A new survey from the Lincoln Group of employees in tech companies has come across some troubling findings. Over two thirds of employees in tech companies who describe themselves as libertarian or conservative say that they feel uncomfortable at their place of work. The survey collected quotes from respondents, such as this conservative:
“Basically, you have to keep a facade and just smile, nod when comments you deeply disagree with are made because of the monoculture. It’s a very isolating and ostracizing environment. There’s no break from it sometimes ... Just walking to lunch, even the surrounding strangers give no rest with their constant negative talking against my views. It can be very disheartening.”
Or this libertarian: “There are conservatives and libertarians hiding in tech, and they talk amongst themselves about their frustrations. But it has to be like a secret society, or there might be repercussions.”
There are several problems with this situation: the first is the problem of human dignity. Freedom of speech, feeling free to express yourself and your political views, is an important part of human dignity, and companies that punish you for not adhering to Bay Area orthodoxy are directly undermining that. Having to work in an “isolating and ostracizing environment,” fearing “repercussions” if you express libertarian views out loud – these things are not acceptable, purely on the basis of how you’re supposed to treat humans.
But beyond that, it’s bad for business. It’s often forgotten what the purpose of these companies is: being productive. All the FAANG companies, just like every other company listed publicly, have a responsibility to deliver for their shareholders. As such, they have a responsibility to deal with their employees in a way that maximizes their productivity. Creating an environment in which workers are penalized for things not related to their ability to produce undermines that central goal. If employees at a company are shunned, or even fired, for reasons unrelated to their purpose as employees, that company is failing to live up to their responsibility.
A monolithic political ideology might also indicate a monolithic business ideology. If your company is used to censoring and shaming people for their political beliefs, making them feel that they can’t express themselves, what does that say about their attitude towards new or different ideas in general?
There is some good news, however. Since these stocks are publicly traded, shareholders have the ability to intervene. If you’re a shareholder in Google, for instance, you own part of the company. You can advocate for a more open-minded corporate culture in the companies you own - because you own them, and because denigrating people for merely having conservative political beliefs is both immoral and bad for human productivity. The corporate managers and CEOs at these tech companies have an obligation to put productivity first: they’re a publicly traded company, and their purpose is to serve their shareholders, not to engineer a hostile environment for political dissenters.