Friday, December 9, 2022

Googlers fear tougher performance reviews will be used to lay them off

As if performance reviews weren’t already positioned to be stressful enough in a year shadowed by exhaustive debates around return to office, lost productivity, and the future of work, employees at Google are bracing for ramped up work anxiety as the Silicon Valley giant intensifies its performance review process for the end of the year.

Google, The Information reported earlier last week, has asked managers to identify 6% of employees—roughly 10,000 people—as “low performers” in terms of their impact on the company’s bottom line. The old system asked them to identify 2% of underperforming employees. This means that the number of people able to score high marks, whatever that actually looks like, gets smaller.

Coming on the heels of thousands of cuts across the tech industry, employees are nervous.

One staffer told Insider of layoff speculation at the company that “Leadership hasn’t ruled it out when pressed, but they haven’t given any indication it’ll happen either.”

Typically, performance reviews can be seen as virtually useless because companies often muddle the message: what they mean by performance. And while that’s not entirely in the direct output for individual Google employees, the company has minced no words in showing it cares about revenue.

In its most recent third quarter, in which CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would sharpen its business focus, Google reported that revenue grew 6%—its second-slowest range of growth in roughly the past decade. And revenue per employee dropped nearly 15% that quarter, compared with the same period a year ago.

Google executives say the performance review changes are simply a way to improve production of employees who, having worked through a two-plus year pandemic, have readjusted to new ideas of work-life balance. But workers at the company see the changes as little more than a case for layoffs as revenue drops and a recession looms in the new year, The Information reported.

They can’t be blamed for seeing it that way: The tech sector has broadly struggled post-pandemic lockdown, after a boon for the industry saw the likes of Meta and Google grow quickly and hire incessantly. That all came crashing down.

In November alone, tech companies have announced 31,200 job cuts, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a firm that advises employers on layoffs.

Meta laid off 11,000 employees earlier in the month, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledging the company miscalculated the pandemic boon as it expanded its business and workforce. Elon Musk slashed half of Twitter’s workforce after taking the helm. Before that, Snap laid off roughly 20% of employees, and Netflix, Coinbase, Robinhood, and Tesla have all cut down headcount. Amazon recently said it plans to cut roughly 10,000 employees.

Google has already been quietly trimming costs, cutting travel budgets while nixing team functions and social outings, along with shuttering whole teams that required some employees to reapply for different roles. The company has yet to announce significant widespread layoffs, but the writing seems to be on wall if you ask its workers: Those inside and outside the Mountain View headquarters are looking to see if the tech giant will be next to put employees on the chopping block .

“Google execs will want to cut people,” a former executive at the company told Insider. “Just to clean up the culture by making people a little more scared.”

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