I feel qualified to answer this question because I was fired from Google this April, after five years working there.
I experienced a burnout about a year before that: my productivity dropped x5 times approximately (that is from five commits per week to one commit on average, on the same project in the same environment). So I needed to change something, and I changed teams – transferring to semantic search (RefX team).
That was a mistake: search is the biggest and most complex product at Google, and semantic search (the thing that gives you a direct answer to the query instead of links) is one of the brainiest teams around. With burnout my performance not only failed to recover — it went further downhill.
At that point my relationship with the manager and director started to deteriorate too: they got a new guy on the team but couldn’t get much done from me. My managers first instinct was to enforce some discipline: make me sit in front of the computer essentially, monitor when I come and go, which naturally made things even worse.
In private discussions I was asked why don’t I leave by myself, to which I answered that I’m happy with my Google salary. If Google is not happy with my performance — feel free to fire me, but I’m not going to jump myself.
Performance Improvement Plan
In March I was put on PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). It’s a formal agreement that I should produce certain output in two months. After a week it was quite obvious to me that I won’t make it. Again I had a talk with HR and director, and was actually threatened to be fired with ‘Gross Misconduct’ (without benefits and waiting period). Apparently my manager and director decided that I was somehow gaming the system and just milk the company while not making any effort to do my job.
In the end they didn’t wait for PIP to run through and gave me a termination notice in another week. I returned my Google hardware and badge, and my manager walked me out of the building — all in 10 minutes or so. My Google employee account was revoked at the same time. We went to a nearby cafe with him, and he even paid for a drink though 🙂
As was stated by my contract I had a one-month notice period. So I was formally employed and received salary for another month, although I didn’t and couldn’t work during it. Google also produced a stellar reference letter for future employers, without mentioning any of this.
When burnout hits
Overall it felt unpleasant, as is natural in burnout. I think the nasty attitude from manager and director was unnecessary: it sucks when superiors don’t trust you, treating me as a liar without saying it explicitly. The team didn’t know anything about the process though, and was generally great and supportive — probably the smartest people I ever worked with.
I have fully recovered since then — changing the teams didn’t help, but changing the company did.