Tuesday, January 20, 2009

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Why Google Employees Quit?

Source: Times Online and Tech Crunch
“In 2008 Google HR set up a private Google Group to ask former employees why they left the company. We’ve been forwarded what appears to be authentic posts to the thread by a number of ex-Googlers, which we reprint below minus identifying information other than their first names.

The thread shows a brutal honesty about what it’s like to work at Google, at least from the point of view of employees who were unhappy enough to resign. Top amongst the complaints is low pay relative to what they could earn elsewhere, and disappearing fringe benefits seemed to elevate the concern. Other popular gripes - too much bureaucracy, poor management, poor mentoring, and a hiring process that took months.”, writes Techcrunch.

Google takes particular pride in being considered one of the world’s best companies to work for. Employees are pampered at on-site massage areas, told to spend twenty per cent of their time doing whatever they want and enjoy free sushi and Häagen-Dazs ice cream for lunch.

But it seems this isn’t for everyone. A stream of emails from disgruntled ex-Google employees has emerged, revealing that even the most modern of workplaces faces the same old complaints from workers: low pay, too many hours, incompetent managers, a lack of fringe benefits and a hiring process that kept many in limbo for months.

Overall, the messages showed that many considered getting a job at Google akin to reaching the promised land, only to become bitterly disappointed at what they found there.

“You read so much about how amazing it is to work for Google and for the first two years it was,” wrote Scott who worked for the company in London.

“Before I left it just was a place full of quiet moans, talented people being undermined and a structure that created hostility and politics.”

The emails were sent to Google last year, when the company asked a number of ex-employees why they decided to quit. The private, often brutally honest, correspondence was leaked to the popular TechCrunch blog, where it was published edited only to avoid identifying the workers involved.

One former staff member alleged that employees were promised a better benefits package, only for Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and Chief Executive, to abandon this pledge when told how many millions it would cost.

“[Schimdt] fell back in his tired, familiar standby (“People don’t work at Google for the money. They work at Google because they want to change the world!). A statement that always seems to me a little Louis XIV coming from a billionaire.

“I still can’t recall all the moralizing postures without a shudder of disgust.”

Others, however, defended the company from these complaints, saying that practices at Google were considerably better than those at other firms.

But the reasons for leaving Google were many and various. Some said that they could have easily been paid more elsewhere, such as rivals Microsoft, but the kudos of having Google on their CV’s convinced them to stay on. Others said they left because their managers were “jerks”, while one worker said she left the company “exhausted and processing a lot of stress”.

“Google is supposed to be some kind of Nirvana, so if you can’t be happy there how will you ever be happy?” wrote Dan, a former employee. “The truth is that Google can be a really horrible place to work if you happen to run up against its shortcomings.”

The vast majority were left bitter by a hiring process that took months to complete and involved micro-management from the very top - with Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, still reviewing the resumes of all prospective employees.

A Google spokesman admitted the recruitment procedure did take time, but said: “We believe it’s worth it. If you hire great people and involve them intensively in the hiring process, you’ll get more great people."

Even the perks, such as a free canteen that offers everything from roast dinners to healthy salads, comes at a cost. “If you were staying for dinner, it better be because you were working afterwards,” warned one worker who claimed only workaholics were likely to be promoted.

The complaints are in sharp contrast to Google’s public image. Last year, the company was named best the UK’s best workplace by the Great Places to Work Institute and the Best Company to Work For in the US by Fortune magazine.

Google offices are legendary for their quirks and perks. In the plush London offices in Victoria, Google workers are given free massages every month and there is a games room and Yoga studio on site.

In Zurich, workers use a fireman’s pole to move between floors and hold meetings in “arctic pods”. In Mountain View, California, prominent speakers such as Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have been known to pop by to give talks.

But lately, some of the shine has begun to come off the company. Last week, it axed 100 posts worldwide, the first significant job cuts in its 11-year history.

A Google spokesman said: “Of course there will always be a small number of ex-employees for whom Google may not have been a perfect fit but for the vast majority of employees this is not the case.”


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