Ex-Valve employee exposes ‘high school clique’ management structure

Monday, 8 July 2013 11:24 GMT By Dave Cook

Valve’s famously flat management structure is being controlled by a group of hidden ‘high school cliques’, according to former head of the company’s hardware division Jeri Ellsworth. The hacker was let go from Valve in February as part of 25 redundancies at the company.

At the time the round of lay-offs triggered speculation as to what was happening at Valve, and prompted Ellsworth to confirm her firing on Twitter.

In the Grey Area Podcast above, Ellsworth said that the ‘clique’ minority led a witch hunt across the company to remove ‘undesirables’ from the company, which resulted in redundancies. Part one of six is above. Hit the link to see all six parts of the discussion.

On her experience in the hardware team, Ellsworth said, “Now we’ve all seen the Valve handbook, which offers a very idealised view. A lot of that is true. It is a pseudo-flat structure, where in small groups at least in small groups you are all peers and make decisions together. But the one thing I found out the hard way is that there is actually a hidden layer of powerful management structure in the company. And it felt a lot like High School.

“There are popular kids that have acquired power, then there’s the trouble makers, and then everyone in between. Everyone in between is ok, but the trouble makers are the ones trying to make a difference. I was struggling trying to build this hardware team and move the company forward. We were having a difficult time recruiting folks – because we would be interviewing a lot of talented folks but the old timers would reject them for not fitting into the culture.

“I shouldn’t say the numbers, but there were very few of us in the hardware department. We were understaffed by about a factor of 100.”

The witch hunt was said to be sparked by what Ellsworth called a ‘weird paranoia’ that came from the cliques fearing that their culture would become contaminated by certain employees.

Ellsworth added that her experience is not reflective of all departments in Valve and stressed that this was purely in her own experience.

What do you make of Ellsworth’s claims and her firing earlier this year? Let us know below.

Thanks Develop.