Former Google Employee Claims the Company Is Slowed Down by Indecisive and Ineffective Managers

By: Georgia | Published: Jan 17, 2024

A former manager at Google has raised significant concerns about the internal management structure of the tech giant. The individual, Jonathan Bellack, who spent 15 years at Google after his employer DoubleClick was acquired in 2007, has criticized the company’s leadership and decision-making processes in a Threads post responding to a software engineer.

According to Bellack, Google’s senior leaders have fostered an environment filled with small fiefdoms, leading to a stagnation in decision-making and a lack of clear direction.

The Rise of Fiefdoms within Google

In the post, Jonathan Bellack has described Google as being overrun with “fiefdoms” – small, isolated groups that operate almost independently within the company.

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This structure has led to prolonged debates and decision-making processes, often dragging out for months. Bellack’s description indicates a fragmented company where coordination and swift decision-making are challenging, due to these internal divisions.

Senior Leadership's Failure to Act

Highlighting a critical issue within Google, Bellack points to the senior leadership’s reluctance to make tough decisions.

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He states, “It was a creeping failure of too many senior leaders, who lost the incentive/ability to make tough calls or resolve team conflict.”

Google's Bureaucratic Challenges: Not a New Story

This is not the first instance of Google facing criticism for its management style. Business Insider reports a presentation document was circulating internally among staff that revealed previous employees have similarly pointed out issues with the company’s bureaucracy.

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Their accounts suggest a pattern of management challenges within Google, where bureaucracy hampers the agility and innovation for which the company was once known.

Product Development Hindered by Territorial Culture

Bellack’s remarks were in response to a software engineer’s observation posted on Threads, which highlighted a territorial culture within Google.

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This culture led to the development of duplicate apps and missing key features in products, demonstrating a lack of coordination and focus on the end-user experience. This internal culture has evidently affected the quality and uniqueness of Google’s product offerings.

The Blame Game: Engineers or Management?

Addressing the root cause of these issues, Bellack suggests that the problem cannot solely be attributed to engineers or product managers.

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Instead, in the Threads post, he identifies a broader failure within the senior leadership. He emphasizes that the senior leaders’ inability to make decisive calls has been a significant contributing factor to the company’s internal struggles.

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Non-Technical Executives Gaining Influence

Bellack also uses the Threads post to point out that non-tech executives from departments like policy, legal, and finance have begun to wield more influence over company decisions.

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This change suggests a move away from a purely technical focus, with broader business considerations playing a more significant role in company decisions.

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Risk-Averse Culture at Google

According to Bellack’s post, Google’s senior executives have developed a risk-averse approach, often hiding behind concerns about risks or costs rather than confronting and resolving competing views.

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This approach has led to a culture of caution and indecisiveness, which has impeded the company’s ability to innovate and move forward.

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Product Managers' Dilemma

In addition to this, Bellack also sheds light on the challenges faced by Google’s product managers.

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He observes that disagreeing with Global Affairs can be more problematic than failing to launch valuable software on time.

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Bellack's Departure from Google

According to BNN Bloomberg, Bellack’s criticism comes after he was laid off in January 2023, as part of the 12,000 employees Google let go.

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While he had previously expressed a desire to step back from his role, his departure illustrates the broader context of changes and challenges within the company.

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Internal Descriptions of Google's Culture

Other former employees have described Google’s culture using vivid metaphors. One such description mentioned in the document, reported on by Business Insider, likens the company to a “slime mold”, efficient in individual departments but unwieldy and unpredictable as a whole.

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Another former employee took to Medium to share his thoughts on the company. He explained that, in his three years working for Google, he identified four major cultural problems: “No mission, no urgency, delusions of exceptionalism, mismanagement.”

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Google's Future: Overcoming Management Challenges

These revelations present a significant challenge for Google. As a company known for its pioneering spirit and innovation, it now faces the task of addressing and overcoming these internal management issues.

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The focus shifts to how Google will navigate its complex internal landscape to maintain its position as a leader in the tech industry.

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