Does CEO Mark Zuckerberg care about his Facebook employees?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been in the news an awful lot lately, with not a lot to be happy about. The parent company to the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp – some of the most influential social media platforms & messaging apps – is marred with issues of racial injustice in the workplace, inciting a polarizing election, the conspicuous absence of ethical standards or fact-checks in advertisements, etcetera.
Now, the company that’s dealing with a torrent of abuse issues – all the way from privacy to antirust – is also being asked if it cares for its own employees at all. Let’s zoom into the situation.
A good company in a storm?
In mid-July, when Zuckerberg conducted a live Q&A, he was asked a question by his employees that alluded to their perks being hit amidst the pandemic. While it’s true that no one had seen the pandemic & the lockdown coming, it’s only reasonable on the part of employees to ask fair benefits of their employers.
The exact question went, “A major sell to candidates is our office perks include free food, And now, with work from home, we’ve lost a huge financial part of our package. What is the plan on this?” this question had been polled over to one of the top questions of the session.
Now, if we back up a little & look at the larger picture, Facebook has been very agile in its COVID-10 relief response. For one, it kicked into motion a $100 million grant program to serve & support small businesses during this trying time. They even announced that they will continue to honor all 2020 research conference sponsorships even in the event that the conference cannot physically take place.
The company also did a bit to be a good employer by announcing $1,000 bonuses for employees, along with the promise that they’ll be given only the best marks for their performance in the first half, irrespective of how they actually performed.
Let’s get food on the table
All of that sounds grand, but with the specificity of the aforementioned question, we anticipated an equally specific answer. Facebook pantry is usually a goldmine of free Hint water, La Croix cans, energy bars, and fruits. Now that the employees have lost access to these stocks, they want a commensurate substitute.
Zuckerberg addressed this question, with a hint of amusement & disbelief, “I’m not sure if I’m missing something from this question but I certainly haven’t seen any data that suggests that free food is anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company.”
He went on to explain why this question caught him off-guard. Because he doesn’t look at the food as a perk, “I hope it’s not. I hope if you’re watching this, and I’d imagine that you’re here for some combination of reasons around the mission of the company, the impact that we can have in the world, trying to make sure that that’s as positive as possible. … Those are typically the things that come up, not free food.”
Hinting at the larger culture?
Now, this may seem trivial to many, but the devil, as they say, is often in the details. Therefore, Facebook CEO dismissing this question might come across as distasteful and indicative of the larger culture. On one hand, there’s this practise of having open lines of communication with people across the company’s global operations, but on the other hand, a curt dismissal of the legitimacy of employee perks in the midst of a pandemic.
It doesn’t sit well with us, especially when it’s clear that the pandemic might affect certain regions & sections of the population more than the others.