#Yes I Will Talk: Google Employees Walked, Now It’s Time to Talk (and Take New Action)

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(Note: the following article was co-authored by Raye Mitchell Esq. and Alicia Dunams. It has been abbreviated. You can find the entire post here.)

On November 1, 2018, over 20,000 Google employees and contractors staged a worldwide, high-profile, but peaceful disruption of the status quo manner in which Google handles sexual harassment and other workplace matters.

Despite its belief that Google fostered an environment and culture of openness and trust to stimulate robust communications and exchanges, the walkout demonstrates that Google missed the mark and ran head-on into an iceberg of growing employee and workforce frustration.

The walkout was a very public break in the relationship between Google and its employees.

Fortunately, the problems presented by the walkout are curable. And, just like any relationship, the real work comes when both parties elect to come back together to the table to build trust and talk to find solutions.

After such a high-profile collision, how do the parties begin the process of creating shared resolutions, recovery, and restoration of trust, and affirm that both parties can win? The answer to this requires each side to pivot and engage in healthy, leadership-based talking and collaborative intentions to find new plans of action.

Here are some suggestions and talking points to get the parties to the negotiation table:

  1. Teachable moments. The walkout is a chance to lead forward with new ideas. A clash of perspectives invites unexpected collaborations, new talking points, and opportunities to negotiate new outcomes. Both parties must recognize the problem is a shared opportunity to innovate. Prompt: “My experience is … [Add your experience]”
  2. In this together. Both sides need to reaffirm a commitment to a shared mission to regain trust and search for resolutions. How can you solve this issue together? Prompt: “What can we do to… because when we do, we will…”
  3. I got your back. Management needs to redouble its commitment to the resolution of the problems and guarantees of zero tolerance of any retaliation against any employee who reports sexual harassment in the workplace.
  4. Accountability. To ensure the walkout was not an empty gesture, employees can continue to engage management by sharing their experiences, in confidence where necessary so that others can understand. Suggested talking points, “My truth in this moment…”“My request is….” Management must move beyond acknowledgment to engagements focused on specific actions. “What I heard you say is…” “Your request is… (call to action).” “Is that correct?”
  5. Add diversity of thought. One thing is certain. After a high-profile conflict such as the walkout, both sides need to come back to the negotiation table with fresh thinking divorced from any hints of finger pointing and blame shifting. (Shame + Blame does not create change). It’s a new moment and new choice. Both parties can move forward with the aid of new facilitators and new thinkers at the discussion table.

Question for you:

What did you learn about the Google walkout that you can apply to your organization or team?

What is possible when you come back to the negotiation table after a conflict?

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