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A Communication Crackdown that Cripples Corporate Culture?

Just months after Facebook did so, Google has instituted restrictions on topics that can be discussed during work hours, including at off-site meetings, and encourages monitoring by managers and peers.

Not many companies have a corporate culture like Facebook or Google, which are known for an especially informal environment where company leadership encourages open debate among employees even across different levels of the organizational chart. But there are signs that the openness promoted at both firms has started to hamper productivity and performance. First, Facebook instituted a policy earlier this year stipulating what employees can and cannot discuss while at work; it removed politics and religion off its list of acceptable topics on company messaging forums and even during in-person conversations in the office and at off-site meetings.

And on August 22, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, sent a companywide internal memo announcing restrictions on topics that can be discussed during work hours at that company. The memo also warns employees not to speak in public against company projects, with Pichai telling employees, “Don’t assume you have the full story.” What’s more, the company appointed specific employees to monitor internal discussion forums and also created a “one-click” internal mechanism so coworkers can alert management to colleagues’ forum posts or in-person conversations that might violate the new policy.

It remains to be seen whether the new policies will help with productivity and performance within these firms known for innovation—or perhaps reduce trust among their employees as they communicate online and in person.

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