The seeds of a company’s downfall, it is often said in the business world, are sown when everything is going great.
It is hard to argue that things aren’t going great for Google. Revenue and profits are charting new highs every three months. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is worth $1.6 trillion. Google has rooted itself deeper and deeper into the lives of everyday Americans.
But a restive class of Google executives worry that the company is showing cracks. They say Google’s work force is increasingly outspoken. Personnel problems are spilling into the public. Decisive leadership and big ideas have given way to risk aversion and incrementalism. And some of those executives are leaving and letting everyone know exactly why.
“I keep getting asked why did I leave now? I think the better question is why did I stay for so long?” Noam Bardin, who joined Google in 2013 when the company acquired mapping service Waze, wrote in a blog post two weeks after leaving the company in February.
Sundar Pichai, the company’s affable, low-key chief executive.
Fifteen current and former Google executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Google and Mr. Pichai, told The New York Times that Google was suffering from many of the pitfalls of a large, maturing company — a paralyzing bureaucracy, a bias toward inaction and a fixation on public perception.
The executives, some of whom regularly interacted with Mr. Pichai, said Google did not move quickly on key business and personnel moves because he chewed over decisions and delayed action. They said that Google continued to be rocked by workplace culture fights, and that Mr. Pichai’s attempts to lower the temperature had the opposite effect — allowing problems to fester while avoiding tough and sometimes unpopular positions.
A Google spokesman said internal surveys about Mr. Pichai’s leadership were positive. The company declined to make Mr. Pichai, 49, available for comment, but it arranged interviews with nine current and former executives to offer a different perspective on his leadership.
“Would I be happier if he made decisions faster? Yes,” said Caesar Sengupta, a former vice president who worked closely with Mr. Pichai during his 15 years at Google. He left in March. “But am I happy that he gets nearly all of his decisions right? Yes.”
a fixture at congressional hearings. Even his critics say he has so far managed to navigate those hearings without ruffling the feathers of lawmakers or providing more ammunition to his company’s foes.
The Google executives complaining about Mr. Pichai’s leadership acknowledge that, and say he is a thoughtful and caring leader. They say Google is more disciplined and organized these days — a bigger, more professionally run company than the one Mr. Pichai inherited six years ago.
challenge Amazon in online commerce a few years ago. Mr. Pichai rejected the idea because he thought Shopify was too expensive, two people familiar with the discussions said.
to select Halimah DeLaine Prado, a longtime deputy in the company’s legal team.
Ms. Prado was at the top of an initial list of candidates provided to Mr. Pichai, who asked to see more names, several people familiar with the search said. The exhaustive search took so long, they said, that it became a running joke among industry headhunters.
Mr. Pichai’s reluctance to take decisive measures on Google’s volatile work force has been noticeable.
vowing to restore lost trust, while continuing to push Google’s view that Dr. Gebru was not fired. But it fell short of an apology, she said, and came across as public-relations pandering to some employees.
David Baker, a former director of engineering at Google’s trust and safety group who resigned in protest of Dr. Gebru’s dismissal, said Google should admit that it had made a mistake instead of trying to save face.
“Google’s lack of courage with its diversity problem is ultimately what evaporated my passion for the job,” said Mr. Baker, who worked at the company for 16 years. “The more secure Google has become financially, the more risk averse it has become.”
Some critiques of Mr. Pichai can be attributed to the challenge of maintaining Google’s outspoken culture among a work force that is far larger than it once was, said the Google executives whom the company asked to speak to The Times.
“I don’t think anyone else could manage these issues as well as Sundar,” said Luiz Barroso, one of the company’s most senior technical executives.
acquire the activity tracker Fitbit, which closed in January, took about a year as Mr. Pichai wrestled with aspects of the deal, including how to integrate the company, its product plans and how it intended to protect user data, said Sameer Samat, a Google vice president. Mr. Samat, who was pushing for the deal, said Mr. Pichai had identified potential problems that he had not fully considered.
“I could see how those multiple discussions could make somebody feel like we’re slow to make decisions,” Mr. Samat said. “The reality is that these are very large decisions.”
A self-made multimillionaire who married into a revered European banking dynasty, Lynn Forester de Rothschild now spends her time calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, stricter regulation of big business and a wholesale reordering of the capitalist system that has delivered her such privilege.
It is an unlikely reformation for a woman who came from modest origins, made a fortune in the 1980s and could have spent her later years enjoying a sumptuous life of aristocracy.
Born to a middle-class family in the New Jersey suburbs, Ms. Rothschild began her career at the white shoe law firm Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett, then started working with John Kluge, a telecommunications mogul, in the 1980s. Ms. Rothschild eventually struck out on her own, working for, running and founding a series of successful media companies.
In 2000, she married Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, a British financier. (Henry Kissinger introduced them at the Bilderberg conference; the Clintons invited them to honeymoon at the White House.)
Despite her pedigree, Ms. Rothschild has in recent years come to understand that while she and her associates have enjoyed the fruits of capitalism, not all have fared so well. Many workers are struggling to get by. The environment is in serious trouble. Government often cleans up the private sector’s messes.
Sociable and well-connected, Ms. Rothschild has tapped her expansive network to launch a multipronged assault on the status quo. In 2014, she founded the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, an effort to get business leaders more engaged in environmental and social issues. And she has parlayed that into a related group, the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, that is working with Pope Francis, and a new fund focused on socially responsible investing she founded with Jeff Ubben, a successful hedge fund manager.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
Back when you were starting out in your career, were you concerned about some of the negative impacts of capitalism in the same way you are today?
It was really different. I don’t think we realized how bad it was. Graduating from law school in 1980, I believed I was living the American dream. I was a skinny girl from nowhere who knew no one, who had aspirations for an interesting life that would make a difference. And I believed that was available to me if I worked hard and played by the rules. The mantra at that time, that was not said disparagingly, was “Greed is good.” There was an Ayn Rand view that if you pursue your interests, all of society is lifted. So I really did believe that all I needed to do was to pursue my career in a legal, ethical, exciting way, and I didn’t have to worry about society.
When did it click for you that something wasn’t working?
We didn’t anticipate the kind of disparity that developed over those 20 years when we started in 1980. And I don’t think people practicing shareholder primacy were evil. There was just too much greed. But by 2008 it was impossible to ignore. The concentration of wealth in America at that time already was back to levels we had during the Gilded Age. In the 1960s the ratio of C.E.O. pay to average worker pay was 25 to one. Today it is 320 to one.
That has very conveniently created enormous personal wealth, which became the objective, as opposed to: What wealth have you left behind in society? How have you made the world better for your children, for your community? “Greed is good” was never a concept for Adam Smith.
What do you see as the most problematic symptoms of our economic system today?
Inequality of opportunity. We have to be honest that in each of our two recent crises — the great financial crisis and the Covid crisis — the government came to the aid of the wealthiest. Some have called it “socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else.” There’s something to that.
The elites turn to government when the financial system is blown up or we have a health crisis. Government got us out of both of those problems, and it got us out with too much of the benefit going to the richest. So how do we equalize that?
I personally am fine with higher taxes, if higher taxes lead to better distribution of opportunity, particularly for people of color and people in the lower part of the socioeconomic environment. I also believe that it is time that we listen more to our employees. It’s time that we create a more level playing field with respect to worker voice and worker involvement. This is hard stuff, because it can impact profit.
A year ago you said Covid was going to change capitalism forever. In what way did you think it was going to change capitalism, and how do you think that all has actually played out?
I’m probably always guilty of being overly optimistic. I believed that our moral compass would tell us that we need to take better care of the people who take care of us. But we saw starkly how we treated the people we called essential, how we were exposing them to this deadly disease. I personally find it difficult to understand why that is so hard for us as a society, and that’s why I founded the Council for Inclusive Capitalism.
I had the disease. I was really sick. I thought I was going to die. I had a really bad case and I’m scared to death of it.
What were the origins of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism?
In June of 2015, Laudato Si was written by Pope Francis. By September, the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed to by the United Nations. By December, the Paris climate accord had been signed. You had every reason to believe that there was a sense of the common good.
And if you go back and read Laudato Si, Pope Francis writes: “The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration.” He goes on to say that “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.”
What are some of the reforms you’d like to see? The Business Roundtable can put out as many press releases as it wants about stakeholder capitalism, but we still have companies losing billions of dollars, laying off tens of thousands of workers and still rewarding their C.E.O.s with tens of millions of dollars.
Something is really broken. I do believe that C.E.O.s and boards are willing to share the wealth and do more. But the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are going to go for tax policy and trade policy as their primary objective.
I remember a person who was very senior in a previous administration told me that in his four years in office, only one C.E.O. asked to go and see him about an issue of the common good. Everyone was coming in to push what they needed for their own book. We need to profitably solve the problems of people and planet. That’s why business exists.
Who’s to say that there shouldn’t be a government policy that prices the negative externalities that companies cost the taxpayer when full-time workers have to be on public assistance to lead a decent life? Why can’t there be a tax and a penalty on that? Why is Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world? He’s a nice guy, and at the same time he has tens of thousands of employees on public assistance. Why is that OK? Why do we have a government that lets that happen?
Which do you think is more broken, American politics or capitalism?
I think their problems feed upon each other. They’re creating a death spiral together and it’s got to be stopped. Politics and capitalism needs to return to a basic sense of decency.
And that is actually why I reached out to the Holy Father, because I think that a lot of what it will take to change behavior is a moral and ethical reawakening. It’s not just one policy, it’s not just taxes, it’s not just reforming labor laws — all of which are important, and we need competent ethical people to do it. But at the core of it, it has to come from common decency.
God did not invent the corporation. Society allows a corporation to exist, gives shareholders limited liability, and expects something in return. But we don’t just expect cheap widgets.
How do you reconcile your critique of shareholder capitalism with the fact that you’re now working with a hedge fund manager?
If there is going to be a system change, the capital markets need to reward shareholders. That is only going to happen if there are really talented investors who find the new levers of value creation, and are engaging actively with companies that are transforming at scale to become cleaner and more inclusive, and those companies become the ones that are the most valuable. Then we’ve created a race to the top.
That’s why I’m in partnership with Jeff, who’s such a legend in shareholder value creation and transforming companies. I have 1,000 percent confidence in the integrity of Jeff, even though he’s been on the opposite side for many years. I trust many billionaires.
I was born and raised in Detroit, Mich., and most of my formative years were in the ’80s, so I was able to witness in that community the impact of several realities. Detroit was a boomtown for the auto industry, but in my neighborhood, we began to see the impact of the plant closings. I also witnessed the level of violence committed toward the Asian community, because many workers blamed the Asian community for the crash of the auto industry. That was primarily because people were feeding that flame of tribalism and racial hatred.
You had a lot of people who were gainfully employed in the auto industry, and then there was huge unemployment as a result of factories shutting down or cutting back on production. I was able to witness firsthand the mental health effects that had on families, particularly with the growth in the drug culture. In my neighborhood, we talk about the era before crack and the era post-crack. Families were destroyed, and a lot of these families were hardworking individuals who were laid off and they were caught up in that cycle.
When I finally got a car, there was one week I was pulled over every day for seven days straight. I had just finished my first year of college.
Do you feel like the companies speaking out against the new restrictive voting laws are having an impact?
Well, I want to see the outcome. Corporations must show up in ways in which they are able to influence public policy. This should be a priority issue. There is no reason that members of Georgia’s legislature or the governor should be able to limit access to voting and still have an expectation of support from the corporate community that is doing business in Georgia.
We are confronting the same reality in Texas, where you have some of the largest corporations headquartered in Texas, whether AT&T or American Airlines. They have political muscle to influence public policy. If individual policymakers who are relying on corporate support are unable to see the importance of access to voting, corporations shouldn’t support those individuals, because those individuals are suffocating the voices of their consumers.
It’s been an intense five years for you and the organization. What’s been your takeaway?
I think the past four years under the previous administration was a wake-up call for the nation. The level of racial hatred, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, tribalistic language that was coming from the prior administration could have ripped this nation apart. Now it is time for us to work as hard, as focused, as possible to repair those rifts.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the bank said, “We publicly made our own strong statement last month about the critical importance of every citizen being able to exercise their fundament right to vote.”
That statement for release on Wednesday came together over the past week and a half, after the Black executives who spoke out received an outpouring of support.
About 10 days ago, Mr. Chenault and Mr. Frazier conferred with three other Black executives — William M. Lewis Jr., the chairman of investment banking at Lazard; Clarence Otis Jr., a former chief executive of Darden Restaurants; and Charles Phillips, a former chief executive of Infor — about what next steps they could take. Within days, they had a draft of the statement and were sharing it with other executives.
Last Wednesday, Mr. Frazier and Mr. Chenault spoke with members of the Business Roundtable, an influential lobbying group that includes the chief executives of many of the company’s biggest companies. Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., also spoke to the group.
Then on Thursday, someone from Mr. McConnell’s staff, at the group’s invitation, briefed its members on the details of the Georgia law, several people familiar with the situation said.
The next day, members of the Business Roundtable had a regularly scheduled meeting at which the executives discussed the voting issue. On that call, Dan Schulman, the chief executive of PayPal, encouraged other executives to sign the statement.
And on Saturday, Mr. Chenault and Mr. Frazier spoke on a Zoom meeting with more than 100 executives that was organized by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale professor who regularly gathers business leaders to discuss politics. At that meeting, Mr. Chenault read the statement and invited executives on the call to add their names to the list of signatories.
Last fall, after some of the restrictions had eased in Germany, Trivago, a travel company based in Düsseldorf, let employees work remotely three weeks of the month and then spend one week in the office. The office weeks were designed for collaboration and were treated like celebrations, with balloons hanging from the ceilings and employees plied with coffee and muffins, said Anja Honnefelder, the chief people officer and general counsel of the company.
But the experiment failed, she said. “We saw that many of the people only came back for two or three days during the week because it felt unnatural, all of the social interactions,” said Ms. Honnefelder, who described her staff as young and made up largely of software engineers and data scientists. “They felt like they couldn’t get their work done and that it was disorienting.”
So, in January, Trivago announced that employees would come back to the office two days a week, but it has not been able to implement the plan because Germany has imposed new restrictions because of a rise in coronavirus cases.
“What we think will happen is that employees will use the two days to socialize, have extended lunches and work with their teams because they know, for the rest of the week, they will have time to focus and manage their own work and not be distracted,” Ms. Honnefelder said.
The ability to focus on work without distractions from other employees is the main reason Mr. Jaakola, the Minneapolis software engineer, does not want to return to the office. He admits he finds dealing with other people kind of “draining,” and hopes his company won’t force him to return to the office, even for a few days a week.
“My sense is that my company will try to go back to how things were before and I think they’ll quickly realize there are a lot of remote possibilities out there for us,” he said. “If they try to force us to come in without a legitimate reason, I can get another job if I don’t want to come in.”
Gillian Friedman and Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.
We’re a Georgia-based company. That’s going to be certainly our starting point. I don’t see us having the wherewithal to understand every nuance in every other state. I think there will be energy directed at the federal level. If you go back historically, federal oversight of changing the voting processes in the states has been an important process to make sure that things move forward, not backward.
Do you see a double standard between the way in which companies are engaging with the issue of voting rights and how they’ve engaged with other issues, be it L.G.B.T. bills or climate change, or immigration, in the past?
It’s not that the corporate community was not involved. We were perhaps not as public as some people wish we had been, or perhaps would have made more difference.
You’ve got this tension of getting companies involved — the tension of dragging, or having companies pulled, into politics. When do I get involved? You can’t possibly be involved in every issue. So getting clear on what are the most important things to your company is what we go back to.
We’re very clear on the importance of diversity and inclusion to the Coca-Cola Company, which aspires to be a brand for everyone, and particularly in the South, given its history. We stand for diversity and inclusion in Georgia above all else, and that’s why we came to the table on this issue. We tried to affect change. It didn’t work. But we have not given up by any stretch of the imagination.
You had lots of senior roles before becoming C.E.O. What is the biggest difference as C.E.O.?
When you become C.E.O. you think you’ve got this organizational pyramid and you’ve come at the apex, and now everyone works for you. But then you find out there’s another pyramid, but it’s upside down, and you’re the one person at the bottom.
There’s a huge number of stakeholders who want to tell you what to do, and many of them don’t work in the business. So you deal with the board, the media, the investors, the analysts, the NGOs, the government. You have this whole galaxy of people you need to deal with in a way that was never true for any of the other jobs. If you haven’t gotten really clear on what are the few things that I want to tell people about and prioritize things this, it can be quite destabilizing.
In a start-up economy of self-described “boss babes,” Ashley Sumner wants to be known in simpler terms.
While on a run near her home in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles in early March, Ms. Sumner was thinking about identity and the peppy phrases that female professionals use to describe themselves online: “girl bosses” and the like.
“I worry about the negative impact of that,” Ms. Sumner, 32, said. “I worry that it allows investors to see founders who are women as a separate class from the rest of the founders. I worry it allows investors to write women founders smaller checks. I do believe that women need to help inspire other women but also that identity can be used as labels to separate us.”
Ms. Sumner is the chief executive officer of Quilt, an audio platform for conversations about self-care topics like wellness in the workplace, PTSD and astrology. (In prepandemic days, the company organized work gatherings and group discussions in people’s homes.)
I am a female founder,” she typed, then dramatically crossing out the word “female” and adding a caption that read in part: “putting my gender in front of what I am belittles what I’ve accomplished.”
Ms. Sumner isn’t particularly active on Instagram or Twitter. On LinkedIn, she had never done more than repost someone else’s articles or musings. But given that platform’s focus on professional life, she thought it was a reasonable place to first share her handiwork.
Ms. Sumner’s post has drawn nearly 20,000 comments, from men and women in the United States, Australia, Africa, Latin America, India and beyond; from executives, construction workers, health care employees, professors and military professionals.
Revel Experiences, a marketing firm in Boston, contacted three successful business owners she knows to ask them what they think. Each said there is not yet enough representation of women in leadership ranks to ignore the gender disparities. “In order to change things and truly achieve parity,” said Ms. Urekew, 50, “you need to have more visibility for other women.”
She added: “I love that she started this discussion, it opened up my eyes to many more aspects.”
I Follow the Leader, a consulting firm that specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, initiatives and education in Durham, N.C. “It was a little shocking at first, to see ‘female’ crossed out,” she said of Ms. Sumner’s post. “I immediately clicked to see what she said, and I thought it was really striking.”
Ms. Mosley, 34, said in the unconscious bias seminars she leads, she asks people to consider the way race, gender and other traits influence narratives about people’s professional skills and how they can perpetuate inequities. “When people see me as a Black woman leader,” she said, “they are assuming that my being Black and a woman influence my leadership style.”
She believes these labels can sometimes hold women back from being considered on equal footing to men. She said that being a Black woman is a significant part of her identity, but she, like most people, has far more dimensions. She believes her professional traits result most from being an athlete and the oldest of four children with driven parents.
Faryl Morse, 55, who owns the footwear company Faryl Robin, was also moved to make her own post, listing the social media lingo of “Boss Babe,” “WomEntrepreneur,” “Girl Boss” and “Mompreneur.”
“Let’s please stop adding these cute names to women who are ambitious and are going after their dreams with persistence,” she wrote. “It is not empowering any woman.”
Rayy Babalola, the founder of the Agile Squad, a project management and consulting firm in Kent, England, was captivated by the responses on LinkedIn but says that it’s not so easy for everyone to drop the labels and forget the struggle and perseverance required to find professional success.
Ms. Babalola, 30, believes that to call herself a Black woman business founder conveys that she has overcome the dual obstacles of sexism and racism. And she feels a responsibility to signal to other Black women that they too can have a path to business ownership.
“Being a Black woman has affected how I have been treated, and that has pushed me to become a founder,” she said. “And you can’t be selfish,” she said. “Just because you found a way doesn’t mean that it’s OK, now you can be silent.”
She thinks identifiers like “female founder” and “Black-owned business” are still important. “Until those terms stop rattling minds,” she said, they need to be used to remind the world that they remain something of a novelty and in the minority.
Nikki Thompson, of Overland Park, Kan., said she never shares her opinion on social media but when she came across Ms. Sumner’s post, she couldn’t stop herself. “Labeling perpetuates the differences we should be seeking to resolve,” she wrote.
As a registered nurse, Ms. Thompson’s responsibilities include continuing education training and paperwork for patients, and many forms ask about race, gender, generational demographics, religion and ethnicity. She understands that data collection is essential when it pertains to diagnosis and treatment of illness. But she questions the value of that data collection in the many other facets of daily life. (Ms. Thompson was happy to answer the question of her age — she will turn 41 next week — but noted that labeling people’s age is part of the problem.)
“What if we drop the labels, maybe the biases would subside,” she said. “This is a daily thing in my career, and I think a lot about words and bias and unconscious bias and how we might decrease it.” (She also said that the pendulum can swing both ways: She has heard relatives say of her male peers, “I had a male nurse and he was very good.”)
Surprised by the reaction to her post, Ms. Sumner acknowledged that many of her experiences are influenced by being a white woman, “with all the privilege that entails,” she said. “But how do I see myself? How do I identify? As a founder, and as someone who starts discussions.”
But one of the benefits I got in being on the finance side was a really thorough understanding of the profit and loss and balance sheet and how that all hangs together. It enabled me to take strategy and pull it apart and say: “Well, what are the objectives? And what are the prices we’ve put in place to be able to achieve those objectives?”
What were the biggest changes you made in stores and in warehouses as a result of the pandemic?
There was a lot of tactical decisions we had to make very early on: metering people into the club, the request for associates to wear masks, health screening every day, plexiglass that we had to put in appropriate places, decals on the floor. There was just such an exhaustive list.
We also wanted to give members confidence that they could trust our standards. Like, “Let’s make sure that in the first 10 feet of walking into Sam’s Club, they see us wiping down a cart.” We’re spraying them outside, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the member knows that they’ve been sprayed down. So let’s make sure that we also wipe them down so that the member knows they can have confidence.
How are you dealing with the issue of masks at a moment when states are lifting restrictions?
When a member turns up at the club, we will ask them to wear one. We will have one there to offer to them. If somebody is adamant that they don’t want to wear one, then we will continue to offer it to them.
What we’ve been trying to do is protect the safety of our associates and make sure that we’re not putting them into a conflict point. We’ve tried to make sure that we de-escalate and contain issues rather than have them escalate. I would say a majority of members comply. Most of them, if you ask them once or twice, will put a mask on.
How have people’s shopping habits changed over the past year?
We have seen periods that we called “carbs and calories,” where people would just buy up pizza, ice cream, potato chips. It was almost like they were looking for indulgence in food that they couldn’t get through experiences outside of the home. We’ve certainly seen a resurgence in people nesting and home improvement, yard improvement, outdoor entertaining. People are like, “How do I make my home my castle?”
Help me understand why it’s hard for a company like Walmart to get to the point where it’s supporting a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
The Detroit Institute of Arts is taking steps to improve its workplace culture following a critical review by outside investigators who said they had fielded employee complaints of retaliation by the director whose autocratic leadership style, they said, had fostered an environment that led a disproportionate number of women on staff to leave.
The findings of the review by the law firm Crowell and Moring, which was hired by the museum, were presented to members of its board in November but were not made public.
The investigators, from the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm, also said that current and former staff members they had spoken to complained that the director, Salvador Salort-Pons, demonstrated a “lack of facility with race-related issues,” according to an audio recording of the board meeting at which the investigators presented their findings.
The museum said Monday that it had taken a number of steps in response to the findings, including establishing a new board position to be a liaison between staff members and the board of directors. It has also set up a confidential hotline for reporting discrimination, retaliation or other workplace issues.
Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit law firm in Washington that represents some museum staff members, and was reviewed by The New York Times.
infusion of nearly a billion dollars from foundations, private donors and the State of Michigan. The investigators said employees they spoke to said they respected his efforts in this regard.
He has retained the support of the board, and last year the institute persuaded three surrounding counties to agree to continue a property tax surcharge that helps support the museum.
But morale was so low in 2017 that nearly half of museum staff said in a survey that they did not believe the institute provided a work culture where they could thrive, citing disrespect and a sense that their opinions were ignored. The review by Crowell and Moring found those problems had not been addressed in a meaningful way.
Last year, just as issues of culture and diversity roiled museums across the country, current and former employees came forward publicly with complaints, particularly about the institute’s treatment of its Black employees.
In September, the institute hired a Chicago-based diversity and inclusion consultancy. The consultancy, Kaleidoscope, has carried out a survey of employees and is organizing staff focus groups on issues such as equity and diversity. “The Board is fully committed to addressing these concerns and shared that commitment with our staff in December,” Christine Kloostra, a spokeswoman, said of the review’s findings. “At all levels of our organization, we’re working hard together to make the D.I.A. a better place for all of our team members.”
Reviewing employment data, the investigators found that a greater number of women in managerial and professional positions than men had left the museum in recent years. In 2018, for example, it found that 27 percent of women employed by the museum in managerial and professional positions had departed that year, compared to 2 percent of men. In some cases, Ellen Moran Dwyer, one of the investigating lawyers told the board, women said they had left even though they had no other job “because they were unhappy with the environment.”
Whistleblower Aid said the outside review’s findings showed there is a need for more substantial change to address serious problems their own clients brought forward several months ago.
“It’s got to the point where people are so desperate for accountability and change that they are taking this kind of step” to leak the recording of the board meeting, said John N. Tye, the founder and chief executive of Whistleblower Aid.
Some staff said they would wait to see whether the steps the institute is taking would make a difference in addressing the challenges.
“There is a glimmer of hope that something is being done,” said Margaret Thomas, house manager of the Detroit Film Theater, which is part of the institute. “This whole situation should not be swept under the rug.”
She added, “I want to believe that something is going to be done about this.”
The DealBook newsletter delves into a single topic or theme every weekend, providing reporting and analysis that offers a better understanding of an important issue in business. If you don’t already receive the daily newsletter, sign up here.
Humor: Serious Business,” which shows aspiring executives and entrepreneurs how to leverage laughter for better relationships and business results. They’ve also distilled their findings into a new book, “Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is A Secret Weapon in Business and Life.”
But can people really be taught to be funny at work? Should people be taught to be funny at work?
If you explain a joke, its force disperses. The whole point of “The Office,” after all, is that it’s agony to work with a self-appointed comedian. And the framing of humor as a tool of self-advancement is somewhat unsettling, evoking the image of a sociopath calmly studying the human psyche’s soft spots to exploit them for professional gain.
Humor at work is much less about wisecracks than about levity: the shared moments of lightness that propel relationships forward and balance the seriousness of labor.
more motivating and admired. Their employees are more engaged. Their teams are more likely to solve a creativity challenge. There’s all this evidence around the R.O.I. of humor.
And then the failure myth: People think that failing at humor is going to have these huge repercussions. We teach our students that it’s so much less about telling jokes. It’s about cultivating joy.
rule of three” or contrast or exaggeration to get the outcome they want — which is, in this case, laughs. It’s just like how athletes know the exact form that they should use.
That’s a good analogy. You can have a healthy, happy life as someone who exercises regularly but never crosses over into athletic competition. It sounds like it’s also fine to be a person who appreciates humor but prefers not to be the one cracking jokes.
has said: “The easiest way to be funny is not to try — instead, just look for moments to laugh.” This isn’t about being funny. This is about being generous with laughter. You’re empowering others to use it, and showing up much more as a human — not a clown.
How can leaders ensure the humor they’re encouraging is appropriate?
Aaker: Many people who have used humor to good effect in the past often equate humor with their style of humor. Like, “I just threw out a joke, it didn’t land, I think it would have two years ago, therefore the world is not funny anymore.” The calculation is not that the world is humorless, per se. It’s that we need to better understand the diversity of humor styles that other people have, and better understand — through empathy more than anything else — how to better read a room and understand the dynamics of status.
What’s interesting is that while trust in leadership is plunging — which is a problem for leaders who have used the same old jokes for a while — those organizations that somehow manage to maintain a high-trust environment are thriving.
We know that when employees rate what characteristics inspire trust, their answers are things like, “My boss speaks like a regular person.” We’re living in a time when empathy, inclusivity and authenticity are important for all leaders. Humor is actually a secret weapon that can serve them well.
So how do we keep levity alive on remote teams, when you don’t have the in-person benefits of facial expression and tone — or feel like you have much to laugh about?
Bagdonas: This was such a pressing need that at the beginning of the pandemic that we created a course called “Remotely Humorous,” which is all about having humor in remote teams.
Part of this is creating space for it. We need to have a norm that at the beginning of every call, we just talk like humans rather than jump right into the agenda. We talk about what just happened with our kids, or whose dog is running around in the background or what genuine mishap has happened in people’s lives due to this pandemic.
meetings, email and other workplace absurdities. “Never look for what’s funny,” Ms. Cooper told Stanford students in a guest lecture. “Look for what’s true, and go from there.”
The comedian and writer for shows like “The Good Place” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden” finds the funny in everything, including technology’s tendency to overcomplicate our personal and professional lives.
The host of “The Amber Ruffin Show” has been a writer on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” since 2014. She regularly appears with co-writer Jenny Hagel in the segment “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” where the two women deliver punch lines that would sound wrong coming from a straight white guy’s mouth, in any setting.
What do you think? Is work better when there’s humor or should it be strictly business? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.