Some Google employees who survived the recent cull of around 12,000 staff cried during meetings the day layoffs were announced, a serving employee told Insider.
In video calls that day, “some of the folks were sobbing, they were drying their eyes,” the employee, an engineer for Google on the East Coast, said.
On January 20, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, announced layoffs equating to about 6% of the company’s global workforce. Pichai told remaining staff they could work from home that day to process the “difficult news.”
The East Coast engineer, who has worked at Google for more than 10 years, requested anonymity to protect his employment but his identity is known to Insider.
He said that when surviving staff ask each other how they’re doing, some joke they’re alright because they still have their jobs. People nod to each other with a shared sense of understanding when passing each other in the office, he said: “It’s not the typical nonverbal interaction there used to be before. Now it’s a meaningful nod.”
‘Just another big company’
An engineer on the West Coast who’s been with Google for more than 10 years told Insider surviving staff were “angry and sad.”
“We truly did believe that Google was something different,” he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his employment but his identity is known to Insider.
“This is just another big company,” he said. “Now, anything that used to feel special or like you really were a part of a mission — not just a big money-making machine — that feeling is I think gone.”
Both engineers said some remaining employees were worried about further cuts.
The East Coast engineer said Google employees were often headhunted but didn’t leave because of the perks and sense of job security — but perks had been gradually been “stripped down” and the layoffs meant employment didn’t feel as secure any more, he said.
“Now what is left to distinguish this company from any other company, any other recruiter that contacts us with a good offer?” he added.
Laid-off Google staff in the US woke up on January 20 to an email saying they’d been cut, though some found out through messages from concerned colleagues.
Nicholas Whitaker, who worked in Google’s people development team before being laid off, told Insider he saw messages from colleagues that morning asking if he was okay and thought there’d been a shooting or a natural disaster.
As access to company systems was cut off on January 20, laid-off staff were forced to reach out to colleagues by other means to say goodbye.
The West Coast engineer said surviving staff were given no information about who’d been let go, aside from a “cannot connect” message on Google’s internal communication system if they tried to contact them.
Several laid-off staff told Insider they’d been overwhelmed by offers of help from current and former staff, such as offers to share résumés. Xoogler, a community of former Google staff, has organized mental-health and immigration-advice sessions. Whitaker said he was offering free meditation and mindfulness sessions.
“I miss my colleagues,” Jarrod Ahalt, a laid-off security engineer, told Insider. “We’ve been trying to support each other as best as we can.”
Google didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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