As soon as my HR complaint was filed, Google went from being a great place to work to that of any other company – it would protect itself first. I had structured my life around my job – exactly what they wanted me to do – but it only made the fallout worse when I learned that the workplace I cherished saw me as an employee. , one of many and disposable.
The process lasted almost three months. In the meantime, I had to have one-on-one meetings with my stalker and sit next to him. Whenever I asked for a schedule update and expressed unease at having to continue working near my stalker, investigators said I could ask for advice, work from home, or go on leave. I later learned that Google had similar responses from other employees who had reported racism or sexism. Claire Stapleton, one of the organizers of the 2018 walkout, was encouraged to take time off, and Timnit Gebru, a senior researcher in Google’s artificial intelligence team, was encouraged to seek mental health treatment before ‘to be expelled.
I resisted. How could being alone all day, other than my coworkers, friends and support system help? And I was worried that if I pulled out, the company would not continue the investigation.
Eventually, investigators corroborated my claims and found that my technical manager had violated the code of conduct and the harassment policy. My stalker was still sitting next to me. My manager told me that HR wouldn’t even make him move offices, let alone work from home or go on leave. He also told me that my stalker had received a serious consequence and that I would feel better if I could find out what it was, but it seemed like nothing happened.
The consequences of speaking had shattered me. It brought back betrayals from my past that I had gotten into technology to try to overcome. I had made myself vulnerable to my manager and investigators, but felt I had nothing solid in return. I was constantly on the verge of seeing my stalker in the hallways and in cafes. When people came up behind my desk, I jumped more and more easily, my scream echoing through the open plan office. I feared that I would have a poor performance review, ruin my upward trajectory and take my career back even further.
I spent weeks without sleeping at night.
I decided to take three months of paid leave. I was concerned that going on leave would put me back for a promotion in a place where almost everyone’s progress is public and seen as a measure of an engineer’s worth and expertise. Like most of my colleagues, I had built my life around the company. It could so easily be removed. People on leave weren’t supposed to come into the office – where I went to the gym and had my whole life social.
Fortunately, I still had a job when I returned. In fact, I was more eager than ever to excel, to make up for lost time. I was able to achieve a very high performance rating – my second in a row. But it seemed clear that I wouldn’t be running for promotion. After my leave, the manager I loved began to treat me as fragile. He tried to analyze me, suggesting that I was drinking too much caffeine, not getting enough sleep, or that I needed more cardiovascular exercise. Speaking up has irreparably damaged one of my most precious relationships. Six months after my return, when I brought up the subject of promotion, he said to me, “People in wooden houses should not light matches.”