Google used to say its lavish perks bolstered productivity and, if anything, would only grow more posh. But a recession changes things. Now the official line is more like, just be happy you're working, you ungrateful fucking pigs.
Speaking to reporters today in New York, founder Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt (pictured) said people shouldn't come to the company to get rich, and shouldn't expect fancy food, Peter Kafka at All Things D reports.
There was a period of time where the [Google] culture, as it were, was misinterpreted... When there were a few of us working in the garage... occasionally [cofounder] Larry [Page] would Rollerblade in with a few sandwiches for food. And that grew up into everybody's expectation: "Oh, they should have all the gourmet food they want, at any time." ...We decided to... significantly cut down all the snacks that had been available.
Google pays very well. Google is clearly a growth company... We don't want them to come to Google for those reasons. We want them to come to Google to change the world...
....The tightening that [CFO] Patrick [Pichette] in particular did, who I think is the current Google hero, really did change the culture in a much more pragmatic way: "We're happy to work here. We're happy to be employed. We love what we're doing. Our friends, you know, have been laid off."
So, to summarize, a CEO who is a multibillionaire due to his Google stock says that you shouldn't come to the company to get rich, but to change the world. And the co-founder who has got Google investing in and renting space to his wife's company and hiring his mother in law as a consultant says Google shouldn't breed a culture of entitlement. OK.
But that puts to lie Google's old line, which was that it made crucial productivity gains by keeping programmers in the office longer with perks like free haircuts, a climbing wall, free internet-enabled buses, and, yes, free gourmet food. Here's what Brin and co-founder Larry Page wrote in an open letter to investors ahead of Google's 2004 IPO:
We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, including meals free of charge, doctors and washing machines. We are careful to consider the long term advantages to the company of these benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over time. We believe it is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish with respect to benefits that can save employees considerable time and improve their health and productivity.
Brin also defended the perks in a 2001 New York Times article, saying that, compared to routine corporate costs like marketing campaigns, ''these things cost nothing." Apparently "nothing" really adds up.