Ex-Google executive appeals dismissal

Senior manager faulted over allegedly failing to ‘embrace change’ positively

Sat, May 18, 2013, 02:00

One of the most senior managers at Google Ireland was dismissed after her London-based superior determined she was not performing to the company’s international standards.

The standards, known internally as staff “ratings”, are carried out quarterly and involve staff being benchmarked against their colleagues and other staff in the region as well as internationally.

However, Rachel Berthold, whom the company said was a “level-six” employee and, as such, senior to 93 per cent of the managers in Google’s Dublin operation, has alleged she was unfairly dismissed by the company in May 2011.

Ms Berthold’s appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal opened yesterday.

Giving evidence for Google, Ms Berthold’s superior, Anne-Catrin Sallaba, said Google had acquired a company, Double Click, in 2008 and Ms Berthold who worked there had transferred to Google.

Ms Berthold had been given a senior position and made responsible for a Google after-sales support team dealing with requests for assistance from customers in 22 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, she said. Some of the customers were “big clients” based in the UK, Germany and Benelux countries, she said.

Perceived shortcomings
But Ms Sallaba said when she herself joined Google, in June 2010, she quickly noticed shortcomings which fell into three areas.

These were Ms Berthold’s failings “to develop business metrics”; to identify “additional metrics” to measure the performance of her team; and difficulties with her “communications style” including “embracing change in a positive way”.

She said Ms Berthold had improved her communications style but the other areas remained unresolved.

Use of metrics
This was difficult for Google, she said, as the company expected requests for help to be classified into types and “a metric developed” which would analyse the data in types of requests and make the unit’s response more efficient.

The tribunal heard Ms Berthold was invited to a meeting in November 2010 at which she was asked to respond to a disciplinary case for her failure to improve her performance. A copy of the company’s disciplinary code was supplied to Ms Berthold at the meeting.

She was later invited to a formal disciplinary meeting in January 2011, and ultimately dismissed in May.

During this time, Ms Sallaba said she gave Ms Berthold many opportunities to improve and went “above and beyond what I should be doing”.

She told the tribunal she travelled extensively while making a “conscious effort to be here. But obviously I was based in London”.

Disciplinary code
However, counsel for Google said she could not definitively say that a copy of the Google disciplinary code was given to Ms Berthold on her appointment.

She said that an external consultant had been involved at the time.

Nor could the company find a copy of the letter inviting Ms Berthold to the November meeting as there had been changes in the human resources department, she said.

Ms Berthold is expected to give her evidence when the case resumes before the tribunal on July 3rd.