Google Cloud employees
Employers need to address remaining employees' concerns after layoffs.

Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

  • Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai emailed staff Friday to say that Google is laying off 12,000 employees.
  • Pichai wrote that he's confident in Google's future and that it picked the right workers to stay.
  • HR experts say it's critical for leaders to address remaining staffers' anxieties after layoffs.

Losing your job can be awful. But managers preparing to conduct layoffs should know that keeping your job while your colleagues get the ax can be tough, too.

It's not enough for leaders to make job cuts and then expect those who still have a job to move on from the news. 

Workplace experts say employers need to address remaining employees' concerns — from whether they'll be the next to go or whether they'll have to take on double the work — when conducting layoffs. 

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai's memo Friday announcing layoffs at Google is a good example of that.

"We've undertaken a rigorous review across product areas and functions to ensure that our people and roles are aligned with our highest priorities as a company," wrote Pichai in an email informing staff that Google is cutting 12,000 roles, or about 6.4% of its global workforce. 

Pichai's comments about the remaining workers being the ones the company really needs might sting for those employees being let go. Yet his statement could also help the remaining staffers avoid some of what Naveen Bhateja, a human-resources executive, calls "survivor syndrome," where the remaining workforce is "frozen in shock, in fear, in anger."

As Insider's Rebecca Knight reported, employees are 7.7% more likely to quit when their direct colleagues are laid off or terminated compared to when those colleagues stick around.

Clarity from leadership can help employees feel more secure in their professional futures.

Pichai told remaining Googlers that he's confident in the company's future

The layoffs at Google follow a series of job cuts at other tech giants, including Amazon; Meta, the parent company of Facebook; Twitter; and Salesforce. The CEOs of these companies have been alternately sympathetic and opaque in memos announcing the layoffs.

Pichai addressed a portion of his email (you can read the full text here) to remaining Google employees: "I remain optimistic about our ability to deliver on our mission," he wrote, "even on our toughest days."

He added, "I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI." Pichai said that the remaining roles — and the employees in them — are the ones Google needs to achieve its ambitions.

Pichai's reassurances might mitigate some of the unrest that can follow layoffs

Pichai's address to remaining employees could help ameliorate survivor syndrome.

Bhateja, the chief people officer at Medidata, which produces software for clinical trials, and a former Amazon HR leader, said that in some cases, executives "just move on after layoffs, thinking that, 'Oh, we are done. We gave them good severance, we gave them a good transition, and now it can be business as usual for everybody.'"

Bhateja said executives often miss that the employees left behind might be shouldering additional job tasks and missing their compatriots. "Companies need to focus on not just layoffs, but what happens next," Bhateja added.

Employees remaining at a company that just conducted layoffs are likely worried about the organization's stability. "A layoff can be an information signal," Elena Obukhova, an associate professor of strategy and organization at McGill University, previously told Insider. "It's a sign of your company's solvency or future direction."

Employers should also be clear with remaining employees about the reasons for the layoffs. "If you don't effectively communicate the reasons for the layoff and how it's going to affect the organization, you end up losing that talent anyway," Yair Riemer, the former president of career transition services at CareerArc, previously told Insider. "They're going to start losing faith and confidence in your leadership."

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