Google’s Darkest Days: After Three Deaths, a Workforce Reckons with a Changed CompanyRead more

Art by Clark Miller
Art by Clark Miller

Google’s Darkest Days: After Three Deaths, a Workforce Reckons with a Changed Company

Once reassured by a sense of exceptionalism, Google employees are reeling from tragedy, 12,000 layoffs and a series of painful cutbacks.

Art by Clark Miller
July 14, 2023 8:21 AM PDT

For Google employees, the news was a devastating turn in an already disorienting year.

In May, a 31-year-old senior engineer at the company, later identified by police as Kevin Rawlings, died at Google’s New York office late at night in an apparent suicide. Rawlings’ death followed that of another Google employee in New York, a 33-year-old advertising partnerships lead named Jacob Pratt, who also died by apparent suicide in February at a hotel near Google’s office in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Many Google employees learned details about the two suicides from the wide local media attention they received. Far fewer of them were aware that another colleague—a 43-year-old employee on the diversity, equity and inclusion team based in Colorado—had also died by apparent suicide the month before. The Information isn’t naming the employee at the request of her family and because the circumstances of her death aren’t widely known.

For some Google employees, the deaths intensified an already acute sense of instability and anxiety that had been building over the last year at the company. The period began around July 2022, when the company announced a hiring slowdown, which presaged a steep drop in earnings announced in October. This year commenced with spending cutbacks, the implementation of a tough new performance management system and the largest wave of layoffs in its history. Though similar measure have been taken by many companies across the tech industry over the past year, at Google they have been deeply destabilizing, shattering the sense of exceptionalism the company has fostered among its workers for a quarter century.

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