Google’s Once Happy Offices Feel the Chill of Layoffs

When Diane Hirsh Theriault’s co-worker returned from lunch to Google’s Cambridge, Mass., office one afternoon in October, his work badge couldn’t open a turnstile. He quickly realized it was a sign that he had been laid off.


Dr. Hirsh Theriault soon learned that most of her fellow Google News engineers in Cambridge had also lost their jobs. More than 40 people in the news division were cut, a union at the company said, though a number of them were later offered jobs elsewhere inside Google.

Dr. Hirsh Theriault’s experience is increasingly common at Google, where rolling job cuts in recent months, after a year of significant layoffs, have employees on edge. The layoffs have slowed down projects and prompted employees to spend working hours trying to learn which work groups have been hit and who could be next, said 10 current and former Google employees, including some who asked for anonymity so they could speak candidly about their jobs.

What’s more, the layoffs have shifted the narrative that long defined working at Google — that it was more of a tinker’ community than a workaday office, where creativity and thinking out of the box was encouraged. That it was a fun, different kind of place to work.

Diane Hirsh Theriault in a burgundy jacket over a flowered shirt sits on a blue couch.
Diane Hirsh Theriault, a software engineer for Google News. She wrote in a post on LinkedIn that “the buildings are half empty at 4:30.”Sophie Park for The New York Times

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said more than a year ago that the company would cull 12,000 jobs, or 6 percent of the work force, describing it as “a difficult decision to set us up for the future.”

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