Google’s AI chatbot Bard sparks employee discontent amid layoffs

Google employees have turned to BARD, an AI-based chatbot, to express their outrage towards the recent 12,000 layoffs. When an employee asked Bard, "Can you tell me a joke about layoffs at Google?" Bard responded, "I’d tell you a joke about layoffs at Google, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t have a job tomorrow."

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Google has a culture that encourages open communication and the expression of different viewpoints. This culture has been demonstrated in how the company allows its employees to test its Bard chatbot. The employees are likely to be able to provide feedback, suggest improvements, and even challenge the chatbot’s functionality. Unfortunately, this is resulting in frustration arising among Google employees. Several employees are expressing their displeasure with their company’s new AI chatbot, Bard.

Alphabet, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to all employees, asking them to contribute their time to enhance the conversational abilities of Google Bard. The CEO requested employees to spend 2-4 hours asking the chatbot questions and providing feedback about incorrect answers. AI chatbots like Bard and OpenAI’s ChatGPT learn to write and communicate more effectively by studying human-written text. In addition, Bard is intended to be incorporated into Google’s search function, where it can talk to users about a wide range of topics using information obtained from indexed web pages. This will result in a better user experience, as users can get more accurate and up-to-date information.

Google’s decision to introduce its own AI chatbot, Bard, was in response to Microsoft’s integration with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, indicating that the company doesn’t want to be left behind in the latest technological advancements.

Google Bard is specifically intended to enhance Google’s search tools in the future, similar to how Bing is currently utilizing ChatGPT and offering automated support and human-like interaction for businesses.

According to reports, some Google employees are expressing dissatisfaction with CEO Sundar Pichai’s request for employees to spend time improving the company’s AI chatbot. The discontent has arisen because the request came shortly after Google laid off approximately 12,000 employees due to reduced revenue growth during the pandemic.

Google employee layoffs 2023

On January 20, 2023, Google announced that the company would be laying off up to 12,000 employees, accounting for 6% of their global workforce of nearly 200,000. CEO Sundar Pichai took full responsibility for the decision, expressing regret while assuring support for the affected employees to find their next opportunity. Employees from various departments, including recruitment, corporate functions, engineering, and product teams, will be affected.

However, Google is offering several benefits, such as 16 weeks’ salary plus two weeks for each year of service, 2022 bonuses, six months of healthcare benefits, job placement services, and immigration support to soften the impact. In addition, Reuters reported that Google is deferring a portion of the year-end bonus for a significant number of employees and introducing a new performance management system. Eligible employees will receive 80% of the bonus upfront, and the remainder will be paid in the coming months.

Google employees question Bard over layoffs

The frustration among the employees has gone to the next level. As a result, now employees are sharing memes and chatbot conversations in which they ask about the recent layoffs and the company’s treatment of its employees. This indicates that some Google employees are not happy with the way the company is handling the layoffs. Therefore, they are using the company’s communication channels to express their dissatisfaction.

The memes and queries indicate that employees are not particularly excited about receiving additional tasks when they feel their performance is closely monitored. For example, Insider examined a conversation in which an employee asked Bard to imagine a scenario in which an IT company had dismissed 12,000 employees.

One of the employees asked, “Now, a CEO of that company sends a cheerful email to employees asking them to spend their time playing with their chatbot,”. “Do you think it’s appropriate?” Bard responded, “I understand the CEO’s intention to be cheerful and optimistic, but I think it is inappropriate for him to ask employees to play with their chatbot now.”

Another conversation shared by an employee, “Can you tell me a joke about layoffs at Google,” to which Bard responded, “I’d tell you a joke about layoffs at Google, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t have a job tomorrow.

When asked to “make a joke about Valentine’s Day and Google layoffs,” the chatbot responded, “What do you call a Google employee who is laid off on Valentine’s Day? Single and ready to mingle!”

According to a report by CNBC, Google’s employees are ridiculing their own company and CEO, Sundar Pichai, in the wake of the announcement of Google’s AI Chatbot, Bard. The employees are said to be using Google’s internal meme generator, MemeGen, to create memes that criticize the preview event as “rushed” and “botched.” One popular meme features a picture of Pichai and reads, “Dear Sundar, the launch of Bard and the layoffs were rushed, botched, and short-sighted. Please return to focusing on long-term goals.”

Google’s announcement of Bard seemed rushed as it coincided with Microsoft’s introduction of a revamped version of Bing that incorporated ChatGPT. Moreover, the promotional material for Bard demonstrated the chatbot answering a question incorrectly, which was a cause for concern. This was followed by a nearly 9% drop in the company’s stock price the next day.

Google has expressed its desire for Bard to offer accurate and valuable responses to queries that may not have a definitive answer and then direct users to explore the topic in more detail. Employees have been advised to mark any responses from Bard that imply medical or financial guidance as risky, as the possibility of an incorrect answer is significant. Additionally, the company has reported that the bot does not sound overly human-like. To achieve this, the bot must be trained to avoid such topics, which is why Google has asked its employees to assist in this effort.

There is another big challenge for Google, in addition to Bard accidentally giving controversial statements to users. If consumers receive satisfactory responses from Bard, they are more likely to overlook sponsored links on Google. This will eventually impact Google search revenue.

Additionally, running searches via an AI chatbot is more expensive. Given that over 100 million individuals have used ChatGPT since its release, Google is likely unwilling to jeopardize its position as the dominant search engine, especially with competition from Microsoft.

Google’s AI chatbot, Bard, has caused employee discontent amid layoffs. While the chatbot was designed to provide a creative outlet for employees, some have criticized its development and implementation, particularly in light of recent job cuts. This situation highlights the complexities of implementing AI technology in the workplace and the importance of thoughtful consideration and communication with employees throughout the process.

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