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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Learning company culture from a bathroom visit

I read a long time ago that you can tell a lot about a company by how they treat employees where it matters. One of those metrics is low-tech but deeply meaningful: how well do they keep after the bathrooms? Do they charge you money for essential feminine needs products, or are the machines rigged to be free? Or do they skip the machine and just leave a big basket of supplies for anyone who might need them?

I've had the opportunity to visit two of the better known companies in the valley: Google and Facebook. Both of them win on the "free products" angle -- good for them. Where it starts diverging is in the intellectual content.

h4ck4thon bar code At Facebook, you run into things like this. Their "H A C K" motif is already prominent in other parts of their building (including the front doors), and then it shows up here in a stall. This sticker had clearly been around for a while -- note it says 2009. Incidentally, that code can be scanned, but it seems to be a meaningless 0-9 type sequence.

Bathroom Etiquette 101 Then here's Google's entry, taken a couple of days earlier. Yep, that does in fact say "Bathroom Etiquette 101", and includes such gems as what you should do if you "sprinkle when you tinkle". Someone actually thought this was a good idea and went to the trouble to create it, print a bunch of them, and then distribute them to multiple stalls (I checked).

What kind of message does this send? Come to Facebook and hack. Or, you know, go to Google and be treated like you're in kindergarten?