Google employees criticize CEO Sundar Pichai for ‘rushed, botched’ announcement of GPT competitor Bard

Google employees criticize CEO Sundar Pichai for ‘rushed, botched’ announcement of GPT competitor Bard

Google employees are criticizing leadership, most notably CEO Sundar Pichai, for the way the company handled the announcement this week of its ChatGPT competitor called Bard.

Staffers took to the popular internal forum Memegen to express their thoughts on the Bard announcement, referring to it as “rushed,” “botched” and “un-Googley,” according to messages and memes viewed by CNBC.

On Monday, Google got ahead of a Microsoft event the following day and had Pichai publicly divulge some details of the company’s chatbot technology. More about Bard was revealed on Wednesday at an event held in Paris.

In between those events, Microsoft, an early investor in ChatGPT creator OpenAI, showcased how its Bing search engine will integrate with the buzzy chat technology, inviting reporters to a demonstration at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google

Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

During Google’s Wednesday event, search boss Prabhakar Raghavan briefly shared some slides with examples of Bard’s capabilities. People tuning in expected to hear more, and some employees weren’t even aware of the event. One presenter forgot to bring a phone that was required for the demo.

Meanwhile, people on Twitter began pointing out that an ad for Bard offered an incorrect description of a telescope used to take the first pictures of a planet outside our solar system.

While Google employees often turn to Memegen to humorously poke fun at the company’s quirks and missteps, the posts after the Bard announcement struck a more serious tone and even went directly after Pichai.

“Dear Sundar, the Bard launch and the layoffs were rushed, botched, and myopic,” read one meme that included a serious picture of Pichai. “Please return to taking a long-term outlook.” The post received many upvotes from employees.

A Google representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Sundar, and leadership, deserve a Perf NI,” another highly rated meme read, referring to the lowest category in the company’s employee performance review system. “They are being comically short sighted and un-Googlely in their pursuit of ‘sharpening focus.'”

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks during a keynote address announcing ChatGPT integration for Bing at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, on February 7, 2023.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Last year, Pichai called on employees to be more focused. Leadership often implores staffers to be “Googley,” which loosely means being ambitious and hardworking, with respect and teamwork in mind.

Alphabet shares have tumbled more than 9% this week on concerns about ChatGPT’s threat to Google’s core search business and to the company’s hastened reaction to Microsoft’s event.

“Rushing Bard to market in a panic validated the market’s fear about us,” one highly rated meme read. The attached photo was of a bird doing a facepalm.

Google’s position in artificial intelligence is a familiar concern. At a December all-hands meeting, employees asked about the company’s competitive edge in AI as ChatGPT was taking off in the public eye. Executives responded by saying the company’s reputation could suffer if it moves too fast on AI-chat technology, which is far from perfect.

A highly read meme this week showed an image of a dumpster fire with the Google “G” logo on it. The text said, “How everything’s felt since last year.”

Another meme referred to last month’s announced layoffs, which resulted in the loss of 12,000 jobs, or 6% of the company’s workforce. The meme featured a photo of actor Nicolas Cage smiling and said “Firing 12k people rises the stock by 3%, one rushed AI presentation drops it by 8%.” 

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