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WoW lead fired by Blizzard after protest against employee ranking policy

Manager refused to give unfair rating in secret evaluation to fill quota
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One of the leading developers of World of Warcraft Classic at Blizzard Entertainment has been fired after refusing to participate in a secret employee evaluation system that he thinks “erodes trust and destroys creativity”, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The so-called stack ranking system forces superiors to give their employees regular performance evaluations that fit inside a strict bell curve, which means that they’re required to give a certain number of employees a bad rating (called “Developing” at Blizzard) even though they may not deserve it.

A dragon in World of Warcraft.

Blizzard Entertainment fired an employee, who protested against an unfair evaluation system.

Brian Birmingham spoke out against the usage of this practice, which he says “is a directive that came from the ABK level, ABOVE Mike Ybarra.” Mike Ybarra is the current president of Blizzard, whereas ABK, short for Activision Blizzard King, is the parent company uniting the three game developers and publishers Activision, Blizzard, and King under the controversial CEO Bobby Kotick.

“Everybody at Blizzard I've spoken to about this, including my direct supervisors, expressed disappointment about this policy,” he continues in a long statement on Twitter. “We at Blizzard pushed back pretty hard in 2021, and I truly believed we had reversed the developing-quota policy. When the sexual harassment lawsuit was revealed later that year, we saw some change following that as well, and it felt like we could make an impact on ABK policies.”

That, however, turned out to be a false hope, according to Birmingham: “The realization that there's still a minimum quota for ‘Developing’, despite our objections and sternly worded letters leads me to believe I was operating under an illusion. I hope Blizzard's positive culture can overcome ABK's poison, but it isn't succeeding in doing that yet.”

He lays the blame firmly on the executive leadership of ABK: “The Blizzard I knew and always wanted to work for is being torn apart by the executives at ABK, and it makes me sad. I truly respect the developers I worked with at Blizzard.”

After Birmingham spoke out internally against the policy and openly deliberated resigning his position, the HR department contacted him to confirm this step and terminated his contract due to his refusal to work for the company until the stack ranking policy would be reversed.

This is only the latest revelation of questionable practices at Activision Blizzard, which include attempts at stopping workers from forming unions and lacking content moderation in Overwatch 2.