Google Employees Ask for ‘Psychological Safety’ After Layoffs

  • Google has offered high pay, lavish perks, and job security for over a decade.
  • Huge layoffs have shattered that aura of stability.
  • During a townhall meeting on Monday, employees were shaken by the sudden change.

Google offered high pay, lavish perks, and job security for talented tech workers for more than 2 decades. That’s coming to an abrupt end for 12,000 employees now, demolishing the aura of stability and abundance inside the company.

During an all-hands meeting on Monday, anxious Googlers peppered executives with questions about the layoffs. The overriding sentiment was shock from being suddenly exposed to the vicissitudes of working at a public company during a downturn.

“The layoffs seem random,” one employee wrote in a submitted question. “I am pro-Google, but I’m pretty shook right now. Help me understand.”

This staffer, and other colleagues, were particularly stunned by layoffs of some Googlers who were high performers, or who had worked at the company for a long time. “Should I keep working super hard? Does it matter?” the staffer added.

Another employee said Googlers may worry they could be laid off in the future despite positive performance reviews or strong business performance. “How can we reestablish psychological safety for Googlers after these layoffs?” they asked.

A third employee, based in the UK noted Google has stressed that “psychological safety is paramount.” But the staffer said the company just announced layoffs via an early morning email, and cuts were “chosen by VPs who didn’t know the people,” while managers were not consulted. This employee also said high performers and people on immigration visas were also let go.

“How are we supposed to ever feel safe again?” the employee wrote.

This type of disillusionment is particularly risky for Google. The company has thrived over the years by being seen as a great place to work. That helped it recruit many of the best engineers and other tech specialists available across the industry. If these layoffs undermine this reputation, Google may struggle to compete for talent in the future.

‘If you interpret psychological safety as removing all uncertainty, we can’t do this’

Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, weighed in on the topic of psychological safety during the all-hands meeting. He defined the term as “an environment where people feel safe to speak up, where they want to take risks, where they want to solicit feedback, make mistakes, question the status quo for example.”

Google's SVP and chief business officer Philipp Schindler

Google’s SVP and chief business officer Philipp Schindler

Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images

“If you interpret psychological safety as removing all uncertainty, we can’t do this,” Schindler added. “But what we can do is despite clearly prioritizing across our businesses, we try to focus and we try to minimize disruption obviously as much as possible. The reality is sometimes we need to adjust priorities based on the external environment, and this is what happened here.”

Schindler, and other Google executives including CEO Sundar Pichai, stressed that the layoff process was not random and involved a lot of planning and analysis about what’s best for the long-term health of the company. Several executives urged remaining employees to keep working hard.

Pichai said high performers and people with very long service had a much lower chance of being impacted by the layoffs.

Brian Glaser, who heads Google’s people development team, reiterated Schindler’s comments that a big part of psychological safety is about being able to have “real” conversations with each other.

“That means making really hard decisions and giving really tough news,” he added. “We all know that no one is immune from change in our careers.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Do you work at Google or another Big Tech company? Got a tip?

Contact Rosalie Chan via email at, Signal at 646.376.6106, or Telegram at @rosaliechan.

You can reach Hugh Langley via encrypted email ( or the encrypted-messaging apps Signal or Telegram (+1 628-228-1836).

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