Despite some frustrations with how the layoffs were carried out, Google didn’t entirely abandon its commitment to employees in the process, Rout noted. Affected US employees received at least 16-weeks salary in severance, in addition to other benefits, among the most generous packages provided to recently laid off employees by tech giants.

Still, the layoffs have created insecurities and frustration among employees that remain at the company, according to current and former employees.

Hundreds of Google employees in Switzerland staged a walkout last week to protest layoffs, partly out of frustration with the lack of transparency. Meanwhile, in the United States, hundreds of additional workers have joined the grassroots Alphabet Workers Union since the layoffs were announced, according to Hayden Lawrence, a current Google engineer and member of AWU. Workers remaining at the company are “angry,” Lawrence said, and “scared” that more cuts could be on the way, with little guarantee that strong performance or a long tenure will protect them.

“There’s kind of a myth in tech that a lot of folks believe, that with a good work ethic and your own strong performance, you’ll be able to remain employed,” Lawrence told CNN. “But I think we’ve seen that you can’t just rely on individually doing your best, we need to collectively work together and organize.”

Google workers around the world over the weekend circulated a petition calling for better handling of the company’s layoffs, including requests to prioritize filling new positions with recently laid off employees and respecting scheduled parental and other family leave. “Nowhere have workers’ voices been adequately considered, and we know that as workers we are stronger together than alone,” reads the open letter to Pichai, which by Monday had been signed by more than 1,400 employees.

The heightened feeling of insecurity doesn’t just affect individual employees; it also risks chipping away whatever remains of Google’s original internal culture. “The damage to the intangibles is so significant,” Rout said. “It’s painfully obvious from the inside that there’s no way that whatever stock gain you’re going to gain [is worth] the damage to the culture when Google’s culture is its most important resource and everyone knows that.”

Former employees noted that the concept of “psychological safety” — which former Google HR head Laszlo Bock has said was key to the company’s culture by promoting collaboration and open sharing of information — is compromised when employees start to worry if they’re next.

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Members of the Alphabet Workers Union rallied outside Google's New York office in January following the layoffs. Hundreds of new employees have joined the union since the layoffs, an organizing member told CNN.

Members of the Alphabet Workers Union rallied outside Google’s New York office in January following the layoffs. Hundreds of new employees have joined the union since the layoffs, an organizing member told CNN. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

“Google’s sort of saying that they don’t care about that anymore in the same way by the way that they’ve executed the layoffs and the way that they’re talking about cutting perks and that sort of thing,” Stapleton said. Even reports that Google has asked some employees to share desks amid office downsizing seems to reflect that shift, she said. “It’s like you’re not even like a full person at the company anymore. It was just so different before.”

Stapleton added that while Google will almost certainly remain a desirable place to work, as one of the world’s preeminent tech companies, the draw for employees may now be more about material perks like salary than the creativity and camaraderie that once defined the company’s culture. In other words, it will be perceived like a more conventional company.

About a month before the January layoffs, one former employee said Google painted “You Belong” on one of the walls in their working area. It was part of a larger internal campaign to build morale among employees.

“I remember the first time I saw that there, I was like, ‘that’s really cute,’ I loved the sticker so much I put it on my own laptop,” the employee said. But after the layoffs, the message felt like “a dark joke.”

“It’s like, you belong here, but also 12,000 of you are now not allowed to even be on the campus [anymore],” the employee said. “There was some disconnection there, some communication loss about the company and the direction we were going.”

Source: CNN