Lead Engineer on World of Warcraft Classic Brian Birmingham was fired earlier this week by developer Blizzard Entertainment for protesting the worker ranking system, according to a recently released report. Birmingham allegedly refused to submit a negative employee evaluation, something which he considered to be undeserved, but was nonetheless required by the company in order to meet quota.
The news comes from a leaked email obtained by the publication Bloomberg. Blizzard implemented the current system of employee evaluation or “stack ranking” back in 2021. This involves placing workers on a bell curve, requiring managers to submit a certain amount of poor performance reviews. Those who receive such a negative employee evaluation can apparently suffer consequences along the lines of losing bonus money, salary raises, and even promotions within the company.
Birmingham seems to have sent out an email at some point last week in protest of the policy. “When team leads asked why we had to do this, World of Warcraft directors explained that while they did not agree, the reasons given by executive leadership were that it was important to squeeze the bottommost performers as a way to make sure everybody continues to grow,” the developer explained at the time. “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.”
The developer went on to say that “if this policy can be reversed, perhaps my Blizzard can still be saved and if so, I would love to continue working there,” adding that “if this policy cannot be reversed, then the Blizzard I want to work for doesn’t exist anymore and I’ll have to find somewhere else to work.” Birmingham seems to have told a number of other employees at the company that he was considering a resignation, formally noting to a manager in human resources that he would be stopping work until the policy was revised. This appears to have prompted his termination.
Blizzard has on the other hand been defending the employee evaluation system, a spokesperson for the company explaining how the process ensures that “employees who don't meet performance expectations receive more honest feedback, differentiated compensation, and a plan on how best to improve their own performance."
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