04 May 2017
How Sheryl Sandberg’s Sharing Manifesto Drives FacebookTopics:
Photo by Mark Peterson for Bloomberg Businessweek
A recent BloombergBusinessweek magazine profile of Sheryl Sandberg (MBA 1995) offers an in-depth look at the Facebook COO’s philosophy of sharing and how that vision guides the company—now the world’s fifth largest by market value.
The article traces Sandberg’s focus on transparency to her time at another tech giant:
Sandberg contends that she’s almost an accidental prophet of openness in the workplace. A decade ago, as an executive at Google Inc., she always worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Then her first child was born, and she found she couldn’t stand coming home to find him already asleep. She started sneaking out of the office early, sometimes placing a decoy jacket on her chair, leaving the light on at her desk, or scheduling afternoon meetings in other buildings so her colleagues wouldn’t see her leave. The subterfuge continued for years. Then in 2012, about a month before Facebook’s initial public offering, she admitted to a reporter that she regularly left work at 5:30.
The revelation blared across multiple news outlets. Sandberg was worried that she would be lectured or fired. Instead, her brazenness was heralded by other female professionals. The women of the legal team at Yahoo! Inc. sent her flowers with a card saying that they, too, were leaving at 5:30. “I didn’t realize how much noise there would be,” Sandberg says. “A friend told me, ‘You couldn’t have gotten more publicity if you murdered someone with an ax.’ ”
The article also focuses on Sandberg’s new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, which deals in part with Sandberg’s coming to terms with the death of her husband David Goldberg in 2015. After her loss, the article notes, Sandberg felt “isolated” at work.
People avoided her gaze. Interactions became stilted. She confided to [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg that she felt as though her workplace friendships were melting away. One night before bed, she wrote a 1,700-word explanation of what she was going through and how she hoped people would interact with her. It started as a cathartic exercise. She didn’t think she would publish it, but when she woke up, she changed her mind and put it on Facebook. In Lean In, Sandberg had admitted to crying at work (another confession the media jumped on), but this was the first time she’d shared anything so deeply personal. The post received 74,000 comments, many from co-workers acknowledging her struggle.
After noting some of the other political and commercial opportunities potentially available to her—“ Walt Disney Co. CEO or California senator”—the magazine reports that Sandberg wants to stay put.
Alongside encouraging warm, open conversation among employees, she and Zuckerberg have implemented longer bereavement plans and more flex time for coping with life tragedies, policies which, if they spread to other companies, would offer a tangible payoff for all this job-mandated vulnerability. “I work on something I really believe in with my best friend. I think I’m doing this,” she says of her intention to stay put. “I don’t know how many times to say it.”
Class of MBA 1995, Section B