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Google—Ghosting Engineers at Layoff Institutionalizes Transactional Employee-Employer Relationship
Episode 34th February 2023 • The Boss Rebellion™ • Free Agent Source
00:00:00 00:11:52

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Steve Pruneau and Asher Black consider how terminating people by cutting off their email is normalizing what employees do when they ghost interviewers during candidacy or quitting. The transactional nature of employment is more pronounced than ever. Possible opportunity in the #bossrebellion


  • Google normalizes transactional employment
  • Good and bad breakups
  • Hedge funds driving layoffs = more transactional
  • On scooping out more middle management
  • Values Based Leadership
  • Crying for the lost
  • Alienation of firms from social elements of life



The Boss Rebellion


Steve Pruneau:

Remember a couple of years ago there was a trending topic in the news about employees ghosting their employer, basically just, they don't show up anymore. They don't communicate why they don't phone it in. They don't email it in. They just disappear, and they don't respond to , Hey, we didn't see you today.

We didn't hear from you, and still just nothing. Then there was some commentary sort of rippling from that about is this a generational thing? Is it mostly younger people? And then there was a little bit of professional shaming. Well, it's kind of unprofessional. You know, normally even in a uncomfortable relationship, we would give the notice.

What I love about that is a couple of weeks ago, Google just normalized ghosting for everybody. Everybody saw the news, the 12,000 employees who were laid off, but what really rippled through is the manner in which they did it. So we've come full circle. Now it's okay for any company to just boom, cut the cord.

No explanation. It's not you. It's, I mean, they did some public, you know, it's not them, it's us. And, but really, Done and there were derivative stories of, well, I couldn't even say goodbye to people I worked with and so on, and so now all bets are off. It's normal for everybody to just stop showing up.

Asher Black:


You know, firms have been doing this with vendors for years. You know, whether the bill's gonna be late or they just don't want to do business anymore, they just stop calling and the vendor is saying, you know, what happened? You know, you haven't terminated the agreement or anything, and they just don't respond.

, so this is kind of in the company dna. It's to me, hilarious that, , that employees started doing it. And there was this diatribe about being unprofessional because as a vendor myself, who runs a. I've seen this kind of behavior, , for years, but it's also a little bit like, , office space, right? So in office space, you've got the guy with the red stapler and, , he, he shouldn't be working there anymore, so they just fixed the glitch.

And so they didn't tell him he was laid off, they just fixed the glitch. No more paychecks. And of course, he ends up, , burning down the building. Don't do that to Google. But, , you know, I think we, we judge a person's respect, , for us as a human being. By how they break up with us. You can say what you want during the relationship.

I love you honey. This is really great. I value your contribution to the company. We always want to be working with businesses like you, et cetera. But the breakup is really the the point, the telling point, right? So if somebody breaks up with you and says, well, You know, , I know this is gonna be painful for you.

, I'm willing to sit down and answer your questions, , and, and try to help you understand my perspective. I've thought about how we divide things up, et cetera. I'm gonna be available to you. This is not goodbye forever. We can still be friends. , but that's one kind of breakup. It still hurts, still sucks, but it's human.

And then the other type of breakup is don't call me anymore. No, I don't have to explain myself. I'm onto other things, by the way, I'm already dating somebody else, blah, blah, blah. And that's the toxic asshole in the group. And so in, in a way, you could argue that what we've normalized, , is. Toxicity. , but you know, if you wanna be values neutral, I don't.

But if you want to be values neutral about it, you could just say the very unprofessionalism that Google would've said about an employee is now normalized. Being unprofessional is the norm across the board, and companies can expect that you give as you get as good as you give.

Steve Pruneau:

Well, I, I, I'm gonna take issue with that toxicity.

There are plenty of people in the world who would say, well, this is not really toxic. This is how we do business. There's a hedge fund in the uk, T C I, they have a few billion under management. There're a c E O is Christopher Han. He sends a letter and it's a public letter. So that's, that's great. Last November to Sundar Pcha, c e o of chief of Alpha.

parent company, Google saying, you know, we really think you need to reduce your headcount. You're, you're kind of heavy there and not making as much money as we would like you to. Sure enough, you know, we have the layoffs, but then the next letter comes just a few weeks ago and says, and this is, this is posted, this is public.

Says rate, but not great enough or good. Not great enough. So, , what they're aiming for is 20% of the workforce, 20% of Google's workforce to be reduced, bring it down to 150,000. And really, the investors are driving a lot of this, and it's even more of a transactional nature. And what I like about it is it's very public, it's very transactional.

This is how we're going to do business. And so I'm happy that it's all out. We're not really dancing around the corporate family question or anything like that. Look, this is how we're gonna run our business. , here's how it's gonna happen. So I'm not gonna get on the whole, oh my goodness, look at what happened to employees bandwagon, or, we should regulate this.

I, I'm not worried. I think the market pushback over the long term is gonna be a lot more painful than anything regulators could do. But really, my question, Mr. Or Ms. Executive, is we thought employee engagement was a problem before. , what are you gonna do to keep people interested in your company? .

Asher Black:

Well, , I will push back at your pushback because I would distinguish between, , the issue of whether we should be laying people off in vast numbers.

And by the way, I saw that letter and it said, you're not only not laying enough people off, we wanna see 20% salary cuts across the board. You're, you're paying people too much. , so I agree with all of that. The manner in which you. Is a separate question. One is culture and the other is finance. So, , on the culture question, , don't be an asshole on the finance question.

Yeah, you're top heavy. And I would've gone even farther. I would've gone full Carl Icon with that letter and said, not only. Not only do you need to lay off, , much more of your workforce and need to cut salaries, you need to scoop like it was a curve. You need to scoop out middle management. You need to keep the people on the ends that produce, on the, on the line level and production end, and sort of the people that do the work.

And you need to keep the people in the, in the. Highest level leadership that actually steer the company and make the big decisions about which markets we're gonna penetrate, et cetera. But all the supervisory class at every level, that just makes sure somebody else is doing their job and reports to the next level, which makes sure all of those supervisor doing their job and report to the next level.

I would scoop all of that out, cut it from the company, or at least trim it way down and, , trim the salaries and say, look, you know, , we don't care that toys or US pays you 20% more to manage. People, , our people are, are better, , more independent. We do better work, more interesting work. And frankly, what you do doesn't add that much value.

So we'd like to scoop that out of the curve and save investors a whole lot of money. I w I don't think they went deep enough.

Steve Pruneau:

in, in the end. This is gonna come down to relationships. So going deep enough or. . What we're doing is we're hiring and firing employees the way we buy and sell stock. Highly transactional.

At least now it's transparent, but people are gonna build relationships no matter what. I've always said, work is a collaborative social endeavor. Yes, we do some work on an individual basis, individual contributor basis, but at least some of our work is. collaboration with a team of people, and we're gonna form those relationships somewhere, whether it's in our personal lives with, certainly with our families, , in clubs, organizations, and probably at work.

But if we're more guarded in and the company is, or the organization, whether we're a vendor or, or an employee. , if the, if we constantly looking over our shoulder, the work is gonna be different, the work product is gonna be different, the level of innovation is gonna be different. And so I think the challenge, , is going to be how to maintain that transparency as the company company's economic edges.

As the company's economic fortunes, ebb and flow, how do you maintain that transparency of, look, we can't sustain this level of workforce forever and still have that relationship so that you get the juice of innovation, collaboration, and so forth. That's gonna be a tough nut to crack. ,

Asher Black:

I think people are not gonna look at the company as the source of their, , primary social relationships.

When I say primary, people always denied that. It would say, oh, you know, the most important people in my life are my wife, my kids, my pastor. Except you spend way more time with your boss than you do with any of those people. And so in the end, , lip service aside, we spent. Most productive hours of the best years of our lives, traditionally with people that we worked with.

In fact, , an an enormous number. The weird thing about the whole sexual harassment culture now is people traditionally found their mate at work, if not in college, et cetera. And so what are you gonna do about that? But all of this has become sort of severed. The, the traditional social structures that we're used to associating with work have been, uh,, eaten away a bit.

And I think this alien. of the company, , from the social element of life. To me, it doesn't bother me much because I was always creeped out when I would, I, I'm just an applicant trying to get a job. I haven't really gotten to know you people yet. And already the company before they've hired me is starting to say we're a family and, , we, you know, and I'm like, so what does that really mean?

s of the company store in the:

You, you bought your milk at the company store. If you needed blue jeans, you got 'em at the company store, you lived on the. Farm, they provided your shack. So there's the, the twenties, then you have the, the eighties where that, none of that's true. , but you still have the company party. Anybody that's seen that Tom Hanks movie Big, where, you know, they're, they're at the party and first thing that happens is the, the suck up manager comes to talk to the CEO and starts, well, about the Johnson account.

And he's like, relax, have a drink. This is a party. And of course, Tom Hanks comes walking down the, the stairs at his Liberace tuxedo. And relaxes and, and, and there's some of that. So that conflict was going on back in the eighties. Like, does our social life revolve around our work? Is it owned by the company or not?

And then now it's gone to a place where, leave me alone. I'm with people, you know, like, don't call me at home. Don't, don't force me to be on Zoom 24 hours a day, just so you can make sure some supervisor in that middle scoop class can make sure I'm doing my work. Don't put a timer on my laptop and explore my emails.

I'll phone in when, once or twice a day for a meeting, I'll check in with you, but leave me alone. I'm at home and don't call me after six o'clock. I'm with people. And that, that kind of thing says the company and the employee have now separated their social lives, , more than ever.