WoW Classic Lead Sparks Protest Against Activision Blizzard Employee Ranking Policy, Gets Terminated!

One of Activision Blizzard’s controversial quota policies led to the termination of one of Blizzard’s top World of Warcraft Classic developers. The technical head for WoW Classic and a more than 16-year Blizzard veteran, Brian Birmingham, declined to participate in Activision Blizzard’s stack-ranking strategy.

The policy stipulates that a predetermined proportion of employees must receive a “developing” rating from managers, which would hurt the employee’s profit sharing and future advancement prospects.

According to Bloomberg, Birmingham fired off a scathing email to the Blizzard team last week. He claimed he wouldn’t assign a “developing” rating to a worker who didn’t merit it and criticized the policy’s detrimental effects.

The stacked-ranking strategy, he said in his email, “encourages competitiveness among employees, sabotage of one another’s work, a desire for people to locate low-performing teams that they can be the best-performing worker on, and eventually erodes trust and destroys innovation,” he said.

Birmingham expressed hope that “my Blizzard can still be saved, and if so, I would love to continue working there” in his email but stated that he would not return to Blizzard until the policy was changed. Birmingham also said that he would resign over the matter if necessary. But his employment was ended.

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Activision Blizzard Employee Ranking Policy
Activision Blizzard Employee Ranking Policy

Activision Blizzard is not the only significant tech business that employs stack ranking, according to Bloomberg. Still, the practice has lost favor in recent years as detractors have drawn attention to how it sets employees against one another. Birmingham went into great detail about the background of Activision Blizzard’s stack-ranking policy in a lengthy Twitter thread created after his dismissal.

The policy, according to Birmingham, was put into effect in 2020 and was “a directive that came from the ABK level ABOVE [Blizzard president] Mike Ybarra.” Birmingham and other Blizzard employees mistakenly believed the quota policy had been repealed due to significant resistance from the company’s leadership in 2021, but this was untrue.

To avoid giving it to one of their team members, some Blizzard managers reportedly attempted to provide themselves with the “developing” rating; however, this was not an option in Birmingham’s situation.

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Birmingham called Activision Blizzard a “problematic parent company” that pressured Blizzard to deliver WoW’s most recent content releases, Wrath of the Lich King Classic and the new Dragonflight expansion, early.

Birmingham made clear from his tweets that he believes the policy is being forced on Blizzard managers by Activision Blizzard leadership. He claimed that Activision Blizzard is “depriving employees who worked on them their fair share of profit,” and the “ABK crew should be ashamed of themselves.”

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“I can’t tell you whether to boycott Blizzard games or not,” Birmingham wrote on Twitter. “How best to express your displeasure is up to you. As I said above: I won’t boycott. But I can’t participate in a policy that lets ABK steal money from deserving employees, and I can’t be made to lie about it either.”

Since being charged in a lawsuit by the state of California in 2021 with promoting a “frat-boy” work environment replete with discrimination, Activision Blizzard has been in the news for its varied workplace rules. Since then, Activision Blizzard has seen several industry veterans leave the firm or be forced out, and various departments within the corporation have made unionization efforts.

Activision Blizzard employees who wish to organize have been told that Microsoft will not obstruct their efforts. Microsoft is presently seeking clearance to acquire Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. In 2013, Microsoft stopped using stack ranking.

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