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Google's culture of transparency is under strain as employees speak out

Leaked audio from a Google internal meeting is sparking renewed debate over just how much the company really wants its employees speaking out.

Driving the news: The most recent issue has been Google's hiring of Miles Taylor, who worked as chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

  • In recent months, employees have also pushed the company on a range of issues, from how it handles sexual harassment complaints to what types of work it does for the U.S. government.
  • "We are genuinely struggling with some issues — transparency at scale," CEO Sundar Pichai said in an internal meeting last week, as reported by the Washington Post.

Between the lines: That's a subtle shift from when I interviewed Pichai earlier this year for "Axios on HBO." At the time, Pichai downplayed the notion that workers were speaking out too much, or even that there was such a thing.

  • "We have encouraged our employees to speak up," he said during an unaired portion of the interview. "And it gives us a lot of insight. I've seen situations where other companies can be blind to potential issues or concerns, so I've always viewed it as a valuable way by which we get feedback."

But, I pressed, could there ever be too much of a good thing?

  • At least at the time, Pichai suggested he wanted employees to keep making their voices heard. "You know, if it's, if it's a valid concern, a real concern, I always want to hear about it," he said. "I've never felt it's an undue burden for how I need to do my job."

Go deeper: The details behind Google's toxic workplace culture