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Report: Google’s HR chief to step down amid growing employee tension

Eileen Naughton steps down after dealing with a string of scandals over executive sexual harassment to controversial products.

Report: Google’s HR chief to step down amid growing employee tension
[Photo: Arthur Osipyan/Unsplash]

Google’s head of people operations (aka human resources) Eileen Naughton plans to step down from her post after spending a few years mediating a growing tension between employees and management, reports Fortune‘s Danielle Abril. Naughton plans to transition out of her VP role later this year, the report says.

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Since Naughton took the helm at Google HR in 2016, a lot has happened in the way of employee relations at Google—most of it not good.

Google employees have jousted with management on a number of issues, including the company’s environmental policies, labor practices, and the development of controversial products like the rumored search engine for the Chinese market.

Google suspended or fired a number of employees for leaking information or accessing proprietary data without authorization. That resulted in a number of protests outside the company’s San Francisco office. Many employees were angry that Google dialed back its “TGIF” all-hands  meeting, the forum in which employees could air grievances to management in front of the whole company. Google made matters worse by bringing in a union-busting consultancy to help deal with the employee unrest.

Staffers became increasing angry about the company giving large severance packages to top managers who departed the company after accusations of sexual harassment and other misconduct. Such matters would likely have been coordinated directly through Naughton’s office. Another Google employee posted a memo charging that the company discriminated against her when she was pregnant.

Google confirmed Naughton’s plan to step down from her position later this year. The company also provided a statement from Naughton:

“My husband and I have decided—after six years on the road, first in London and now San Francisco—to return home to New York to be closer to our family,” she said. “I’m at the very beginning of the process, and wanted to let everyone know upfront, as I’ll be working with Sundar and Ruth to find a great leader for the People Operations team.”

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This story has been updated with Google confirmation and Naughton statement.

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About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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