Blizzard is ending co-lead of WoW Classic over protest against its employee rating policy

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The Blizzard director was fired after a dispute with the company over the employee evaluation system.

World of Warcraft Classic lead developer Brian Birmingham has confirmed that he is no longer working for Blizzard via Twitterfollowing a Bloomberg report that he was terminated after refusing to demote an employee.

According to the site, Blizzard introduced a stack rating system in 2021, in which employees are ranked based on their performance — but managers are expected to give the lowest rank, “development,” to about 5% of their team members.

An “evolving” designation can lower an employee’s profit sharing bonus and may hinder the prospects for their salary increases and promotions.

In an email to employees, reviewed by Bloomberg, Birmingham expressed frustration with the system. He indicated that the message was correct via Twitter, but confirmed that he was not the one who submitted it for publication.

In the email, he added that while he and other managers at WoW had successfully avoided filling quotas in previous years, he had recently had to downgrade an employee from “successful” to “development” in order to meet that 5% expectation.

“When the team leaders asked why we had to do this, the World of Warcraft directors explained that although they disagreed, the reasons given by the executive leadership were that it was important to put pressure on low performers as a way to make sure everyone kept going,” Birmingham wrote.

“This kind of politics encourages competition among employees, sabotage of each other’s work, people’s desire to find low-performing teams in which they can be the best workers, and ultimately erosion of trust and destruction of creativity.”

Then Birmingham added that if the policy was not reversed, he would leave Blizzard. HR reportedly then called him to confirm his resignation and told them he was considering it. He is also said to have refused to work until the policy was withdrawn, after which he was terminated.

A Blizzard spokesperson told Bloomberg that the appraisal system was designed “to ensure employees who don’t meet performance expectations receive more honest feedback, differentiated compensation, and a plan on how best to improve their performance.”

The spokesperson also emphasized that many managers are involved in the process, and that conversations with them also influence whether ratings move up or down. Contact Activision Blizzard for more information and comment.

After the report was published, Birmingham A Twitter topic Sharing more of his thoughts on the matter, stressing that he believes the stack rank policy is a decision of parent company ABK and not Blizzard itself, and that he hopes to return to Blizzard so he can fight the policy.

“I cannot be involved in a policy that allows ABK to steal money from deserving employees, and I cannot be forced to lie about that either,” he wrote.

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