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What you say is true in general, but in the specific case of Google it’s not relevant. Googlers, even down to individual rank-and-file engineers, have a lot of autonomy and self-determination. For better or worse, what they do is mostly up to them, so they’re expected to position themselves in a way to make maximum impact. Management only provides very high-level priorities and those priorities only affect what’s easier to get promoted for, not what anyone has to do.

There are a different set of disadvantages to this system, but I just wanted to point out that in Google’s case, management doesn’t assign anything, so an engineer working on something unimpactful is not seen as a management failure but a choice made by that engineer. It’s fine to do and you can keep your job forever doing work you believe in even if it’s not overtly “impactful,” but if you want to get promoted, it’s up to you to align yourself with the higher-level priorities.

Edit: That’s not to say Google never wastes highly-paid employees’ time (like your admin example), but the core difference is Google employees aren’t just hired to “do.” They’re also expected to spend a lot of time thinking, prioritizing, and organizing themselves, so that’s not wasted time.




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