According to Jason Schreier, Brian Birmingham had left Blizzard. He was a former manager and WoW Classic’s co-lead developer. The reason for his departure was that he protested the company’s stack ranking system.
Since 2021, the company has set quotas for the employee ranking process. Managers must give low ratings to 5% of their staff, regardless of their performance. This results in a reduction of profit-sharing bonuses for these employees. The “developing” status also poses a significant obstacle to their career. It prevents them from receiving raises or promotions in the future.
Knowing he had to unjustly evaluate an employee’s performance, Birmingham emailed the staff. The former manager expressed frustration with the system. He highlighted such policies’ negative impacts on staff morale and productivity. He claimed it fostered a competitive atmosphere among colleagues. Before long, it will lead to detrimental behaviors such as undermining each other’s work and damaging trust and creativity. In his letter, he also revealed that several WoW leads and directors wanted to take the “developing” status in place of their staff. Yet, their request was denied. He was willing to continue working if the higher-ups removed the policy. But the company terminated him.
“If this policy can be reversed, perhaps my Blizzard can still be saved, and if so I would love to continue working there. If this policy cannot be reversed, then the Blizzard Entertainment I want to work for doesn’t exist anymore, and I’ll have to find somewhere else to work.”
Birmingham had been asked to keep the process confidential. But he refused to comply.
A Blizzard spokesperson said the stack ranking aims to increase the performance result. It helps employees get more honest feedback and compensation. Thus, come up with a plan to improve their performance. It was a popular system when it first showed up in the 1980s. Yet, over time, people started realizing the damage it brings to the working environment. Pitching employees against each other creates toxic relationships between people who are supposed to work and support one another.
In less than a day, two of the most influential gamers of the WoW Community have spoken out in favor of Birmingham. Asmondgold praised his decision as a “Giga Chad” moment. He further stated that if all employees at Blizzard had done the same thing, the controversial policy would have been addressed and resolved promptly. He said he is willing to accept temporary inconvenience in WoW if it means Blizzard’s employees are not forced to play a “survival” game in reality.
Maximum, Team Liquid’s co-owner, also voiced his opinion. He crowned Birmingham “an absolute beast” on his official Twitter account. The raid leader also expressed his dissatisfaction with Blizzard’s policies.