A lot of people leave their jobs because of bosses they can’t stand. Yet it’s seldom the case that a former employee publicly badmouths management after the fact. The obvious risk in doing so: future employers might not want to gamble on this person badmouthing them at a later date.
That isn’t stopping Morgan Knutson, a UI designer who seven years ago, spent eight months at Google working on its recently shuttered social networking product Google+ and who, in light of the shutdown, decided to share on Twitter his personal experience with how “awful the project and exec team was.”
This will be a super slow burn that goes back many years. I’ll continue to add to over the next couple of days. I’ll preface it with a bunch of backstory and explain what I had left behind, which made me more unhappy about the culture I had come into.
— Morgan (@morganknutson) October 11, 2018
It’s a fairly long read, but among his most notable complaints is that former Google SVP Vic Gundotra, who oversaw Google+, ruled by fear and never bothered to talk with Knutson, whose desk was “directly next to Vic’s glass-walled office. He would walk by my desk dozens of times during the day. He could see my screen from his desk. During the 8 months I was there, culminating in me leading the redesign of his product, Vic didn’t say a word to me. No hello. No goodbye, or thanks for staying late. No handshake. No eye contact.”
Vic was powerful at Google. He had buy-in from the top and he wielded that stick aggressively. He made Plus as pervasive as he could. Each product org had a mandate to integrate its social features.
— Morgan (@morganknutson) October 12, 2018
He also says Gundotra essentially bribed other teams within Google to incorporate Google+’s features into their products by promising them handsome financial rewards for doing so atop their yearly bonuses. “You read that correctly, “tweeted Knutson. “A f*ck ton of money to ruin the product you were building with bloated garbage that no one wanted.”
Gundotra is today the cofounder and CEO of AliveCor, maker of a device that captures a “medical grade” E.K.G. within 30 seconds; AliveCor has gone on to raise $30 million from investors, including the Mayo Clinic.
Asked about Knutson’s characterization of him, Gundotra suggested the rant was “absurd” but otherwise declined to comment.
Knutson disparages even more strongly a former manager that he calls “Greg” and he portrays a fellow designer, Jim, as paranoid and vindictive. Indeed, in describing how his unit was organized, Knutson paints a picture of a political, haphazard, wasteful and ultimately disappointing division where it was never quite clear who should be working on what or why. In fact, though he says he thought he was “joining the big leagues” when recruited by Google, Knutson wound up taking a job with Dropbox shortly afterward in order to escape from the corporate leviathan.
It also sounds from his own telling like Knutson might have been canned eventually.
No matter what you think of the tweets, it’s an interesting narrative and it’s instructive as one insider’s view onto what — other than Facebook’s stranglehold on users — may have ultimately doomed Google+, which was shut down last week due to lack of user and developer adoption (even while a business version of the network lives on for the foreseeable future).
The biggest takeaway: like many other gigantic companies, Google has its fair share of flaws.
You can check out the full tweetstorm here.