Meta asks line managers to identify poorly performing staff for firing

Zuckerberg makes good on headcount threats he issued last month

Meta will carry out a backdoor layoff by asking line managers to select staff to cull ostensibly on performance grounds.

In an internal message to managers at the end of last week, Meta's VP of Remote Presence and Engineering Maher Saba told lower-level leadership to identify poor performers and submit their names to Meta's internal performance improvement plan (PIP) tool by yesterday.

"If a direct report is coasting or a low performer, they are not who we need; they are failing this company. As a manager, you cannot allow someone to be net neutral or negative for Meta," Saba wrote in the memo, which was first posted to a now-deleted thread on anonymous work social network Blind.

"Identify people who need support early, partner with our Employee Relations team to get that support, and move to exit people who are unable to get on track," Saba wrote. 

That either means Meta, which has about 72,000 employees, is weak at managing its staff, and allowed itself to be weighed down by rest-and-vesters, or it needs to suddenly ditch a bunch of people and it'll use performance as the excuse (which sounds decisive) rather than layoffs (which sounds financially unsteady).

These moves do not emerge from thin air. Meta's stock prices, along with other tech giants, plummeted in early February. Financial uncertainties led to hiring freezes and belt tightening in the months that followed.

Last month, Zuckerberg cut Meta's engineering hiring plans for 2022 by 30 percent, and hinted at this latest round of layoffs.

To weed out poor performers, Meta also decided to leave some jobs unfilled, its hope being that those who actually belonged at the Silicon Valley goliath would rise to meet the challenge of taking on other people's responsibilities.

"Part of my hope by raising expectations and having more aggressive goals, and just kind of turning up the heat a little bit, is that I think some of you might decide that this place isn't for you, and that self-selection is OK with me," Zuckerberg told an internal staff meeting.

Saba's note to managers was sent late on Friday, meaning the Monday deadline to refer employees to Meta's PIP has passed. It's unclear how many people were referred, or how many of the referred will be fired. It's also unclear by which standards Meta is determining if employees are under-performing.

According to investment company Candor, Facebook uses a stacked ranking system that grades employees on a bell curve, with each grade having a fixed number of slots. As of 2022, Meta only does performance reviews once a year, Candor said.

Meta has not responded to a request from The Register for comment.

Meta's culture has long been an issue. Poor treatment of minority employees, apathy over user privacy, and a perpetual fear of being fired have dogged the company's reputation for years. As layoffs and hiring freezes continue to be on the minds of many in the tech industry, it's worth noting the results of a 2019 meta-analysis on employee performance and job security – namely that for the former to be satisfactory, the latter is required.

According to the study, "job insecurity may jeopardize organizational goal attainment in that employees who are worried about the future of their job are less able to perform tasks… The evidence provided should encourage organizations to aim to prevent job insecurity among their employees." ®

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