Google employees are scrambling for answers after layoffs hit longtime employees

Google employees seek answers from managers and colleagues as the company undergoes a massive layoff.

On Friday, AlphabetGoogle announced it was cutting 12,000 jobs, about 6% of its full-time workforce. While employees had been preparing for a potential layoff, they are questioning management about the criteria for layoffs, which surprised some employees, who woke up to find their access to company properties cut off. Some of the laid-off employees had been hired or recently promoted, raising questions about the criteria used to determine whose jobs were cut.

Shortly after CEO Sundar Pichai̵[ads1]7;s first email to employees Friday morning, Google search chief Prabhakar Raghavan sent an email to employees saying he “also feels the responsibility to reach out” and asked them to save questions for next week’s town hall. There will be “bumps in the road” as the organization moves forward with the layoffs, Raghavan noted.

The company provided an FAQ for the layoffs, which CNBC has seen, but employees have complained that it doesn’t provide much detail on many answers. Employees have flooded Dory, the company’s questions platform, and set up virtual communities to find out who has been laid off and why. Directors have asked staff to take questions to the town hall taking place next week.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The fight highlights the challenges Google may face in maintaining a supportive and productive corporate culture for its laid-back workforce of more than 160,000 full-time employees. Further confrontations are possible, as the company said it plans to lay off international employees, but has not yet decided which ones.

So far in the US, employees have been laid off across business units, including Chrome, Cloud and its experimental Area 120 unit. Some employees working on the company’s artificial intelligence programs were also laid off, according to Bloomberg.

A list of top-rated inquiries from employees, seen by CNBC, featured pointed questions for executives.

“How were the layoffs decided? Some high-performing players were dropped from our teams,” read a top-rated question. “This negatively affects the remaining Googlers who see someone with high recognition, positive reviews, advertising, but still get laid off.”

“What metrics were used to determine who was laid off?” another top rated question read. “Was the decision based on their performance, workload or both, or something else?”

Another asked: “How much runway do we hope to get with the layoffs?” and “Will you explain clearly what the layoffs allow Google to do that Google could not have done without the layoffs?”

Another high-profile questioned CEO Sundar Pichai’s statement, saying, “I take full responsibility for the decisions that got us here.”

“What does it mean to take full responsibility?”, asked an employee at Dory. “Responsibility without consequences seems like an empty platitude. Is the management forgoing bonuses and salary increases this year? Will anyone resign?”

Some employees came together on their own and organized ad hoc groups to try to get answers. Employees created a Google Docs spreadsheet as a way to keep track of people who were laid off and what part of the business they worked in.

More than 5,000 laid-off employees started a Discord channel called Google After Layoffs, which ranges in topics from ventilation to work organization and visa immigration. Some employees organized virtual Google meetings with people on video calls. Others tried to organize physical meetings.

Some turned to the company’s internal meme generator as a means of connecting with each other, for answers and for comfort.

One meme showed Mila Kunis from the movie “Friends with Benefits”. Speaking with the Google logo, Kunis said, “The sad thing is, I actually thought you were different.” Another meme showed former President Bill Clinton gesturing the word “zero” with the caption “Executive pay cut.”

“Alphabet management claims ‘full responsibility’ for this decision, but there is little consolation for the 12,000 workers who are now out of work,” Parul Koul, executive chairman of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, said in a statement on Friday.This is egregious and unacceptable behavior by a company that made $17 billion in profits last quarter alone.”

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