Developer Leaves Blizzard After Disagreeing with Its Stack-Ranking System

Managers in the company have to fulfill the quota of underperforming employees.

Blizzard has been in several conflicts recently, and here is another one to add to the list. Apparently, Brian Birmingham, a co-lead developer of World of Warcraft Classic, refused to comply with the stack-ranking system and had to leave the studio. According to Bloomberg, managers at the company have to fulfill the quota of underperforming staff, even if it means lowering those who work fine.

Here is what Bloomberg writes about the system:

"In 2021, Blizzard, a unit of Activision Blizzard Inc., implemented a process called stack ranking, in which employees are ranked on a bell curve and managers must give low ratings to a certain percentage of staff, according to people familiar with the change who asked not to be named discussing a private matter. Managers were expected to give a poor “developing” status to roughly 5% of employees on their teams, which would lower their profit-sharing bonus money and could hamper them from receiving raises or promotions in the near future."

Birmingham expressed his frustration with the process in an email, saying that he had been forced to lower an employee from the “successful” rating to “developing” to hit the quota. He believes this 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."

He refused to work for Blizzard if the system can't be reversed. In response, he was called to HR and then "terminated". Later, he started a thread on Twitter, shedding more light on the situation and saying the policy is being forced on Blizzard Entertainment.

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