Alphabet/Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears to be losing the confidence of employees, with many likening him to Lord Farquaad from Shrek.
Pichai has been under fire for some time as Alphabet/Google face threats on all sides. The company is facing antitrust challenges, was upstaged by Microsoft in the AI market, is facing a resurgent Bing, is dealing with a soft advertising market, and the company’s stock price has plummeted since its high in late 2021.
Amid these challenges, Alphabet did something that would have been unthinkable in years past, laying off some 12,000 employees. Even the layoffs were bungled, with some employees not being notified they were impacted and others saying the company is not honoring previous agreements.
Adding insult to injury, while 12,000 employees were being shown the door, Pichai reaped a handsome $226 million in compensation. Needless to say, that detail is not going over well with Googlers, with many circulating memes making fun of the embattled CEO, according to CNBC.
One meme showed Shrek villain Lord Farquaad with the caption: “Sundar accepting $226 million while laying off 12k Googlers, cutting perks, and destroying morale and culture.” A Lord Farquaad quote read, “some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”
Another meme making its rounds on the company discussion boards highlighted CFO Ruth Porat’s email recent email outlining “multi-year” cuts to employee perks, saying: “Ruth’s cost savings applied to everyone… except our hardworking VPS and CEO.”
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In all fairness, many of Pichai’s counterparts at other companies have voluntarily taken pay cuts, including those who have not laid off thousands of employees. Apple CEO Tim Cook asked the board to lower his pay by 40%, despite the fact that Apple is the only Big Tech company that has not engaged in mass layoffs.
This isn’t the first time Pichai’s leadership has become the laughingstock of the company. When Google rushed to unveil its Bard chatbot, with disastrous results, employees circulated memes making fun of Pichai and other executives.
“Sundar, and leadership, deserve a Perf NI,” read a popular meme, referencing the lowest employment performance review category. “They are being comically short sighted and un-Googlely in their pursuit of ‘sharpening focus.’”
Pichai’s behavior also helped lead to Google being sanctioned by the judge presiding over one of its antitrust cases, with the judge finding that Pichai and Company did not properly preserve internal communications despite there being a foreseeable threat of litigation.
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin recently became re-involved in company affairs in an effort to help Google come up with an answer to Microsoft’s AI efforts.
Given Pichai’s performance or lack thereof, one can’t help but wonder how long it will be until Larry Page and Sergey Brin return on a more permanent basis. If Pichai can’t right the ship and regain the respect of his employees, that day may be coming sooner rather than later.