Carrying an extra passport
In ways that are hard to explain, working for a bigger tech company is like carrying an extra passport. Everyone else has to commute to work. You get driven in an air-conditioned private bus with dedicated wifi. Work visa failed to renew? No worries, do an intra-company transfer to one of several global hubs.
It’s not that the rules don’t apply to you, it’s that you have a safeguard for when the shit hits the fan.
And this week, that’s exactly what happened. The Supreme Court of the US overturned Roe v Wade and a bunch of tech companies rushed in to reassure their employees. Yes, the law of the land just changed. But, don’t worry. We will fly you out of state, we will approve relocation if you wish, we will take care of you. You will be insulated against the worst of anti-choice laws, regardless of where you live. This is a massive change in reproductive freedom for Americans, but not for you.
We’re not opposed to employers taking care of their employees. We’re not even upset that companies got gold stars for their employer brand in an otherwise hot talent market. But the extra passport is tricky. It has two profound impacts and whether those things are intended or not is hard to say.
An extra passport can make you feel like you have a perpetual plan B. Like whatever is going on in the world is someone else’s problem to solve. That untethered, unmoored thing means you pay less attention to the fucked-up-ed-ness of San Francisco. You can always move to Miami. Or Austin. Taxes are lower there anyway. Pulled all the way through, tech people resemble locusts. We come, we eat, we leave at the first signs of blight. Even when it’s blight we caused.
The other reason it’s tricky is that it reduces scrutiny on the issuing body. The company paying for the air conditioned, wifi-enabled shuttle or the round trip airfare to a blue state. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. They are doing all of this to take care of you. And it’d help out a whole awful lot if you didn’t ask what the public policy team has been up to for the past few years.
So here we are. Faced with this disastrous ruling. And it makes us wonder: how coherent are your organization’s actions on this one? We heard about the relocation policy, what other actions are they taking? Do they line up? Or are they shielding their employees from a political reality with one hand, while they help bankroll that reality with the other? The twitterverse has been quick to call out the companies whose statements don’t match their political spending. But that critique, lobbed at a brand’s social account, often stops at the social media manager.
It’s harder for organizations to ignore the questions that come from their own people. It’s harder to ignore questions from you.
What are our company’s policy/lobbying priorities right now?
Which candidates have we donated to that helped make this mess, and have we cut off that support?
How are we making our position clear, and what concrete steps are we taking to advance that position?
Those questions may produce some awkward shifting in seats. If this were about product strategy, the conversation would be all coherent actions and strong point of view. But when it comes to their role as political actors, many executives have shown that they don’t have the range. So, when you ask these questions, you may get a patronizing smile, and some version of, “we can’t do that. Donating across the board is how you play the game. If we want influence on the things we care about, we need to be in the room.”
You deserve better answers than that. You deserve better than to have your employer tell you that criminalizing abortion is “playing the game.” Some of you, when you push, will find out that your labour has been supporting an organization that helped fund what’s unfolding right now. And when you discover that, you deserve better than, “we don’t claim to get everything right.” You deserve better than, “we’re not all going to agree on everything anyway.”
We don’t need you to agree on everything. But, if you are one of those lucky humans who found yourself with an extra passport you didn’t know you had, we’re invoking Spiderman rules.
That company-issued passport affords you a set of privileges. Like the ability to flit between jurisdictions when the need arises. It also comes with an extra set of responsibilities. We need you engaged, informed, and asking tough questions at this week’s all hands. Even if you’re not American, or married to an American, now is a good time to get clear on how your organization is using its influence in the world. Particularly when your company’s public stance and their actions don’t line up.Source: Jonathan & Melissa / rawsignalgroup