In its recent downsizing and reduction in its global workforce by 12,000, Google, the most recognized of the tech giants, said farewell to its Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
In news that has been met with a high degree of incredulity, the release of this crucial staff member has caused great concern for the general direction of travel for employee culture at the firm.
What has happened and why?
Google’s head of mental health and wellbeing, Kristin Maczko, has announced on LinkedIn that she was laid off after nearly 15 years working for the company. According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms Maczko started working for Google in 2008.
After starting as a data scientist, she shifted to work in finance, including in leadership roles at Google Cloud. Since July 2021, Ms Maczko had served as director of Google’s mental health and wellbeing, which she described as her “dream role.”
“I have had so many emotions these past few days. I am sad to leave the many friends and colleagues who I have worked with at Google.”
Not the only one to go…
Maczko added on her LinkedIn post that “many people” in Google’s mental health and wellbeing team had been laid off, though she did not specify how many. One contractor who worked on mental health and wellness program planning at Google and YouTube said she was affected by a smaller round of layoffs in the fall.
Google hasn’t responded to requests for comments on the extent to which layoffs affected its mental health and wellbeing team.
Explaining the layoffs, CEO Sundar Pichai said in a memo to remaining staff that the company had overhired. He said that it had undertaken a “rigorous review” and was laying off staff across “across Alphabet (Google’s parent company), product areas, functions, levels, and regions,” though many current and former Google staff Insider spoke to said they couldn’t understand the rationale behind the decisions.
What has happened at Google?
Some US-based Google staff found out they were laid off via impersonal emails which said the company was reducing its workforce “and we no longer have a job for you at Google,” according to Business Insider magazine.
The company swiftly cut off their work laptops and accounts, meaning affected staff had to reach out to their managers via other means to get clarity. However, workers that spoke to the publication said their managers were as clueless as they were.
Speaking about the layoffs at Google headquarters, an engineer on the West Coast who’s been with Google for more than a decade told Business Insider,
“It just doesn’t make sense. We’re laying off people who’ve got years of experience, who are excellent workers, who have skills and knowledge. They just booted them out the door without talking to the managers who manage these people and have a real insight into their skills and abilities.”
“No rhyme or reason”
The engineer, who wasn’t affected by the layoffs, spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his employment. Filings Google made in California show that the company has also laid off dozens of directors across various divisions in the state. The engineer added,
“It does seem like the truly critical people were not laid off, but there’s a lot of good people that were laid off, and it’s hard to see the rhyme or reason,”
What does this mean?
When a vast tech firm such as Google feels it necessary to let go of a large part of its workforce, that is one thing. However, in such times when mental health issues are rising both in the workplace and elsewhere, to let your head of mental health and wellbeing go seems to show scant regard for the culture which prevails at the firm.
Sending such a negative message to all those remaining employees would appear somewhat counter-intuitive. After all, indeed, if the firm can do without such a person within its ranks, how will that news impact the mental health and wellbeing of all those who remain?
Google might have just caused a much larger problem for itself than it may have solved. Only time will tell.
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