A story continued Bloomberg earlier today headlined “Blizzard Manager Leaves in Protest of Personnel Ranking System”. It sounds very corporate, maybe something that would end up on an HR executive’s Linkedin news feed, but the things it describes are important because it sounds absolutely dystopian.
Here is how that “employee ranking system” is described in the report:
In 2021, Blizzard, a part of Activision Blizzard Inc., implemented a process called stack ranking, which ranks employees on a bell curve and requires managers to give low ratings to a certain percentage of the workforce, according to people familiar with the change that requested not to be mentioned by name when discussing a private matter. Managers were expected to give about 5% of employees on their teams a poor “developing” status, which would lower their profit-sharing bonus money and could prevent them from receiving raises or promotions in the near future…
You’ll have to forgive me here, because despite my tenure in this job, I still live and work in Australia and so am not fully up to date with the specifics of US office conditions, but what the fuck? You tell me this company has implemented a system where 5% of the workforce even if they are doing fine even if they have a good jobwill it be targeted — and suffering financially — just to hit a quota?
No wonder people are angry! One of those people, Brian Birmingham, a co-lead developer on World of Warcraft classicgot so angry that according to from Bloomberg reports that he emailed staff last week to “express his frustration with this system.”
When team leaders asked why we should do this, World of Warcraft the directors explained that while they disagreed, the reasons given by the executive leadership were that it was important to squeeze out the worst performers to ensure everyone continues to grow. These kinds of policies encourage competition between employees, sabotage of each other’s work, a desire by people to find low-performing teams in which to be the best-performing employee, and ultimately erode trust and destroy creativity.
Birmingham goes on to say he cannot work under a system like this, which he and other managers (who were asked to keep it a secret!) had managed to ‘bypass or skip’ in recent years, but recently had begun to enforce. He reportedly told staff he would leave the company if the policy wasn’t reversed, but shortly after the email was sent he was called to HR and “terminated”.
If you work at Blizzard and are affected by this policy and would like to share your experience, you can contact us here.
UPDATE 8:48 PM ET – Birmingham has released a lengthy statement on Twitter outlining his thoughts on the company’s policies and leadership position in general. It starts here: