Google’s owner is forcing charity upon all its employees by donating their holiday gifts

Less fun.
Less fun.
Image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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Working for Alphabet—the owner of Google—comes with lots of benefits, from healthy meals to free shuttles buses.

The latest perk is the warm glow that comes from giving millions of dollars worth of computers and phones to charity. There’s just one catch: Those products were supposed to be holiday presents for its employees.

While most corporate workers are resigned to getting a $25 gift certificate or a frozen turkey, Google is known for lavishing its employees with the latest tech gear. In years past, employee received Nexus phones, Chromebook laptops and Android smart watches.

But this year, the company went in a different direction, according to Fortune. The company is donating $30 million in tech hardware and support to schools on its employee’s behalf.

Fortune casts the decision as part of a new culture of accountability and cost-consciousness at Alphabet, the holding company intended to shield the profit engine of Google from other, riskier bets like smart-home devices or a hot air balloon-enabled Internet. Since there’s no cost savings in redistributing the swag, others are theorizing the company is telling its employees that the gravy train is ending.

Alphabet didn’t immediately respond to an email asking for comment.

The architect of the new, coal-in-your-stockings approach is Ruth Porat, the Alphabet CFO hired last year from Morgan Stanley, according to Bloomberg. Porat has insisted that blue-sky projects like self-driving cars show a path to profit or risk being snuffed out. Investors like the new approach, and analysts suggest the company is now being run like a modern conglomerate such as General Electric.

Part of Google’s meteoric rise has been its ability to attract the best engineering talent in the world. Many engineers are lured by Google’s ambitions to tackle social problems, and the free-wheeling atmosphere of exploration and generosity for which it has become known. While most Googlers probably didn’t sign up for the Christmas presents, yanking them may send a signal to current and prospective employees that Google is becoming a lot like every other company.