Job training at Google sounds very normal

It is unclear to me why The New York Times is making such a big deal of Google’s incredibly normal job-training practices! Google employees can speak up about anything as long as they don’t talk about antitrust, the Times reports. Google employees shouldn’t bring it up in emails, meetings, or job interviews.

“We are not out to ‘crush,’ ‘kill,’ ‘hurt,’ ‘block,’ or do anything else that might be perceived as evil or unfair,” a Google training slide says, per the Times’ reporting. Very normal to receive this instruction every year! I’m sure Google is also not out to maim, dismember, assassinate, eliminate, macerate, or otherwise squash competition.

But let’s be honest: haven’t we all received on-the-job training that if we use the big “A” word — antitrust — we should cc: our lawyers and mark the entire email as “attorney-client privilege”? This is just obvious stuff.

Without this training, someone might accidentally write “I intend to guillotine Expedia by buying ITA Software,” and then, whoopsie, the Securities and Exchange Commission could find it. Whereas if you don’t write that and buy ITA Software anyway, that acquisition is definitely fine, cool, and not anti-competitive.

After all, Google removed its “don’t be evil” slogan from its code of conduct in 2018 — but “let’s not do anything that might be perceived as evil” means basically the same thing, right? Besides, the current US president loves this tactic of using attorney-client privilege, so obviously, it must be smart, legal, and ethical.

Honestly, just saying “antitrust” out loud is begging for the regulators to come mess with you, and that’s why it’s a terrible idea to say it in any job interview. You never know when you might accidentally summon the SEC to review your definitely-not-a-monopoly.

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