Don’t touch me there, Google.

SwitchUpCB, PhD
5 min readFeb 27, 2023
Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash

It was a warm summer day in Mountain View, California, USA. I was heading to the office to work, but this wasn’t just any office day: It was performance review day (perf day for short). Every year, Googlers are required to submit a packet to the Googler Reviews and Development (GRAD) system. The main objective of this packet is to show your impact in the company for a promotion.

The tension in the air is always high on perf day. Employees spend months of effort for this very moment, which determines the fate of their income. When people join Google, they believe they’re doing it to make the world a better place. No… Forget the users. Perf day is more important.

The average Googler is from a well-off family that highly values education and doing things by the book. Let me put this information in another way: “Google Software Engineers are the people who read all of the documentation.” The words “stack” and “overflow” only exist as references to concepts in Computer Science class. Forget a website forum. This is the culture of Google, but not on perf day…

You see, perf-day makes people anxious. Anything you did in the last cycle can be used against you. Does your manager have dirt on you? Well then, you’re getting perfed… hard. Of course, that’s not the only factor weighing in on the psychological environment of perf day. You must also consider the upbringing of a stereotypical Googler.

Imagine that your entire life is centered around your academic prowess. Your studies were paid for. Your problems were handled. Money has never been a genuine concern for you. Do you think that your appreciation of life will be greater due to these things? No. What you have becomes a standard, an expectation of the bare minimum. That’s how you end up with employees who walk into the break room screaming, “Ugh! No coffee machine?”

That breakroom had a coffee machine installed the very next day.

It may sound out of touch, but to Googlers, getting perfed is like being robbed on the subway by a homeless person. It’s unexpected. It sets you back. Googlers aren’t used to these things. Perf day is one of them: You aren’t judged by your academic prowess but by the impact of your actual work. That’s what makes it so scary for people.