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In leaked memo, Facebook tells managers low performers don’t belong

The message comes as the company seeks to rein in costs during an economic downturn in the long-booming tech industry

(Susan Walsh/AP)
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Facebook is instructing its engineering managers to identify and weed out their lowest-performing employees as the company seeks to rein in costs during an economic downturn in the long-booming tech industry.

Facebook’s head of engineering, Maher Saba, sent a memo on Friday to managers urging them to identify anyone on their team who “needs support” and report them in an internal human resources system by 5 p.m. Pacific time on Monday.

“If a direct report is coasting or is a low performer, they are not who we need; they are failing this company,” Saba wrote. “As a manager, you cannot allow someone to be net neutral or negative for Meta.”

The memo, which was first reported by the Information, is one of several messages from Facebook executives warning about the need to cut costs as the social media giant seeks to shore up its stagnating digital advertising business and reinvent itself as a virtual reality-powered device maker. Its arrival shocked many employees, who are concerned about potential layoffs, reduced bonuses and fewer promotions.

“The reaction from folks that have seen this is that this will be used to create a bunch [of] ‘performance improvement plans’ that will result in mass layoffs,” a person familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive conversations.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amid global chaos, the tech industry takes a rare tumble

Facebook, which last year renamed itself Meta, spent years raking in digital advertising dollars as it became the go-to platform for businesses of all sizes to tailor their marketing campaigns to niche audiences. Early on, Facebook and other social media companies benefited from pandemic as more advertisers shifted their marketing dollars online to reach customers spending more time at home.

The company’s stock price has fallen nearly 52 percent since the beginning of the year as it faces threats to its social media business. Apple imposed new privacy rules on app makers on its iPhone devices, which aimed to reduce data collection on its users. Apps such as Facebook were forced to ask users if they wanted their activity tracked across the internet for the purposes of targeted advertising — a request many users rebuffed.

During the final three months of last year, Facebook reported that it lost daily users for the first time in its 18-year history, sending its stock price plummeting. While the social media outlet’s user growth numbers held stable early this year, company executives have warned that it is facing intense competition for users’ attention from social upstarts such as TikTok.

To compete in the crowded market, Facebook is aggressively promoting its short-form video service known as Reels. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has argued that the company will be able to monetize the product in the same way it once did for its news feed. Facebook is also trying to stake its future on creating the metaverse — a term used to describe immersive virtual environments that are accessed by virtual and augmented reality.

Facebook loses users for the first time in its history

This month, Zuckerberg told staffers during a companywide call that not everyone was meeting the company’s standards and that some might want to leave voluntarily as it faces an impending economic downturn, according to media reports. Zuckerberg told staffers they would reduce their plans to hire engineers by at least 30 percent this year, according to Reuters.

“If I had to bet, I’d say that this might be one of the worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history,” Zuckerberg told workers. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”

Facebook’s belt-tightening mirrors the cost-cutting happening elsewhere in Silicon Valley. After a decade of exuberance, venture capitalists and established tech companies alike are cutting back on their investments and firing workers. More than 300 start-ups have laid off over 50,023 workers since the start of the year, according to Layoffs.fyi, which tracks cuts in the tech industry.

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