“If someone is still not able to meet expectations with the added support, moving them out of Meta is the right thing to do,” Lori Goler wrote in a memo seen by The Washington Post.
The missive, one of several recent such messages to the social media giant’s workforce, is part of a broader crackdown after years of lax management practices, according to current and former employees who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters and internal memos obtained by The Washington Post.
Facebook executives have issued a staggering number of directives, outlining a new era of higher performance expectations and reduced hiring as the company emerges from the pandemic with a growing list of financial challenges.
“The atmosphere is intense,” said one employee. “People know that budgets are being cut.”
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The blunt messages from company executives have created a wave of anxiety and resentment among Facebook’s workforce as many employees wonder how the company’s new priorities will affect their own careers, according to current and former employees. Some are worried that they may lose their jobs or see their annual bonuses reduced. Others worry that an already tight corporate environment will become even more competitive as employees jockey for fewer promotions, raises and coveted positions, the people said.
“Any business that wants to make a lasting impact must practice disciplined prioritization and work with a high level of intensity to achieve goals,” Facebook spokesperson Tracy Clayton said in a statement.
Once the symbol of Silicon Valley’s prosperity, Facebook has for years offered its employees state-of-the-art benefits such as free food, generous family benefits and some of the highest salaries in the tech industry. The lucrative compensation, along with the lure of tackling interesting problems at a company that is changing the way billions communicate, gave Facebook an edge in recruiting and retaining top talent.
Now the mystery is bursting as Facebook struggles with both the macroeconomic challenges that drag down many technology companies and specific threats to the business. The company’s share price has halved this year, after dismal earnings in March reflects that the advertising business was hurt by Apple’s decision to introduce a new privacy rule to block data collection for targeted advertising.
Meanwhile, growth on the flagship social networks stopped for the first time last year as the company faced unprecedented competition for young users, creators and advertising dollars from newer social media platforms, such as TikTok and Snapchat.
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Last year, the company changed its name to Meta, which reflects a major effort to invest the future in developing the so-called metaverse. The division, which aims to build immersive digital realms accessible by virtual reality-powered devices, is currently a money-losing endeavor, according to company filings.
That means many Facebook executives and HR representatives are being asked to take on a whole new responsibility: leading a workforce of 77,000 members during a downturn.
“Morale, not just at Facebook but across big tech, has gone down significantly because it’s been a fairy tale over the last decade,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at financial services firm Wedbush Securities. Now, between the metaverse and specific business challenges, “there’s a darker chapter for the company that they need to navigate.”
There are signs that Facebook is making changes. The company has recently reallocated people away from its Facebook News tab and newsletter platform Bulletin as those teams focus on attracting creators to its social networks, according to the company. And at least one full-time employee has already been told that his or her role is no longer needed and that they should look for another job with the company or quit, according to to an employee who is familiar with the matter.
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Facebook Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams said in an interview last week that the company has not instituted an official hiring freeze, but acknowledged that some hiring goals for certain roles or departments are changing. She said team leaders are asked to look at which open roles are truly necessary and which are not. Managers can also move employees from low-priority roles to projects that are more important, Williams said.
“How we’re going about it is a reminder that leaders like you need to focus,” Williams said. “If we don’t focus well, we’ll be scattered all over the place, doing everything and doing nothing very well.”
Zuckerberg and other executives have also indicated in recent weeks that the time has come for employees who do not meet the company’s standards. Facebook’s chief engineering officer, Maher Saba, sent a memo to managers earlier this month urging them to identify their poor performers and feed them into an internal human resources system. “As a manager, you can’t let anyone be net neutral or negative for Meta,” Saba said.
Many inside Facebook worry that the strong rhetoric from executives about the need to weed out low-performers is just a cover to begin making bigger cuts — ones that could include workers who are performing adequately. That anxiety has been evident at Blind, a workplace app that gives users with a Facebook email unlimited access to a private and anonymous bulletin board.
The forum, usually a place where Facebook employees share their unvarnished opinions about their workplace, has become a hotbed in recent weeks for worker resentment, concerns about the financial direction of the company and worries about a future with the company, according to reports. seen by The Washington Post.
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“It is sad [that] after many years in Meta stuff [are going down] this way, the culture is going to hell,” wrote one user. “Before you say that, I’m leaving, just waiting for the bonus money for September, as I worked hard to earn it.”
“Does anyone feel safe here?” posted another employee.
Williams and others at Facebook have argued that managers’ focus on targeting low performers reflects a desire to instill the strict culture of employee management that existed before the pandemic. In early 2020, Facebook suspended its semi-annual performance reviews and offered generous Covid-19 leave policies so that employees felt free to juggle the demands of home with their jobs.
Some employees agree that the management culture at Facebook – in some cases – became a little too soft during the pandemic.
Williams said it likely depends on when the employee started working for Facebook and how long they’ve been in the workforce. Those who worked for other companies have probably experienced this culture before.
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But Facebook workers also fear that the economic uncertainty and the company’s tightening will make it harder to get promotions, better pay or more lucrative bonuses, the people said.
In Silicon Valley, stocks typically make up a large portion of compensation, and a drop makes it harder for companies to attract and retain talent.
“I’m honestly just thinking about taking a break and living off savings or doing something low key until this economic cycle passes,” wrote one user on Blind. “I don’t want to work under constant pressure.”
Another factor that increases the uncertainty is that the company is switching from a twice-a-year schedule of performance reviews. Clayton said in a statement that the company adopted the new model, with a single review per year, to “better reflect the direction of the company with telecommuting in mind.” He added that employees “have always been held accountable for a high-performance, goals-based culture.”
Typically, managers were advised to issue a wide range of ratings for their reports from the employee merely meeting some expectations of their job to that worker is redefining the expectations of their role, according to current and former employees.
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Then managers — in coordination with the human resources department — made sure the ratings were “calibrated” across teams, with at least some employees receiving lower ratings, the people said.
While the rigidity of the process seemed fair on paper, in practice it meant that some good workers ended up getting lower ratings simply because their manager was pressured to fill the category, according to some employees. If Facebook wants to reduce the size of its workforce, it could make it harder to achieve higher ratings and easier to receive low ones.
“This feels like a shift in the internal culture. If I were still there, it would certainly make me feel more nervous than I ever have about reviews,” said Crystal Patterson, a former Facebook lobbyist. “The evaluation process is naturally stressful. The bar is extremely high there.”
Elizabeth Dwoskin contributed reporting.