Stack ranking policy causes a Blizzard manager to protest, refusing to work, which resulted in them being let go.

In 2021, Blizzard implemented a stack ranking process where managers had to give low ratings to a certain percentage of employees. Individuals familiar with the change have said that they were expected to provide low rankings to 5 percent of people on their teams. This policy would lower their profit-sharing bonus money and affect raises or promotions at the company.

(Image Credit: Blizzard )
(Image Credit: Blizzard )

Co-lead developer of World of Warcraft Classic, Brian Birmingham expressed his frustration through an email to staff on the stack ranking policy, saying that he and other managers in the team had managed to skip filling the quote for two years. Brian had been asked to keep the process confidential as it's an ongoing discussion, which he refused. The threat of retaliation cannot be allowed to motivate performance, despite it being legal.

They believed that the mandate was not strictly enforced or was dropped. But recently, he was forced to lower an employee's average "successful" rating to "developing" to hit the quota. He refused to do so, and the directors of World of Warcraft explained that the reasons given by leadership were to squeeze the bottom-most performers to ensure continuous growth. Brian refused to work at Blizzard until the stack ranking policy was removed. However, he also said he would love to continue to work there if it was removed.

Before sending his email, he had told a group of colleagues that he was resigning, which led to him being called by a human resources representative, which was when he told them that he was considering it but he would not work until the policy was retracted. This led to his termination.

What is the Stack Ranking Policy?

"These types of policies encourage competition between employees and possibly cause sabotage of one another's work. This creates a desire for people to find low-performing teams where they can be the best-performing worker, ultimately destroying trust and creativity."

Brian Birmingham

A spokesperson for Blizzard said that the employee evaluation process stack ranking was to facilitate excellence in performance. It was also to ensure that employees who don't meet performance expectations will receive more honest feedback along with differentiated compensation along with a plan on how to best improve their performance.

It is believed that the stack ranking policy came from the ABK (Activision Blizzard King) level, above Mike Ybarra. Brian believes that Blizzard is not to blame as everyone he's spoken to, including his direct supervisors, express disappointment in this policy.

What's next?

Despite his departure from Blizzard, Brian will continue to play Blizzard games. The former WoW manager stated that he would love to return to fight the policy from the inside.

He concluded by saying that the email from the Bloomberg article was not provided by him, but confirmed their accuracy.

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