Change in Leadership at Alphabet, Google, May Give Rise to Change in 'Unbalanced' Power Dynamics
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Change in Leadership at Alphabet, Google, May Give Rise to Change in 'Unbalanced' Power Dynamics

Trouble is brewing for one of the top legal executives of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is embroiled in investigations connected to possible liaisons with female employees. Drummond is scheduled to exit Alphabet at the end of the month, prompting many to believe that his departure is connected to recent inquiries about misconduct.

Drummond began working for Google nearly two decades ago, eventually rising in rank to become its corporate development officer. During that time, Drummond shepherded the company through a host of legal triumphs. However, questions about his behavior with subordinate staff began to sideline some of his professional victories.

In the early 2000s, Drummond, who was then married to his first wife, began an affair with Jennifer Blakely, a subordinate on the legal team. The extramarital affair produced a child, causing Google to present its policies of preventing superiors and subordinates from engaging in romantic relationships. The enforcement caused Blakely to leave the company, after which, she alleges, Drummond’s extramarital affairs with other subordinates began.

Other than Jennifer, I have never started a relationship with anyone else who was working at Google or Alphabet,” Drummond said in a statement, according to BuzzFeed News.

It is worth noting that Drummond has since married a company employee. The longstanding employee, who was once part of the legal team, but not a direct report of Drummond, transferred to another company, returning to Google a few years later. The relationship is said to have begun while she was not an employee of Google.

The story of Drummond’s alleged personal pursuits while in the professional arena recalls a closely watched trend of males using status and privilege to treat women inappropriately. In a blistering blog, Blakely refers to Drummond as “powerful” and “ruthless,” and describes the time following their acrimonious split as “hell,” in part because of the unmatched power dynamic. It is probable that this dynamic is exactly what has led to Drummond’s swift exit that is set for Jan. 31, according to a note obtained by CNBC:

“With Larry and Sergey now leaving their executive roles at Alphabet, the company is entering an exciting new phase, and I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders,” Drummond’s note read. “As a result, after careful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of this month.”

Despite earnings of $47 million in 2018, Drummond will leave without a compensation package, adding more fuel to speculation about other reasons for his departure.

In the wake of Drummond’s imminent departure, and the exits of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company has appointed Sundar Pichai as its new CEO and that of its parent company. Given the allegations swirling around Drummond, disapproval voiced by a former male colleague, and the employee protests related to overall “unbalanced” misconduct issues, it is clear that established patterns are not working. Some hope that the change in leadership will precipitate a shift in superior-subordinate power dynamics on the job.

As Blakely states in her blog, “Until truth is willing to speak to power and is heard, there’s not going to be the sea change necessary to bring equality to the workplace.”

Many on both sides of the equation would agree.