Leaked memo lifts lid on life at Google

28 Jun 2007

Microsoft's ex-Google employee reveals the perks and the pitfalls of working for the search giant

Google is a workaholic, college culture that has problems dealing with staff conflict, according to a leaked memo.

The claims come from a supposed internal interview with a Microsoft employee who used to work at Google's US offices. He was asked if there was any lessons Microsoft could learn from Google to help it compete with its rival.

The employee was largely damning in his assessment of life at Google, likening it to a college. "These kids don't have a life yet so they spend all of their time at work," he claims. "Google provides nearly everything these people need from clothes (new T-shirts are placed in bins for people to grab twice a week!) to food - three, free, all-you-can-eat meals a day."

Though the official working day is standard hours, the former Google developer claims many staff work long into the night from home. "People are generally in the building between 10am and about 6pm every day, but nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7 and most people spend most of their evenings working from home."

"This culture changes a bit with more experienced folks. They generally work 10am - 6pm like the new hires, and most of them are on email until around midnight," he adds.

The Microsoft man also paints a picture of organisational chaos, with staff working anywhere they can find a space. "There are glass-walled offices, there are open-space areas, there are cubicles, there are people who's [sic] desks are literally in hallways because there's no room anywhere else," the leaked memo claims.

He also claims managers have up to 100 staff reporting to them, leading developers to try and resolve disputes by themselves. "Conflict resolution between team members is very complex - the product's manager isn't involved day-to-day, probably doesn't actually manage all of the peers who are trying to resolve a conflict, and likely hasn't spent any time with their employees anyway."

The memo is also fairly damning of Google's famed policy of allowing employees to spend 20% of their time on their own projects. "Most people don't actually have a 20% project. Most managers won't remind you to start one," he claims.

Google declined to comment on any of the allegations.

You can read the full transcript of the interview here.

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