Google Lessons in Management: Motivating Some, Demotivating Others

May 14, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I spotted an interesting comment in “Google Workers Complain of Decline in Morale’ as CEO Sundar Pichai Grilled over Raises, Layoffs: Increased distrust.” Here’s the passage:

Last month, the company fired 200 more workers, aside from the roughly 50 staffers involved in the protests, and shifted jobs abroad to Mexico and India.

I paired this Xhitter item with “Google Employees Question Execs over Decline in Morale after Blowout Earnings.” That write up asserted:

At an all-hands meeting last week, Google employees questioned leadership about cost cuts, layoffs and “morale” issues following the company’s better-than-expected first-quarter earnings report. CEO Sundar Pichai and CFO Ruth Porat said the company will likely have fewer layoffs in the second half of 2024.


Poor, poor Googzilla. I think the fearsome alleged monopolist could lose a few pounds. What do you think? Thanks, MSFT Copilot good enough work just like some security models we know and love.

Not no layoffs. Just “fewer layoffs.” Okay, that a motivator.

The estimable “real” news service stated:

Alphabet’s top leadership has been on the defensive for the past few years, as vocal staffers have railed about post-pandemic return-to-office mandates, the company’s cloud contracts with the military, fewer perks and an extended stretch of layoffs — totaling more than 12,000 last year — along with other cost cuts that began when the economy turned in 2022. Employees have also complained about a lack of trust and demands that they work on tighter deadlines with fewer resources and diminished opportunities for internal advancement.

What’s wrong with this management method? The answer: Absolutely nothing. The write up included this bit of information:

She [Ruth Porat, Google CFO, who is quitting the volleyball and foosball facility] also took the rare step of admitting to leadership’s mistakes in its prior handling of investments. “The problem is a couple of years ago — two years ago, to be precise — we actually got that upside down and expenses started growing faster than revenues,” said Porat, who announced nearly a year ago [in 2023] that she would be stepping down from the CFO position but hasn’t yet vacated the office. “The problem with that is it’s not sustainable.”

Ever tactful, Sundar Pichai (the straight man in the Sundar & Prabhakar Comedy Team is quoted as saying in silky tones:

“I think you almost set the record for the longest TGIF answer,” he said. Google all-hands meetings were originally called TGIFs because they took place on Fridays, but now they can occur on other days of the week. Pichai then joked that leadership should hold a “Finance 101” Ted Talk for employees. With respect to the decline in morale brought up by employees, Pichai said “leadership has a lot of responsibility here, adding that “it’s an iterative process.”

That’s a demonstration of tactful high school science club management-speak, in my opinion. To emphasize the future opportunities for the world’s smartest people, he allegedly said, according to the write up:

Pichai said the company is “working through a long period of transition as a company” which includes cutting expenses and “driving efficiencies.” Regarding the latter point, he said, “We want to do this forever.” [Editor note: Emphasis added]

Forever is a long, long time, isn’t it?

Poor, addled Googzilla. Litigation to the left, litigation to the right. Grousing world’s smartest employees. A legacy of baby making in the legal department. Apple apparently falling in lust with OpenAI. Amazon and its pesky Yellow Pages approach to advertising.

The sky is not falling, but there are some dark clouds overhead. And, speaking of overhead, is Google ever going to be able to control its costs, pay off its technical debt, write checks to the governments when the firm is unjustly found guilty of assorted transgressions?

For now, yes. Forever? Sure, why not?

Stephen E Arnold, May 14, 2024


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