Corporate culture at Facebook likened to ‘cult’

by WorldTribune Staff, January 11, 2019

Facebook has created a “cult-like” environment where workers are discouraged from dissent and pretend to always act as if “everything is fine,” a former employee said in a sentiment echoed by other former employees.

The social media behemoth presses employees to place the company above all else in their lives, and do it with a smile, CNBC reported, citing the conversations of more than a dozen former Facebook employees who left the company between late 2016 and the end of 2018.

Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California

“There’s a real culture of ‘Even if you are f—ing miserable, you need to act like you love this place,’ ” said one ex-employee who left in October. “It is not OK to act like this is not the best place to work.”

At a company-wide town hall in October, where several employees spoke about their experiences at Facebook with sexual harassment, a female employee, speaking directly to COO Sheryl Sandberg, said:

“I was reticent to speak, Sheryl, because the pressure for us to act as though everything is fine and that we love working here is so great that it hurts. There shouldn’t be this pressure to pretend to love something when I don’t feel this way.”

An employee who left in 2016 said workers are also encouraged, in their own Facebook posts, to write glowing messages about their managers and the alleged positive impact the company has on the world.

“There’s so many people there who are unhappy, but their Facebook posts alone don’t reflect the backdoor conversations you have with people where they’re crying and really unhappy,” the former employee said.

One former employee said Facebook’s culture of no-dissent prevented some workers from speaking out on the impact that News Feed had on influencing the 2016 presidential election.

In August 2016, Facebook laid off the editorial staff of its trending news team after some on that team leaked to the press that they were suppressing conservative-leaning stories.

Employees were further discouraged from speaking up following the election, the report said. CEO Mark Zuckerberg brushed off the accusation that Facebook could have impacted the election, calling that idea “crazy.”

The ex-employees also likened Facebook’s performance review system to a “popularity contest.” The system requires employees to get reviews from approximately five of their peers twice a year.

The peers can provide feedback directly to their colleagues, or send the reviews to the employee’s manager. That feedback is typically treated as anonymous and cannot be challenged, the report said.

“You have invisible charges against you, and that figures mightily into your review,” said an employee who left in October. “Your negative feedback can haunt you for all your days at Facebook.”

A manager who left the company in 2017 said “It’s a little bit of a popularity contest. You can cherry-pick the people who like you – maybe throw in one bad apple to equalize it.”

The CNBC report noted that another manager, who left the company in 2018, said she once took multiple weeks of vacation instead of going on medical leave to treat a major illness. She says she did this based on advice from her supervisor.

“I was afraid that if I told too many people or took too much time off, I would be seen as unable to do my job,” the former manager said. “I was scared that if I let up in any way, shape or form they would crumble me, and they did.”

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