There is a debate brewing today about Google's employment figures, and it misses the point.
Do you call the situation threatening the jobs of 10,000 employees at Google "layoffs"?
To the men and women whose jobs are affected, the nomenclature really doesn't matter much -- it's a termination and it sucks.
Daya Baran, president of the Web Guild, sent us off track this morning, Nov. 24, with a post that was rather alarmist and accusatory. The headline: "Google Layoffs - 10,000 Workers Affected." Baran might have been more accurate and certainly more careful in his headline writing.
Google is indeed ending the employment of as many as 10,000 workers, but as Baran himself later points out, Google avoids calling these terminations "layoffs" because they only affect temporary workers, contractors and a class of workers who are full-time but do not receive benefits. Many of the affected are the folks who drive the free buses around Mountain View, Calif., or sling free four-star hash in Google's high-end cafeterias.
Baran goes on to insinuate that Google is scheming to avoid the bad press associated with layoffs and mass firings. Google Watch's Clint Boulton wrote later that there was no such scheming. Google has been up-front about its intention to trim the contract workers since it announced the plan Oct. 16 during a third-quarter earnings call.
Whether they're scheming to call it something else or just raising the "Mission Accomplished" banner is Google's problem. Call it a layoff, call it a work force reduction or call it eliminating "discretionary spending" as Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd did today during HP's earnings call. The classification doesn't matter much when you lose your job. You're fired and it sucks.