Ah, Google: Does Confusion Signal a Mental Health Issue?

March 8, 2021

Upon rising this morning, I noted this item in “The New Google Pay Repeats All the Same Mistakes of Google Allo.” The idea is that Google management has reinvented an application, changed the fee method, and named the “new” Google Pay app “Google Pay.” According to the write up:

Google is killing one perfectly fine service and replacing it with a worse, less functional service.

Slashdot’s item about this remarkable “innovation” includes this comment:

The worst part of it all is that, like the move from Google Music to YouTube Music, there is no reward at the end of this transition.

I have to admit that I don’t remember much about my college psych course, but I seem to recall something called Schizoaffective Disorder. Shrinks revel in such behaviors as sometimes strange beliefs that the person refuses to give up, even when they get the facts; problems with speech and communication, only giving partial answers to questions or giving answers that are unrelated; and problems with speech and communication, only giving partial answers to questions, or giving answers that are unrelated, and trouble at work, school, or in social settings. (Yep, I had to get some help from the ever reliable Webmd.com.)

More intriguing was the news item “Google Advised Mental Health Care When Workers Complained about Racism and Sexism.” That article asserted:

In early 2020, a Black woman attended a Google meeting about supporting women at the company where data was presented that showed the rate that underrepresented minority employees were leaving the company. When she said that Black, Latina and Native American women have vastly different experiences than their white female colleagues and advised that Google address the issue internally, her manager brusquely responded, telling her that her suggestion was not relevant, the woman said. The woman then complained to human resources, who advised her to coach the manager about her problematic response or take medical leave to tend to her own mental health, she said. The woman also spoke on the condition of anonymity because she’s still an employee and not permitted to speak to reporters.

Does this mean that the women who worked in ethical artificial intelligent were “mentally unfit” for the Google?

Stepping back, the problem may not be with the Google Pay app or the people reported as mental health concerns. The problem appears to reside in the culture and explicit and implicit “rules of the road” for Alphabet Google.

Several observations may be warranted:

  • The legal attention Google is drawing should result in lower profile or significant efforts to avoid personnel related issues becoming news. Google’s behavior appears to generate significant attention and spark outrage, including increased employee annoyance.
  • The financial pressures on Google should be sparking wizards to craft well conceived, highly desirable ways to monetize billions of users who make use of “free” Google services. It certainly seems that Google is taking steps which seem to be irrational to those outside Google whilst appearing to be logical to those steeped in the Google milieu. The Google culture could be a form of milieu therapy which feeds to possible Schizoaffective Disorder.
  • Google’s management behaviors are interesting. On one hand, naming services underscores the problems the firm has with speech and communication. On the other hand, mashing racial, social, and ethical hot buttons seems to escalate the stakes in the personnel game.

Net net: I think these behaviors are interesting. What these actions really mean must be left to user, employees, lawyers, and probably psychiatrists. These actions are further evidence of the weaknesses of the high school science club approach to management. Here in rural Kentucky, one of my research team said, “Crazy.”

That’s quite an observation about a big, informed, powerful company.

Stephen E Arnold, March 8, 2021


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