Don’t look now, but Facebook may not be the best place to work.
In a report via CNBC, former Facebook employees detail a “cult-like” environment at the company, with workers asked to feign happiness even when they no longer believe in the mission. “There’s a real culture of ‘Even if you are f—ing miserable, you need to act like you love this place,’” one ex-employee, who left in October, told the network. “It is not OK to act like this is not the best place to work.”
Facebook still relies on stack ranking, the tired performance review system that even stodgy ‘ol Microsoft ditched years ago. Like Facebook itself, stack ranking relies more on ‘likes’ than performance; a good relationship with a manager can get you further than doing a great job (you know, that thing you’re supposed to be getting an annual review for).
At Facebook, employees are reportedly reviewed by up to five peers, twice per year. All feedback is anonymous, and those reviewing their peers can send feedback to that person or to their supervisors. From there, a ding on your quote-unquote performance cannot be challenged. “Your negative feedback can haunt you for all your days at Facebook,” one source told CNBC.
Or as one recently departed manager put it: “There’s a saying at Facebook that once you have one bad half, you’re destined for bad halves the rest of your time there. That stigma will follow you.”
After the feedback, managers sit in “calibration meetings,” which sounds very much like a weird Scientology thing. In these get-togethers, managers assign ‘grades’ to employees depending in part on peer reviews. Starting with all levels of management, these reviews eventually trickle up to the company’s vice presidents; CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg then sign off on the work.
The report draws a line under Facebook’s terrible 2018, where the company effectively realized our worst fears about privacy and data leakage. Stack ranking may be to blame for at least some of that trouble; sources tell CNBC that Facebook ties product launches to performance evaluations, and there’s pressure on everyone to not “rock the boat” and say negative things about the work. With stack ranking, nobody dares question whether you should do a thing; everyone just falls in line in order to land a bonus or raise. It’s a dangerous cocktail to drink.
The CNBC report also casts doubt on anonymous surveys. Blind often publishes anonymous surveys from the Silicon Valley set, and we’ve long been dubious of Facebook’s outstanding, buck-the-trend performance in those surveys. Now it seems a portion of Facebook staffers are really a pretty miserable bunch, even if they put on a happy face in public.