August 11, 2021
Photo: Alvarez/Getty Images
It goes by many names: "Corporate Memphis," the "tech aesthetic." You can make your own with "illustration systems" like Humaaans, or pay someone $10 on Fiverr to make them for you. Like so many bad things on the internet, you can trace these colorful images of people with "non-representational skin colors" back to Facebook. The "illustration and animation ecosystem" is called "Facebook Alegria" (Alegria is Spanish for "joy.") But to some, these illustrations are anything but joyful as they've come to symbolize everything that's wrong with art in the age of the gig economy. Read about the plight of the overworked, underpaid freelance illustrator and the importance of not skimping on original illustration.
Elsewhere on Workplace our reporters have been busy delving into vaccine mandates in Texas, company codes of conduct, the unprecedented public grumblings of Apple employees and how one head of diversity is solving the company's labor shortage by finding talent in places others don't think to look.
As always, I'm available via email or on Twitter at @meganmorrone for any tips, story ideas, illustrations that don't look like Facebook Alegria, or questions you want answered about the tech workplace.
See you next week,
Senior Editor, Protocol Workplace
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Houston-based Hewlett Packard Enterprise said Tuesday that it would implement its own vaccine mandate, demanding that workers submit proof of vaccination in a mandate that goes into effect in October.
"It is now clear that COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while, and that getting back to normal will take more than masks and distancing," tweeted HPE CEO Antonio Neri, who survived the virus himself last year.
Mandates at companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft haven't inspired any widespread backlash from employees — at least not publicly, and not yet — but some companies have reported pushback from employees in regions of the country with lower vaccination rates.
We'll see how HPE's mandate plays out among its employee base in Texas, a state whose government has shown particular hostility to vaccine mandates.
HR managers and lawyers usually write workplace handbook policies to protect companies from legal liability — and to make it easier to fire people. What they don't often do is write codes of conduct that enshrine workplace expectations beyond the law, like what defines a toxic workplace or how managers should treat their teams.
"In some places, they use the code of conduct as a cudgel for the letter of the law, as opposed to actually looking for the intent. A code of conduct, typically, is intended to protect companies. That is their raison d'etre. Should it be that way? No, in my opinion," Lisa Gelobter, the CEO of third-party ombuds service tEQuitable, told Protocol.
Ellen Pao, the CEO of non-profit advocacy group Project Include, says workers and company leaders need to partner together to define institutional values and explain how those should be enacted in practice. And to ensure that workers trust their companies when they investigate code-of-conduct violations, Pao also wonders if there needs to be some industry-wide funded service. "I just worry about the business model. You have to be a really strong leader in an outside organization to report really terrible problems," she told me.
— Anna Kramer (twitter)
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The usually quiet Apple workplace has been bubbling over with public protests the last six months; first there was a (successful) petition to dismiss a well-known new hire with a sexist reputation, then a public letter demanding more flexible return-to-work policies. In the last week, Apple workers have spoken publicly about two more major workplace issues: Apple forced one engineering manager on leave after she tweeted about her experiences of sexism at work, and the company has also removed three employee-run pay equity surveys from the company's internal messaging platform. That's a lot of public outrage from a normally well-controlled staff.
There is a problem with the pipeline, but not in the way some in the tech industry want you to think. There's not a lack of people of color with the skills necessary to succeed in the tech industry. There is, however, a lack of ingenuity in how tech companies think about where to find talent.
Shaka Senghor, the head of diversity at corporate travel startup TripActions, sees an untapped talent opportunity in "systems-impacted" communities, he told Protocol.
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