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Google’s Project Oxygen and Managerial Role Case Study

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Updated: Jul 30th, 2021

Important Facts Surrounding the Case

One important fact surrounding the case is the role of managers in ensuring the success of a business/ company. Brett et al. argue that managers are critical in the success of a company as they are the link between people and systems (621). In fact, many companies agree with the given premise and ensure that specific characteristics, labelled as great characteristics of managers, are acknowledged during the recruitment of managerial positions.

The company in question, Google, has upheld the value of human resources in their organizational culture. Thus, the company puts a lot of emphasis on the proper treatment of employees, in turn, encouraging the development of proper relationships between the employees and the management. Therefore, from the case study, it can be concluded that Google rates managers highly in regard to their impact on the success of the company. Particularly, the research study done tried to determine what ‘best managers’ do and how they are rated by their junior staff.

Another important fact surrounding the case is employee turnover. Indeed, Garvin et al. explain that whereas Google does not have high employee turnover (compared to other firms of its caliber), management felt the need to acknowledge some of the issues that had made previous employees leave (5). The research conducted in Project Oxygen revealed that relationships with managers had a significant impact on employee turnover, albeit little.

It is also important to point out that the perceptions of junior employees have been used to develop the literature review of the case study. The authors used opinions on definition of ‘best managers’, and views on how the defined ‘best managers’ behave, to come up with their arguments. As mentioned, the impact of managers in success has been highlighted in the case study. It is particularly for the said reason that the entire case study is founded.

Key Issue of the Case Study

The key issue that can be deduced from the case study provided is the role of managers in the company. It can be argued that managers are often perceived to be influential in ensuring system efficiency. However, as Kelloway et al. confirm, managers have over the years been linked to overall employee performance (40). Indeed, from the case study, it can be argued that managers in this day and age have the responsibility of building the capacity of their junior staff to in turn, have a positive impact on their performance.

Analyzing the case study provided, it can be argued that the managers that ranked highly in the research had more cooperative and better performing teams compared to those who ranked poorly (Garvin et al. 6). In fact, the same managers who ranked poorly also had high turnover rates compared to managers who scored highly.

Alternative Courses of Action

There are several alternative courses of action that Google can take to ensure its managers qualify to be termed ‘best managers’. The first suggested action is the policy development of definitions of the right qualities, according to the specifications of the company’s Human Resource manual, of a manager. It is suggested that the HR department be sensitized on the type of managers the company is looking for in order to first ensure that the right people for the job hold the said position. Secondly, and as suggested by Garvin et al. is the development of a broader people management initiative (6). The initiative should be complemented by proper training for all managers in the company.

It is critical to point out that such trainings help managers identify some of the things they can do to help motivate their employees better. In turn, the employees will record better performances. Additionally, intense training on people management will also help managers understand the dynamics of the workplace. In turn, the managers will be at a better position to tap into the skills and knowledge of the junior employees, for the benefit of the company.

Another course of alternative action is the flexibility of organizational culture. Hui-Ru et al. argue that great managers are often frustrated by limitations brought on by organizational cultures (670). To ensure a viable culture, management has to create a flexible working environment. Both the managers and the junior staff have to be trained and sensitized on the importance of communication in performance. Suffices to state, Garvin et al. offer a viable action plan that the company should also consider (6). Some of the suggested actions include better feedback analysis procedures and stronger support systems for managers.

Evaluation of Courses of Action

The suggested courses of action have to be evaluated to ensure that they fir within the context of Google. The first suggested action is policy development to support the recruitment of managers who fit the expectations of the firm. An advantage of the policy change is that it is long term. The policy can be used long after the current managers have left the corporate. Additionally, policy change, to some extent, removes the element of choice of implementation.

The human resource department will have no other choice than to implement the policy. One disadvantage of the suggested action is that there is no one definition of the concept ‘great manager’. In fact, there are only several characteristics that have been identified in great managers. The fact that the policy cannot dictate the characteristics only, without definition, and the acknowledgement of the complexities brought on by different personalities and characteristics makes the suggestion difficult to implement.

The second suggestion given is the training of managers according to the expectations of Google. One advantage of the trainings is that they will instill the exact characteristics the company values in its managers. However, training can be expensive. The third suggested course of action is the change of organizational culture. Change of organizational culture will affect more than just the people management.

However, due to the fact that change is difficult, the management might have a hard time convincing employees of the necessity of the change. The stated limitation does not in any way, however, suggest that such change is not critical. In fact, if possible reason can be noted for change in organizational culture, for efficiency, then management should ensure that all employees are sensitized on the need for change.

It is also important to point out that each of the shortcomings that have been identified can be solved. For instance, in regards to policy, the management can create its own definition of the term alongside the job description, to ensure that the right people are identified as managers in the organization. Also, in regards to training, Google can cut down on other costs in order to fundraise funds for the trainings suggested.

Recommendation of the Best Course of Action

The training of the managers is the most relevant for the case study provided. First, training encompasses the acquisition of knowledge, which can in turn be shared with other people in the firm. Due to the fact that there is no universal definition of ‘great managers’ the trainings can be customised to suit the organizational culture, mission and vision of Google. Additionally, trainings can be used to also add more skills and knowledge.

It is important to state that the capacity building of the managers is also long term. As stated, employee turnover in Google is low compared to similar firms. Thus, the rule of succession is implemented easily where junior staff are promoted based on merit. The junior staff will most likely take up the values passed on from their managers and in turn, pass the same knowledge and skills to other incoming managers and so forth.

Summary of the Case

In an attempt to improve the performance of the company, Google introduced Project Oxygen, which aimed at determining the impact of managers, and the differences in performance of different work teams based on their relationships with their managers. The research study was done to ensure that Google come up with plausible action plans that would benefit the firm by increasing performance of both managers and junior staff.

The conclusion of the research study presented through the case study is that managers have a critical role to play in a firm’s success. In fact, from the study, it can be argued that the people management skills of a manager can determine the success or failure of the department, or a whole organization. It is important for firms to train their managers to suit the organizational culture, mission and vision, in order to increase performance levels.

Works Cited

Brett, Joan F., et al. “Goal Orientation and Employee Resistance at Work: Implications for Manager Emotional Exhaustion with the Employee.” Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, vol. 89, no. 3, 2016, pp. 611-633.

Garvin, David, et al. Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? Harvard Business School Publishing, 2013.

Hui-Ru, Cai, et al. “Fostering Managers’ Knowledge-Sharing Behavior: The Impact of the Employee- Organization Relationship.” Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, vol. 44, no. 4, 2016, pp. 669-678.

Kelloway, E. Kevin, et al. “Transformational Leadership and Employee Psychological Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Employee Trust in Leadership.” Work & Stress, vol. 26, no. 1, 2012, pp. 39-55.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Google's Project Oxygen and Managerial Role." July 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/googles-project-oxygen-and-managerial-role/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Google's Project Oxygen and Managerial Role'. 30 July.

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