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Survivors of the mass layoffs cried in meetings the day around 12,000 of their colleagues were culled, says Google engineer

A serving  engineer at Google told the Insider that several Google employees who survived the recent round of layoffs of around 12,000 workers at the company, cried during meetings the day layoffs were announced.

In video calls that day, “some of the folks were sobbing, they were drying their eyes,” said the employee, an engineer for Google on the East Coast.

On January 20, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, called for layoffs of about 6% of the company’s entire global workforce. He instructed the remaining staff that they could work from home that day to process the “difficult news.”

The engineer, who has worked at Google’s East coast office for more than 10 years, demanded anonymity in order to protect his job but his identity is known to Insider.

He said that now when remaining employees ask each other how they’re doing, some jokingly reply they’re alright as they still have their jobs. People nod to each other with a shared sense of understanding and compassion when passing each other in the office, he said: “It’s not the typical nonverbal interaction there used to be before. Now it’s a meaningful nod.”

Another engineer on the West Coast who’s worked at the tech giant for more than 10 years told Insider surviving staff were “angry and sad.” “We truly did believe that Google was something different,” he said. He revealed this on condition of anonymity to protect his employment. He said, “This is just another big company. Now, anything that used to feel special or like you really were a part of a mission — not just a big money-making machine — that feeling is I think gone.”

Both sources that reached out to the Insider said that some remaining employees were still worried about further slack offs.

The East Coast engineer said Google employees were often headhunted but didn’t resign due to the incentives and sense of job security — but incentives had been slowly been “stripped down” and the layoffs meant employment didn’t offer a sense of security any more.

He further added, “Now what is left to distinguish this company from any other company, any other recruiter that contacts us with a good offer?”

Slacked-off Google employees in the US woke up on January 20 to an email saying they were fired, though some found out through messages from concerned colleagues.

Nicholas Whitaker, who was a part of Google’s people development team before being fired, told Insider that he saw messages from colleagues that morning asking if he was okay and thought there’d been a shooting or a natural disaster until he found out that he was laid off.

As access to company systems was severed on January 20, laid-off employees had to communicate with colleagues by other means to say goodbye.

The West Coast engineer said surviving staff were given no clue about who’d been removed, apart from a “cannot connect” message on Google’s internal communication system when they tried to contact them.