January 27, 2023

Former Blizzard Manager Opens Up About Being Fired for Protesting Ranking System – IGN


World of Warcraft Classic co-lead software engineer Brian Birmingham has claimed he was terminated from Blizzard for protesting a forced employee ranking system.

As first reported by Bloomberg, Birmingham sent an email to his former colleagues saying he was terminated after revealing his intentions to resign instead of deeming certain staff members inadequate to fill a quota. Birmingham said in a Twitter thread (below) that he didn’t share the email himself but “[believes] the quotes are accurate”.

The “stack ranking” system asks managers to rank their employees under different labels, with the poorer “developing” status potentially affecting bonus money, raises, and promotions in the near future. Birmingham claimed that Blizzard managers, under parent company Activision Blizzard King (ABK), were forced to place 5% of their employees in this “developing” category.

Birmingham said he refused to drop some staff from a “successful” category to “developing” in order to hit this quota, and also refused to work until the policy had been revoked. According to his email, Birmingham was later terminated after speaking with HR.

“This sort of policy encourages competition between employees, sabotage of one another’s work, a desire for people to find low-performing teams that they can be the best-performing worker on, and ultimately erodes trust and destroys creativity,” Birmingham wrote in the email.”

He added: “If this policy can be reversed, perhaps my Blizzard can still be saved, and if so I would love to continue working there,” “If this policy cannot be reversed, then the Blizzard Entertainment I want to work for doesn’t exist anymore, and I’ll have to find somewhere else to work.”

A Blizzard spokesperson told Bloomberg that the stack ranking system was in place to “ensure employees who don’t meet performance expectations receive more honest feedback, differentiated compensation, and a plan on how best to improve their own performance.” They also said it encourages “excellence in performance”.

Birmingham later said on Twitter that he would return to Blizzard if he could, to “fight the stack ranking policy from inside”. He said this had only become an issue now because managers had protested and avoided using it in the past, and Birmingham “truly believed we had reversed the ‘developing’ quota policy.”

He continued: “The realization that there’s still a minimum quota for ‘developing,’ despite our objections and sternly worded letters leads me to believe I was operating under an illusion. I hope Blizzard’s positive culture can overcome ABK’s poison, but it isn’t succeeding in doing that yet.”

Birmingham also called ABK a “problematic parent company” that put his team “under pressure to deliver both [World of Warcraft Classic] expansions early”. He said “the ABK team should be ashamed of themselves.”

Birmingham’s complaints are just the latest in a long line of controversy surround Activision Blizzard that began with a lawsuit filed by the state of California, accusing Activision Blizzard of fostering a “frat boy culture”.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting UK news editor. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.





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