Tech Talk: Google Managers Are Happy They Can't Fire People

Managers at Google aren't able to fire or promote employees that report to them and also don't have the authority to hire people, but most of them are content with that relative lack of control, according to one Kim Malone Scott, former Director at the Mountain View-based tech giant who led the company's AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations for almost six years. While not a lot of ex-Googlers are free or willing to talk about the company's internal affairs, Scott is seemingly unburdened by the Alphabet-owned firm's efforts to prevent its former employees from disclosing how the Internet giant is run, as evidenced by her recent interview at the Qualtrics Insight Summit that took place earlier this year.

Unlike traditional companies — even those from the Silicon Valley that often break corporate norms — Google isn't keen on allowing its managers a large degree of control over hiring, firing, and promoting members of its workforce, at least not on an individual level, Scott revealed. Instead of granting its managers the power to make unilateral decisions that affect its staffers, the company relies on the so-called "packets," groups of senior employees who jointly express their opinions on such matters. However, not even their findings and stances are binding as they're subsequently sent to committees who vote on whether they'll adhere to their judgments or dismiss them. The entire process is somewhat long and convoluted, and while it does allow for some measure of lobbying, it's still radically different to hiring, firing, and promoting policies employed by the vast majority of other companies in the country, likely even the entire world. Most importantly - it works for Google, as evidenced by the company's often-praised corporate culture.

Scott argues that while unconventional, the practice is highly beneficial to the company, adding that this depersonalized approach to management allows for a more comfortable professional environment that's backed by healthier working relationships within Google. Speaking with the authority of an experienced tech executive and someone who wrote a 272-page bestseller on effective leadership — Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss — Scott claims that Google's staff management policy enables better working relationships by ensuring a more optimal balance of power between managers and employees that report to them. Successful managers foster healthy professional relationships, and as Google's organizational practices effectively allow for such relationships to grow, the majority of the company's managers are happy with them, Scott implied.

Another advantage of Google's system of promoting employees is the fact that it essentially minimizes the number of unfair promotions that often cause a gulf between colleagues at other companies. When a manager believes that an employee is ready for a promotion, they'll form a packet that will discuss the matter and report their conclusions to an in-house committee that will vote on whether to approve the idea. In fact, employees can even gather packets themselves if they believe they're ready for a promotion but their manager doesn't. That procedure isn't inherently different to the traditional way of doing things at Google, though getting a promotion without your manager's blessing is obviously somewhat more difficult seeing how your superior is still a part of the initial packet, Scott reveals, adding that this situation most frequently occurs in the company's engineering unit. Regardless, managers considering decisions on hiring, promoting, and firing employees within packets are never part of committees that make final rulings on such matters, which results in a decentralized, more democratic working environment.

Similar procedures are used for rating and transferring employees, as well as making any other decisions that affect their position or benefits at Google. By ensuring a more optimal balance of power that naturally leads to less tense working relationships, the process also encourages teamwork given how managers can and are encouraged to help employees organize packets and advance through the company's ranks, thus further solidifying their professional relations. While Google has reportedly been employing this policy for many years with great success, such a unique approach to staff management likely wouldn't be suitable for more traditional and smaller firms. However, this strategy may have played an important role in developing a collaborative corporate culture that the Mountain View-based Internet giant managed to create in the last two decades despite growing in an incredibly rapid manner, hiring thousands of new staffers on average every year, so it's no wonder that even some of its contractors are fighting to be recognized as employees in hopes of thriving in the company's unique working environment.

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About the Author

Dominik Bosnjak

Senior Writer
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]