Google’s HR head to step down amid tension among employees

Eileen Naughton, then Managing Director Google UK & Ireland, at Advertising Week Europe 2016 in London, England.

Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Google human resources chief Eileen Naughton is stepping down from her role amid growing tensions between employees and management.

Naughton, who has held various roles at the company since 2006, has led the company’s human resources department as the vice president of people operations since 2016. The news was previously reported by Fortune.

Employee headcount has doubled since 2016, when Naughton took the helm, as it’s added more than 70,000 employees.The company has faced considerable tension with employees over the last several years, including a November 2018 employee walk-out after employees learned the company had paid departing Android chief $90 million despite credible claims of sexual misconduct, as well as protests over the company’s plans to work with the Defense Department on artificial intelligence technology and a plan — since abandoned — to create a censored version of its search engine for China. In November 2019, the company fired four employees who allegedly shared internal information.

CNBC recently reported that in 2019, the company rolled out an overhaul to how its human resources department responds to complaints. Instead of each person reporting to their own human resources contact in their organization and location, there’s essentially a ticketing queue, workers said. That’s become a problem for some who feel their needs are now outsourced to people who don’t have prior knowledge or understanding of the situation.

Naughton’s departure comes in the midst of a slow-rolling executive shakeup over the last several months. In December, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from their roles as the CEO and President of Google’s holding company, Alphabet. Sundar Pichai, who had already been Google’s CEO for several years, took the helm. The company’s long-time chief legal officer David Drummond retired at the end of January.

All four executives are named on a shareholder lawsuit that alleges senior execs mishandled claims of sexual misconduct at the company. CNBC reported in December that Alphabet received a two-month extension to provide a response to the shareholder lawsuit. In that extension, the company said it concluded its investigation into executives and will seek mediation.

The company said Naughton is departing her role to move to New York, and she is still in the “early” stages of the process to move away, the company said in a statement to CNBC. The company declined to say when her last day in the role will be.

A Google spokesperson confirmed Naughton will be taking another role within the company, but declined to provide any details on what that would be. She’ll work with Pichai and Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat to find another leader to fill her role.

“Over the past 13 years, Eileen has made major contributions to the company in numerous areas, from media partnerships, to leading our sales and operations in the UK and Ireland, to leading our People Operations team through a period of significant growth — during which over 70,000 people started their careers at Google,” Pichai said in a statement the company sent to CNBC. “We’re grateful to Eileen for all she’s done and look forward to her next chapter at Google.”

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