Working at Google Used to be “Sexy and Exciting.”  Now, not much.

Working at Google Used to be “Sexy and Exciting.” Now, not much.

Layoffs may be the new normal for Googlers.
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  • Googlers are facing new job cuts this year.
  • The new round of layoffs followed a 6% decline last January.
  • Experts say there may be a reason for the layoffs final Hats off to Google’s legendary workplace culture.

It’s been a rough start to the year for Googlers.

The tech giant has been caught up in a wave of tech layoffs sweeping the industry. Executives have laid off more than 1,000 workers this month, with CEO Sundar Pichai telling employees that more layoffs are expected this year. For The Verge.

Google expects to pay $700 million in severance costs this quarter, according to Alphabet’s latest results released Tuesday. In 2023, severance and other related costs totaled $2.1 billion.

Unsurprisingly, the layoffs have soured with remaining Googlers, with some criticizing the tech giant’s “boring and glassy-eyed” leaders.

Culture shock

Long known for its workplace culture and luxury perks, the tech company has long been one of the most desirable places to work.

Maybe that’s why Googlers are so nervous about this new way of doing business. While the recent layoffs aren’t the first in Google’s history — it cut 6% last year — it signals the end of the days of treating employees like family.

Ben Hardy, a professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School, told Business Insider that much of this stems from employees breaking the “unwritten” or “psychological” contract they make with companies.

Access to various benefits and a sense of “psychological safety” may not be explicitly mentioned in the employee’s contract, but Google employees have come to expect them because of the company’s reputation.

Hardy added that the first round of layoffs violated that unwritten contract with workers, but the latest layoffs could change it forever.

“The reason they’re making it harder is because it’s not a sense of ‘Google is doing what Google is supposed to do.’ Employees feel that they may have fundamentally misunderstood this organization. Maybe this is not the place they thought.”

Unexpected results

Google will likely continue to reshape its business to adapt to market demands, meaning a workplace culture defined by layoff cycles may become the new normal.

“Google was known as the best company for a long time — everyone wanted to work there,” Thomas Roulette, professor of organizational sociology and leadership at the University of Cambridge, told Business Insider. “Now, that’s changed in part because of the rise of generative artificial intelligence, which is really threatening some of the core businesses at Google.”

He added: “Working at Google is not as sexy and exciting as it used to be, especially if you risk being fired at any moment.”

Layoffs and a changing culture at Google could haunt the company in more ways than one, Roulet said, creating problems with employee retention and hiring.

“If you start firing people, the people left behind have less trust. They risk sabotaging their culture and losing some of their top employees.”

“Not just robots”

Google has created an environment where its employees have a voice and are not afraid to use it.

Googlers are also unique in their autonomy, Roulet said. “They’re not just robots — they actually have their own ideas about what the firm should do,” he said, pointing to the company’s long history of internal activism.

Aside from free food and ski trips, Google has also worked hard to foster a culture of creativity. The psychological impact of ongoing layoffs can also affect how employees perform their jobs.

“The space to create and innovate is at odds with the risk of downsizing. Employees will be less creative and more conservative in how they do their jobs,” Roulet said.

Google did not respond to BI’s request for comment.

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