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Google's once-happy offices are feeling the cold of layoffs

Google's once-happy offices are feeling the cold of layoffs

One afternoon in October when Diane Hirsh Theriault's coworker returned to Google's Cambridge, Massachusetts office after lunch, her work badge couldn't open the turnstile. She immediately realized that this was a sign that she was fired from her job.

Ms. Hirsh Theriault soon learned that most of her fellow Google News engineers in Cambridge had also lost their jobs. over 40 People A company union said layoffs took place in the news division, although many of them were later offered jobs elsewhere inside Google.

Ms. Hirsh Theriault's experience is becoming increasingly common at Google, where employees have been hit by job cuts in recent months, following a year of significant layoffs. 10 current and former Google employees said the layoffs have slowed projects and led employees to spend work hours trying to figure out which work groups were affected and who might be next, including Some requested anonymity so they could talk openly about their jobs. ,

Additionally, the layoffs have changed the narrative that had long defined working at Google; It was more of a community of tinkerers than a workaday office, where creativity and outside-the-box thinking were encouraged. It was a fun, different kind of place to work.

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said more than a year ago that the company would eliminate 12,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce. describe it as “a difficult decision to prepare us for the future”.

Those cuts this year add up to what Mr. Pichai said could be very small layoffs throughout the year. Since the beginning of January, the company has cut more than a thousand jobs, affecting its ad sales division, employees working on YouTube and the company's voice-powered assistant.

Google's parent company Alphabet has said it is trying to cut expenses to pay for its growing investments in artificial intelligence. And Google is trying to reduce layers of bureaucracy so employees can focus on the company's biggest priorities, said Google spokeswoman Courtenay Mancini. The company said it is not making companywide layoffs and that the restructuring is part of the normal course of business.

“The reality is that to create capacity for this investment, we will have to make difficult choices,” Mr. Pichai wrote in a note to employees on Jan. 17. For some divisions, “this means restructuring and, in some cases, elimination.” Roles.” He added that teams could still cut additional roles throughout the year.

Employees say the workplace environment has become depressing. While Google is moving quickly to develop artificial intelligence products and keep pace with competitors like Microsoft and start-up OpenAI, some of the people building the company's technology feel less important.

Now “the buildings are half empty at 4:30,” Ms. Hirsh Theriault wrote in a linkedin post, “I know many people, including myself, who would happily work extra work in the evenings and weekends to complete demos or just out of boredom. He is gone.”

Google's layoffs have been smaller than some other big tech companies like Meta. And as a percentage of the company's total workforce, they are much smaller than recent cuts at companies like Xerox and livestreaming platform Twitch. Google's full-time workforce stood at 182,502 at the end of 2023, just 4 percent less than at the end of 2022. On Tuesday, the company said it had profit of $20.7 billion in the final quarter of 2023, up 52 percent from a year earlier. First.

But Google's job cuts have been accompanied by sweeping changes to the way the company operates as it has shuffled work groups and eliminated management layers. Workers complain that the restructuring has been carried out in a disorganized manner and poorly communicated.

When YouTube removed one of its vendor manager teams, which was responsible for approving purchase orders so that content moderation firms could get paid, the company did not inform other groups that rely on the team, a However, some workers were offered a chance to get their jobs back, the person said.

When layoffs resumed in January, a Google employee in Switzerland started an internal document for employees to keep track of job cuts because the company has given them little information about where it is making cuts. . Employees said the document has become an essential source of information, along with news reports, social media and old-fashioned office rumor.

“From an HR perspective, it's a nightmare,” said Meghan M. Biro, whose firm, TalentCulture, creates content about best practices in human resources. “This completely reverses their image as a desirable employer.”

Google said leaders clearly communicated to teams when changes were coming.

Workers warned in interviews that some of the cuts could prove disruptive to parts of the business that are already struggling to meet complex tasks. In January, Google laid off hundreds of employees from its core engineering organization, which was responsible for the infrastructure and tools used at the company.

One of the main priorities of the core division is Helping Google comply The legislation will come into effect on March 6, along with the European Digital Markets Act. The law would force tech giants to show consumers their preferences for online services, such as web browsers, and force them to obtain consent to share user data within the company. But two people with knowledge of the matter said employees working on the effort fear the company is running behind schedule and it may be difficult for Google to fully comply with the deadline.

Google said it rolled out consent screens for European users in January and expected to roll out more changes before the deadline. It said recent job cuts at its core division will not impact timing.

Google employees have long been encouraged to work on experimental projects. But doing anything experimental last year has proved risky, said four employees on condition of anonymity. the company is almost closed area 120its in-house incubator that attempted to develop new products and services, and changed strategy of X, a so-called “moonshot factory” that tried to create new companies.

Google said employees are constantly doing “extraordinarily innovative, ambitious things across the company.”

Five people said employees are more reluctant to ask for so-called 20 percent, or side, projects, which used to be a way to explore an idea outside of their regular work that they found attractive. It was a regrettable change for Rupert Breheny, who spent 16 years at Google, mostly in Zurich, working on products like Google Street View in Maps.

“The thing that took you to Google was passion,” said Mr. Breheny, who was laid off last summer. “You can have fun making stuff. It remained like this for a long time.”

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2024/02/02/multimedia/00google-culture-02-hpvb/00google-culture-02-hpvb-facebookJumbo.jpg

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