Googlers Found Out Which Colleagues Were Laid Off When Emails Bounced

  • A Google worker says some staff learned which colleagues were let go when their emails bounced back.
  • Laid-off workers resorted to messaging their ex-coworkers on LinkedIn or via text with their news.
  • Google has been criticized for the abrupt and impersonal nature of January’s mass layoffs.

A Google worker says the abrupt nature of the company’s mass layoffs last month meant some staff found out which of their colleagues had been laid off when they attempted to send them emails which subsequently bounced back.

Thomas de Rivaz, a software engineer at the tech giant, told Insider that in some cases employees knew their coworkers’ jobs were cut “because your email bounced and not for any other reason.”

Remaining employees say that Google didn’t widely circulate information about who was laid off.

Tim Wilde, a site reliability engineer who has been at Google for around a decade, told Insider that in some cases he found out employees had been laid off because they posted about it on LinkedIn or Twitter, or because his messages to them on internal channels didn’t go through. A West Coast engineer who’s been at Google for more than 10 years described similar experiences.

Google workers have been “figuring out the numbers” about how many staff from each office had been laid off, de Rivaz said. “We’ve been discouraged from sharing them internally obviously, that gets shut down quite quickly, but the numbers are there for people to see,” he said.

Some of the remaining Google workers asked for anonymity to protect their jobs, but Insider has verified their employment.

Google told US staff that they were laid off in an early-morning email on January 20. Some saw the email when it came through at around 2:00 a.m. PST or 5:00 a.m. ET, while others realized out something was awry when they were locked out of their work laptops and emails. Google cut off their access to company accounts and hardware immediately, though many affected US workers still remain on payroll until March 31.

Wilde said he saw some workers turn up to Google’s office in Boston, only to have their access badges declined. This is how those workers learned they’d been laid off.

Since that day, “we’ve effectively had daily updates from parts of the world of people being laid off,” de Rivaz, who works from Google’s London office, said.

In countries outside of the US, staff have largely had more notice of their termination and have been able to say goodbye to colleagues, he said.

Some affected US workers told Insider they were annoyed at not being able to say goodbye to or thank colleagues. They said they’d been scrambling to find LinkedIn accounts and cell numbers for their former coworkers, including their managers, to ask for more information about the layoffs and maintain their friendships. Some also expressed frustration about losing access to documents and pictures saved on company devices and in emails.

De Rivaz said he found out about the layoffs when he saw messages in work chats about the internal email from CEO Sundar Pichai. “And so then we read this obviously, and then it was all anyone talked about for the rest of the day,” de Rivaz said.

“It’s just been taking a while for everyone to process,” he added.

De Rivaz said that in the past when teams were being cut, workers were reallocated to other teams in a process referred to internally as “defragging.”

“That attitude has completely disappeared,” he said. “Internally it was a massive shock to the system. This really hasn’t happened before.”

Given how long it takes Google to recruit new staff, the mass layoffs seem “like a lot of wasted effort,” he said.

“We put a lot of deliberation into every hire we make, so having 12,000 of those roles thrown out seemed ridiculous,” de Rivaz added.

A technical writer said that the layoffs had been “super disruptive,” with projects getting botched when people working on them were terminated. Wilde said that after seeing high-performing and long-tenured staff let go, employees lost motivation because they don’t know if hard work is enough to protect them from future cuts.

Remaining staff cried in work calls on the day of the layoffs, one employee said.

Were you recently laid off by Google? Or do you still work there? Contact this reporter at

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