Dating back to January 2023, it seems like Google just can’t get away from layoffs. The company cut 12,000 jobs in January 2023 and followed that up with another few thousand layoffs to start 2024. What’s more, is that Google CEO Sundar Pichai outright confirmed layoffs will continue throughout this year. All this has caused company morale at Google to plummet, and its CEO isn’t doing much to weather the storm. In an all-hands meeting heard by The Verge’s Alex Heath, Pichai failed to significantly acknowledge the growing rift between Google employees and leadership.
The comments from Pichai came after an employee raised a question about how company leaders and workers can find trust again. “There seems to be a growing rift between leadership and employees,” one employee said, as relayed by Inc. “What is leadership’s perspective/awareness of this? Do you think there is a problem, is there anything being done to push us back to a relationship of mutual trust?”
In response to this kind of question, you might expect a leader like Pichai to address this concern directly. However, the Google CEO barely acknowledged that the company had a morale issue at all. “People feel it on the ground and sometimes people write back and say, ‘Thank you for simplifying,’” he said. “Sometimes we have a complicated, duplicative structure.” This goes back to Google and Pichai’s belief that layoffs are simply a means to achieving peak efficiency, and nothing more.
Pichai also sees the decisions as necessary, which he expressed in response to a question raised by another employee. “Part of leadership is also making the tough decisions that are needed,” said Pichai.
The comments echo an earlier memo to employees, in which Pichai justified the job cuts. “We have ambitious goals and will be investing in our big priorities this year,” Pichai said in the memo. “The reality is that to create the capacity for this investment, we have to make tough choices.”
What the Google CEO is missing about company morale
It appears that Pichai has simply lost touch with the fact that his leadership decisions have effects on the lives of real people. That’s true even if they’re for “efficiency,” or if you call them “role eliminations.” People are losing their jobs and their livelihoods. Somehow, Pichai fails to consider that Google has a company morale problem. Employees exist in a state of constant distress, not knowing if they will be laid off next. It’s not a great environment, and it’s shocking that Pichai has done so little to address it so far.
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