All does not seem well with one of the world’s most innovative companies. Notwithstanding a surge in profits, Google executives are leaving en masse, prompting speculation that there is a leadership problem.

If ex-Google executives are to be believed, the problem lies with the company’s chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, specifically his indecisive and risk-averse leadership style.

Record profits don’t mean everything is roses at Google

If there is trouble in Google paradise, it’s not profitability. In fact, Google revenue is at an all-time high despite the pandemic, reaching record levels for three months at a time. At the moment, Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, has a valuation of $1.6 trillion. 

However, behind its stunning financial performance is a company coming to grips with disgruntled executives and a high turnover rate. Google executives opine that Pichai’s leadership style does not align with the company’s highly outspoken workforce, which could significantly explain many are leaving the company. Not only that – they publicly reveal their reasons for doing so.

For instance, long-time Google employee Noam Bardin, who worked for the company since 2013, shared in his blog that the question which should be asked is, “why did I stay for so long?” and not “why did you leave?.” He added that Google would have difficulty innovating as long the risk tolerance of its leaders remains low.

In an exclusive New York Times interview, 15 current and ex-Google executives agreed to speak anonymously about the problems plaguing Pichai’s leadership. They shared that the challenges facing Google are what you might expect from a large and maturing firm, including bureaucratic hurdles, passivity, and preference for inaction, and a focus on public perception.

According to these executives, Pichai’s tendency to slowly resolve problems that demanded swift and decision-making made the workplace culture difficult. In-fighting in the workplace was not dealt with immediately, causing these issues to fester and ruin morale. As his colleagues described him, Pichai is keener on “lowering the temperature” instead of resolving issues head-on. He always veers away from making unpopular decisions.

However, some Google executives also reiterate that while Pichai’s leadership is far from perfect, internal surveys record a positive rating for the CEO. 

Google’s challenges not going away anytime soon

The tech giant is facing hurdles left and right, domestically and overseas, not to mention a public relations concern that could blow up in their faces. The company is under intense scrutiny from politicians concerning the regulation of technology giants and their violation of antitrust laws. Pichai has become a familiar face in congressional hearings, and his answers have been safe so far.

While Google still appears to be at the top of its game now, critics suggest that its heydays may be coming to an end. Its inability to recruit and retain the best talent will be its most significant stumbling block in the future. As far as Google’s former employees are concerned, that is a leadership problem.