shattering illusions – is google losing its googly culture?

I have forever viewed Google as the ubiquitous dream maker for the software engineer.  You work on great products (Google Search, Gmail, Google Reader, Google Apps,  Google App Engine, the list goes on), and they appear to treat developers well (20% time, free lunches and drinks, gym membership, and more). However, it seems that not everyone is happy if a recent article (entitled Why Google Employees Quit) on Tech Crunch is anything to go by.

It’s understandable that people who no longer work at Google may have reasons to slate their previous employer.  However, these people did not go out their way to highlight problems at Google, instead Google actually asked them why they left.  I think we can safely say that many of the points raised in this collection of responses contain valid issues.

By far the most common complaint is with regard to the recruitment process.  It apparently takes forever. It obviously never stopped these people from joining, but left a lasting impression.  However, if they could get over this hang-up with the recruitment process, what really is the problem?

First, as much as people like to pretend that it doesn’t matter, money plays its part. This seems especially relevant to the ex-Microsoft employees.  These employees seemed to justify the money drop experienced when moving from Microsoft to Google as being “worth it” to work in a “Googly” culture – where Googly tends to translate into FUN.  It seems strange that Google does not have similar pay scales to Microsoft, as they are direct competitors on this front. This may become more of an issue for Google if it appears that their Googly culture is in recession.

Another point that popped up on more than one occasion was management. This is always an easy shot though let’s face it, but it was reiterated by enough people to take a look. My initial impression is that there exists the typical competitive race for promotions (as in looking good, not necessarily doing good), this always leaves certain people unhappy, myself included, it always brings out the worst in people.  I’m genuinely surprised and sad that this sort of behaviour has seeped its way into Google, and it seems the inevitable outcome of a standard management hierarchy in large corporations. Will we never learn anything from Gore’sSelf-management and the flattened hierarchy“? It seems not.

So, is it too soon to say that Google may be losing its highly valued culture? Such a shift can surely only play into the hands of Microsoft, with no difference in culture, and higher salaries, it seems like a no brainer for the top candidates.

My own personal opinion of Google (as an employer) has diminished somewhat after reading the aforementioned article – whose contents must present itself as a PR nightmare for Google. I have maintained (indirectly) for quite some time now that people will only accept smaller salaries if the environment is FUN to work.  Fun seems harder to maintain though as a company grows, and becomes filled with those with glittering ambitions for their own career. Unfortunately the ethos of working together to obtain mutual reward seems sort of out of place in the new millennium. I suspect even this recession, or a prolonged depression, will not stifle the greed of those that are selfish and do not care.