Colleagues and bosses are not your family
The idea that employees are somehow part of the family is one of the most delusional metaphors of modern corporate life
Google has 46,000 employees. No one can have that many siblings or even third cousins twice removed
Such guff sounded uncannily familiar. A little more than two years ago, when Google agreed to pay $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, he extended the same sort of wide-mouthed welcome to its 20,000-odd staff. “I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers,” he said.
Only last week the company proved just how well it looks after its newly acquired children. It unceremoniously sold off the handset business to Lenovo, shoving the unloved Motorolans in the direction of another foster home (although hanging on to valuable patents).
This idea, so beloved of Mr Page and the cheesier half of corporate America, that employees are somehow part of the family is one of the most delusional metaphors of modern corporate life.
It is true that there are some similarities between a fake, workplace “family” and a real one. Members in each spend a lot of time together. In both there are probably some shared values and some shared dislike of certain other families. There can even be physical resemblances. Members of a real family may congenitally have weak chins, while in a fake one, employees may slavishly wear hoodies simply because the boss does.
Disingenuous and bogus
Otherwise the metaphor is cloying, disingenuous and all round bogus. For a start it is wrong on size. I know a bit about big families as my husband is one of seven children. But Google has 46,000 employees. No one can have that many siblings, or even third cousins twice removed.
It is also wrong on emotion. Families are the best Petri dish ever known for love – and for hate. Workplaces operate much more smoothly without either.
An even more crucial difference is that you don’t choose your family – you are stuck with them and can’t fire them if they are doing a rotten job. You can have a blazing row and tell them never to darken your door again, but they are still your family, whether you like it or not.
By contrast, when you leave a company you stop existing for them. Everyone writes on leaving cards “this place won’t be the same without you”, yet within an indecently short time it is exactly the same. There is nothing wrong with this. If relationships at work are contingent and opportunistic, it is because things go better that way.