Google employees search for answers from management and colleagues as the company undergoes a mass layoff.
On Friday, AlphabetGoogle-owned Google announced it would cut 12,000 employees, about 6% of its full-time workforce. As employees braced for a possible layoff, they question leadership on layoff criteria, surprising some employees, who woke up to find their access to company property had been cut off. Some of the laid-off workers had long-term employment or had recently been promoted, raising questions about the criteria used to decide whose jobs were cut.
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Shortly after CEO Sundar Pichai’s first email to employees on Friday morning, Google search chief Prabhakar Raghavan sent an email to employees saying he “also feels a responsibility to reach out” and asking them to ask questions. save for next week’s town hall. There will be “bumps in the road” as the organization moves forward with the layoffs, Raghavan noted.
The company provided an FAQ about the layoffs, which CNBC has seen, but employees have complained that it doesn’t provide much detail on many answers. Employees flooded Dory, the company’s query platform, and set up virtual communities to find out who was fired and why. Directors have told employees to hold questions for city hall next week.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The battle highlights the challenges Google could face in maintaining a supportive and productive corporate culture for its troubled workforce of more than 160,000 full-time employees. Further confrontations are possible as the company said it plans to lay off international workers but has yet to determine which ones.
So far in the US, employees have been laid off in several business units, including Chrome, Cloud and the experimental Area 120 unit. Some employees who worked on the company’s artificial intelligence programs were also laid off, according to Bloomberg.
A list of top-rated employee questions viewed by CNBC included targeted questions for executives.
“How were the layoffs decided? Some high performers were let go by our teams,” read a top-rated question. “This negatively impacts the remaining Googlers who see someone with a lot of recognition, positive reviews, promotion but still get fired.”
“What statistics were used to determine who was fired?” read another top rated question. “Was the decision based on their performance, work size, or both, or something else?”
Another asked, “How much runway do we hope to gain with the layoffs?” and “Could you explain clearly what the layoff allows Google to do that Google couldn’t have done without layoffs?”
Another highly regarded questioned CEO Sundar Pichai’s statement, which said, “I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.”
“What does taking full responsibility mean?” an employee asked Dory. “Responsibility without consequence seems like an empty platitude. Is leadership waiving bonuses and pay raises this year? Is someone going to leave?”
Some employees met alone and organized ad hoc groups to get answers. Employees created a Google spreadsheet to track who was laid off and what part of the company they worked in.
More than 5,000 laid-off workers started a Discord channel called Google post-layoffs, ranging from topics like venting to labor organization and visa immigration. Some employees organized virtual Google meetings with people in video calls. Others tried to organize physical meetings.
Some turned to the company’s internal meme generator as a means of contact, for answers, and for comfort.
A meme showed Mila Kunis from the movie “Friends with Benefits.” Kunis spoke to the Google logo and said the line, “The sad thing is I actually thought you were different.” Another meme showed former President Bill Clinton gesturing the word “zero” with the caption “Leadership paycut”.
“Alphabet’s leadership claims ‘full responsibility’ for this decision, but that is little comfort to the 12,000 employees who are now jobless,” Parul Koul, executive chairman of Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, said in a statement Friday. “This is blatant and unacceptable behavior from a company that made $17 billion in profits in the last quarter alone.”