Google employees struggle for answers after lengthy layoffs

Google employees struggle for answers after lengthy layoffs

Google employees struggle to get answers from leaders and their peers as the company suffers a mass layoff.

On Friday, AlphabetGoogle, owned by Google, announced it was cutting 12,000 employees, about 6% of the full-time workforce. While employees had been preparing for a possible layoff, they are questioning leadership over the criteria for the layoffs, surprising some employees, who woke up to find their access to company property was cut off. Some of the laid off employees had been in the role for a long time or had been recently promoted, raising questions about the criteria used to decide which jobs were cut.

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Shortly after CEO Sundar Pichai’s initial email to employees on Friday morning, Google search chief Prabhakar Raghavan sent an email to employees saying he “also feels a responsibility to communicate” and asking them to save questions 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 frequently asked questions about the layoffs, which CNBC has seen, but employees have complained that it doesn’t elaborate on many answers. Employees flooded Dory, the company’s question-and-answer platform, setting up virtual communities to find out who’s been fired and why. Managers have been telling employees to ask questions for the town hall next week.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The fight highlights the challenges Google could face in maintaining a supportive and productive company culture for its restless workforce of more than 160,000 full-time employees. More confrontations are possible, as the company said it plans to lay off international employees, but has yet to determine which ones.

So far in the US, employees have been laid off at business units including Chrome, Cloud and its experimental Area 120 unit. Some employees working on the company’s artificial intelligence programs have also been laid off, according to Bloomberg.

A list of the top-rated questions from employees, seen by CNBC, contained direct questions for executives.

How were the layoffs decided? Some high-performance players were fired from our teams,” read one of the top-rated questions. “This negatively impacts the remaining Googlers who see someone with high recognition, positive reviews, promotion, but still get fired.”

“What metrics were used to determine who was fired?” another higher rated question was read. “Was the decision based on his performance, the scope of work, or both, or something else?”

Another asked: “How much runway do we hope to earn from the layoffs?” and “Could you clearly explain what the layoff allows Google to do that Google could not have done without the layoffs?”

Another highly rated questioned CEO Sundar Pichai’s statement, which read: “I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.”

“What does it mean to take full responsibility?” an employee asked about Dory. “Responsibility without consequences seems like an empty platitude. Is the leadership giving up bonuses and salary increases this year? Is someone going to retire?”

Some employees met on their own, organizing ad hoc groups to try to get answers. Employees created a Google doc spreadsheet as a way to keep track of who was laid off and where in the business they worked.

More than 5,000 laid-off employees have started a Discord channel called Google post-playoffs, covering topics from relief to labor organizing to visa immigration. Some employees hosted virtual Google Meetups with people on video calls. Others tried to arrange physical meetings.

Some turned to the company’s internal meme generator as a means to connect with each other, seeking answers and comfort.

One meme featured Mila Kunis from the movie “Friends with Benefits.” Kunis spoke to the Google logo, saying the line, “The sad thing is, I actually thought you were different.” Another meme featured former President Bill Clinton gesturing the word “zero” with the caption “Leadership Pay Cut.”

“Alphabet’s leadership claims ‘full responsibility’ for this decision, but that is little consolation for the 12,000 workers now out of work,” Parul Koul, chief executive of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, said in a statement on Friday.This is egregious and unacceptable behavior from a company that made $17 billion in profit in the last quarter alone.”

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