Google CEO Sundar Pichai Faced Intense Pushback From Employees. His Response Is a Masterclass in Leading People

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Faced Intense Pushback From Employees. His Response Is a Masterclass in Leading People


Over the past two years, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, has faced increased pushback from employees, most recently at an employee meeting in March. Employees there complained that the company is falling behind on issues like compensation and how the company reviews performance.

Before that, Google eliminated its iconic town-hall meetings in response to a rise in employee activism. Pichai himself faced criticism over his leadership style, with some employees complaining that he takes too long to make decisions. Recently, the company also faced pushback on its plans to bring employees back to the office as the pandemic wanes. 

Pichai himself didn’t have much to say in response to questions raised on an employee survey at the meeting in March. According to reports at the time, Pichai deferred the questions to Brett Hill, a top HR executive at Google. 

On the one hand, that makes sense. If the question is about how Google employees are compensated, it’s logical that the person responsible for that part of the business might answer.


On the other hand, the lack of response from Pichai was notable, especially when you consider that everything rises and falls on leadership. It’s not the type of question on which you’d expect a leader like Pichai to stay quiet.

Recently, however, Pichai appeared in an interview on Stanford Graduate School of Business’s View From the Top YouTube series. During the interview, Pichai was asked by MBA student Archana Sohmshetty how he would respond to the pushback.

One of the fortunate things I’ve felt, from day one, Google has had a strong employee voice. For me as the CEO running a large company, I’ve always found it helpful because you trust your employees to get it right at scale … So I view it as a strength of the company when employees speak up. I think it’s important for us to take it seriously. Internalizing it, acknowledging it, owning up to it, committing, and making the company better is how you approach those moments.

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