MySpace Employees Speak Their Mind. Lots Of Yelling Going On, Apparently.

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Uh Oh. Not Another "Don't Be Evil" Company

We’ve had lots of emails from MySpace employees with their response to our most recent post about the crumbling mid level management structure. “If you’re a MySpace employee and feel differently, please contact us anonymously,” we said. And they did contact us. But they don’t feel differently. There was also a great discussion in the comments section to that post where a few MySpace employees chimed in both pro and against the company.

But the emails were most telling. One wasn’t anonymous and the writer asked to keep it off record, and we’ll respect that. But he wrote at length about high level execs “chewing out” the lower ranks, in public. And lots of exec level nepotism hires.

This is a theme brought up by another employee, writing anonymously. He or she confirmed that too many mid level managers are leaving the company, and talks about more yelling at employees in public (“Maple” refers to 407 North Maple Drive, the address of MySpace HQ, “Jason” refers to Co-president Jason “Hell Yeah” Hirschhorn):

Dear TechCrunch-

I always enjoy your article on the drama at my company – MySpace but I’ve never felt the urge to write until now. I guess I’m writing you because your article was ABSOLUTELY dead on. Because of that, my morale isn’t really high and I really don’t give much of a shit anymore.

Well, the hole goes deeper than that. Many departments are losing much of the middle layer of actual star performers, but people who can’t get anything done due to the crazy BS in Maple. For example, 2 directors in Jason’s product org are gone recently: (Director of Analytics – Joe Schantz who went to Yahoo), Director of Product Mahesh Angadi. Other senior middle managers like Sr Product Manager Charles Pham, who went to CitySearch and Sr. Online Marketing Manager, Laura Coltrin left and is now at EventBrite. What do these particular people have in common? Besides being huge losses for MySpace, they were all re-orged under his royal heighn-ass, Jason. People don’t want to work for that moron – he’s just consolidating power.

Today, Jeff Webber – Director of Engineering in Seattle – gave notice (no idea where he’s going.)

Oh, and Jason really doesn’t get along with Mike. Jason was witnessed ripping one of his VPs a new one when the VP was trying to explain why he was doing something that Mike requested (in front of 6 other people.) It’s a mess – but it should be fun watching one run the other out of town.

A bunch of other people have their foot out the door – spend some time around Maple, SF or Seattle near the front entrance and watch people disappear for hours at a time or for “long lunches”. Its almost comical. You see a lot of people going into empty conference room and talking on their cell phones or people “going to grab coffee” by themselves and chatting on the phone walking down the street. And yeah, I’m one of those people.

Anyway, this isn’t just due to the fact these idiots are running the company into the ground. The reason why people are leaving now is that MySpace gave out these big secret retention bonuses that had a 2 tier payout. Overall, the ENTIRE bonus was for anywhere from 20% to 100+% of a person’s base. The key is that they pay out in two segments – you had to be working in December so that you get 25% of the bonus amount). If you’re employed here until June, you get the remaining 75% of their bonus. As you can imagine, this is a LOT of money – especially at a place that gave tiny annual raises last year (<5% was the average), where we cancelled profit sharing last fiscal year (not sure you knew about that) and with no stock incentive.

It’s a huge sign of how bad things are that they are leaving 75% of the bonus on the table. However, since we all know that the ship is sinking, taking 25% in December was good enough. I don’t blame them. I’m out of here as soon as I get a new gig. I earned that bonus money but I’m sick of this place.

Oh – and the guy who thought of this bonus plan? Mike. These were given out after the review cycle (August.)

So yeah, you want to write about more defections? Wait until June and then everyone will get paid and bounce. I and others are counting the days. Its kinda funny – it was supposed to be a total secret from everyone in the ranks (yes, some people didn’t get bonuses, but those people kinda suck so who cares right?) but now everyone is joking about it privately.

-Disgruntled

And one last employee says it’s ok to paraphrase and quote parts of his/her email. This one still has some fight left in ‘em. Here are some of the better parts:

Until a recent reorg of the engineering group (did you cover it? I don’t recall seeing it.), the whole company was segmented into horizontal layers so there was an operations group, a database group, an api group, a front-end group, a search group, a datawarehouse group, etc. Anything but the most minor feature required an obnoxious amount of cross-group interaction and took huge effort just to get everyone on board and the work scheduled. Some of that layering is being done away with, at least that is the stated goal.

In addition to the extreme layering there was a group of people who sat in the middle of the process, able to accept or reject any project; people who didn’t have the business sense to be in bizdev or be product managers and didn’t have the technical ability to be developers. When they accepted a project for development they would (randomly?) select some developers to build it. There were no clear lines of responsibility, no reason for anyone to really care about what they were working on, no reward for success and no punishment for failure (except for layoffs which seem to happen more or less randomly so they don’t fall on either the reward or punishment side). This structure was called ‘the matrix’ and thankfully was a casualty of the reorg. Plus in the big layoffs last spring (before my time) the hardest hit groups were front-line employees, the developers and testers who do the actual work; you had these big design committees arguing back and forth for weeks or months about how and what to do and no one to do it at the end of the day.

A lot of the people who are leaving and have left recently were in charge of this dysfunctional process and are unable or unwilling or just plain sick of trying. Yes a lot of good (better anyway) technical people are leaving or have left and yes there is a lot of detailed knowledge about keeping the current code running going with them.

There are other problems besides all of that, God I’m getting sick of writing about this. The technology platform (.net) and development methodology (scrum) and general caliber of developer (although there are exceptions) is more reminiscent of a poorly run enterprise development shop than an Internet company, certainly far far far from what you would find at a startup or Facebook or even Microsoft.

Will Mike & Jason succeed at creating something functional out of this godawful mess? Too soon to tell, I think. The first all-hands meeting a couple of days after they took over felt like an old fashioned tent revival or something, I almost expected Zig Ziggler to show up. But I will say that there has been more communication from them in a few weeks than from Owen in several months and they are reaching out to meet with developers working on interesting or important new projects, in short they seem engaged in a way that Owen never did. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

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