Photo: Flickr/Yaniv Golan
Here’s how one source describes the move:
As part of the re-org, employees were kicked out of their offices over the holidays, and morale among managers is absolutely plummeting.
AOL decreed that no one below the level of VP could have an office to his or herself, and yet cubicles were off limits too. Instead, they must share offices.
As a result, there are people with 10 or 20 direct reports and no private office. It’s particularly absurd because in recent months these same managers have spent so much of their time behind their closed office doors trying to soothe their unhappy employees.
The alleged reason for the change was consistency — apparently some managers had offices while others didn’t, so the “only VPs” rule would solve that. [But] in one case a 20-something woman with no reports has her own office, while a pair of managers across the hall with a combined 30 people reporting to them have to share space.
Another screwup: when moving everyone into their respective towns, AOL ignored the actual sites that an editor worked on. So while, say, all the lifestyle people may be together, one travel editor is now across the room from the others, instead of in the same pod.
It’s extraordinary to watch what’s going on. It’s as if some MBA read Peter Drucker and decided to do the exact opposite of everything he recommended.
The idea of the towns was explained a few weeks before Christmas, but managers didn’t find out they were getting roommates until about 12/20… the morning after a high energy all-hands meeting that involved iPad give-aways, a David Eun dance routine and of course a Tim Armstrong pep talk. The all-hands was at 10 pm so the Bangalore folks could tune in, so the good feelings lasted about 11 hours, until everyone in New York got in the next morning to see the memo about the new office rules. The roommate list came out on Dec. 22.
Most of the Googlers came in at the VP level or above, so it’s not an issue for them. One euphemism for someone who gets his/her own office was to list the assignment as EMPLOYEE’S NAME/”visitor.” The visitor, of course, doesn’t exist.
What I can say is that this edict created two distinct business problems: it made it harder for people to do their jobs, and it torpedoed the already low morale among directors and other sub-VP managers (all but one of the SVPs has quit in recent months, so at least it’s not a problem at that level).