The tech giant has been caught up in the wave of tech layoffs sweeping the industry. Executives have already axed more than 1,000 workers this month, with CEO Sundar Pichai telling staff that more layoffs are coming this year, per The Verge.
Google expects to pay out $700 million in severance costs this quarter, according to Alphabet’s latest results released Tuesday. Severance and other related costs totaled $2.1 billion for 2023.
Unsurprisingly, the cuts have gone down badly with remaining Google employees, with some lashing out at the tech giant’s “boring and glassy-eyed” leaders.
The tech company, long known for its workplace culture and lavish perks, has long been one of the most desirable places to work.
Perhaps that’s why Googlers are so disturbed by this new way of doing business. While the recent layoffs are not the first in Google’s history — it made a 6% cut last year — they do signal that the days of treating employees like family are over.
A lot of this comes down to breaking an “unwritten” or “psychological” contract employees have with companies, Ben Hardy, a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, told Business Insider.
Access to various perks and a sense of “psychological safety” may not be explicitly stated in an employee’s contract, but Google workers have come to expect these things because of the company’s reputation.
Hardy added that the first round of layoffs breached this unwritten contract with employees, but the latest cuts might have changed it forever.
“The reason they’re taking it harder is that it’s not a feeling of ‘Google doing what Google has to do.’ For employees, it feels like maybe they fundamentally got this wrong about that organization. Maybe this isn’t the place they thought it was,” he said.
Google will likely continue to reshape its business to adapt to market demands, meaning a workplace culture defined by rounds of layoffs may be the new normal.
“Google was known for a long time as being the top company — everybody wanted to work there,” Thomas Roulet, a professor of organizational sociology and leadership at the Univerity of Cambridge, told Business Insider. “Now, it’s flipped partly because of the rise of generative AI, which is really threatening some of the core businesses at Google.”
He added: “Working for Google is just not as sexy and exciting as it used to be, especially if you are at risk of being laid off anytime.”
The layoffs and changing culture at Google could come back to haunt the company in more ways than one, causing trouble for retention and recruitment, Roulet said.
“If you start laying off people, the people who are left behind have lower trust. They are at risk of sabotaging their own culture and losing some of their top employees.”
‘Not just robots’
Google has created an environment where its employees have a voice and are largely unafraid to use it.
Googlers are also unique in their autonomy, Roulet said. “They’re not just robots — they actually have their own thoughts about what the firm should be doing,” he said, pointing to the company’s long history of internal activism.
Beyond the free food and ski trips, Google’s also worked hard to cultivate a culture of creativity. The psychological effects of ongoing layoffs may also affect how employees do their jobs.
“The space to create and innovate is completely at odds with the risk of layoffs. Workers will not be as creative, and how they carry out their jobs will be more conservative,” Roulet said.
Google did not respond to a request for comment from BI.
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