As a change consultant, I try to stay informed about the latest developments in the industry. Recently, Google announced plans to cut 6% of its global workforce, or about 12,000 jobs. This decision has raised concerns about the company's commitment to psychological safety—a principle the organization has long promoted as a central aspect of its culture.
In the past, Google has published papers and articles emphasizing the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. I remember using that information for many teams I was helping in organizations. However, the recent decision to cut jobs seems to contradict these ideas and raises questions about whether the company is truly adhering to its own principles.
From my perspective, layoffs or downsizing aren't per se against Google's values and principles, but the way the company has handled the situation has raised concerns about its commitment to psychological safety and its principles.
In an open letter, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, stated that the company hired "for a different economic reality" than the current one. However, this statement doesn't address the concerns of many employees who feel that the company isn't providing the necessary psychological safety during this difficult time. The decision to cut jobs has unsettled many current employees and made them fearful of their future.
As a leader, it's important to consider the impact of layoffs on employees and the company culture. Especially if you want to build an always-ready, always-responsive, and always-innovative organization.
In such situations, it can be helpful to suggest a more compassionate approach to layoffs, such as providing more support and resources to employees during the transition. It's also important to promote a culture of psychological safety, even in difficult economic times.
Studies have shown that employees exposed to environments with low psychological safety can activate the fight-or-flight response, leading to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and causing feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and demotivation. This can lead to chronic stress and demobilization, reducing productivity and negatively impacting innovation, and business value.
We have the example of other companies that considered psychological safety when they had to lay off their employees during the pandemic. They created websites to upload their resumes, advertised their strengths, and even let the industry know that those employees were available. I believe organizations have to take responsibility not only when they hire, but also when they fire individuals. This is a good principle for any company in the world.
This situation reminds us that it's important for companies to live their principles, especially in times of uncertainty and accelerated change. This is a key focus in our Certified Leadership Program based on the M-Leadership framework. This framework emphasizes the importance of Minimum Healthy Steps (MIHS framework) in the face of accelerated and exponential change to create a sense of collective safety and support for employees. This approach helps leaders mobilize (an important concept in Enterprise Agility) their teams and create an environment that promotes psychological safety, even in difficult situations. With these Minimum Healthy Steps, leaders can help their employees stay motivated, engaged, and productive in the face of change.
As change consultants, it's important to always consider the impact of decisions on a company's values and principles, especially in the medium and long term. It's our job to advise leaders about these potential consequences so that they make decisions that are consistent with their values and principles and that they are as healthy as possible. This is particularly important in times of uncertainty and accelerated change.
What is your opinion?