WOW Classic Co-Lead Leaves Blizzard In Protest Of Forced Employee Ranking Policy

Jan 24, 2023 · 18


Yesterday, one of the co-leads for World of Warcraft Classic confirmed they have resigned from Activision Blizzard in protest of an unfair employee ranking system. This practice has apparently been in place since Activision Blizzard King (ABK) was formed in 2016.

In recent years, Activision Blizzard has become the center of many industry changes, with Microsoft just recently subpoenaing their competition Sony to support its case of buying Activision Blizzard with the FTC. This is coupled with multiple worker unions being formed within the company in recent months. Even with the latter employee forward changes, an antiquated employee management system appears to still be in place and heavily enforced.

According to a report by Bloomberg, WOW Classic's Co-Lead, Brian Birmingham, took a stand against the forced stack-ranking policy, following an order to lower an employee's evaluation just to meet a quota. While he pushed back against the higher-ups initially, he found there was no give and made the decision to depart the company citing he would not return until the policy was revoked.

According to Birmingham via a Twitter post related to the subject, this forced stack-ranking policy "is a directive that came from the ABK level, ABOVE [sic] Mike Ybarra. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's true. Everybody at Blizzard I've spoken to about this, including my direct supervisors, expressed disappointment about this policy."

Activision Blizzard and other corporations such as Amazon, utilize stack ranking as a way for managers to evaluate their employees' performances against their peers. The typical way companies utilize this model is by splitting the workforce by assigning 15% as top performers,75% as middle performers, and the last 10% as low performers.

Reportedly at Activision Blizzard, the edict issued is for 5% of all teams should be labeled as the lowest tier which is internally called "developing". The issue that Birmingham is actively protesting against is being forced to hit this 5% quota which would involve lowering the status of employees he believed did not deserve the lowest performing "developing" moniker.

Bloomberg was able to get a statement from an Activision Blizzard spokesperson who cited the stack-ranking policy as a way 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 neglected to comment on forcing those who may not be deserving of reduced compensation into a position where they earn less due to the 5% quota management is forced to meet.

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