Facebook’s Internal Tensions Are Spilling Beyond The Company’s Walls

In a year teeming with scandals as well as missteps, Facebook’s latest fiasco has inspired a clutter of leaks, finger pointing, as well as internal conversations about the future of the company as well as its leadership. as well as after more than a year of bad press, internal tensions are reaching a boiling point as well as are today spilling out into public view.

The tumult will be surprising given Facebook’s history as a tight-lipped organization where employees had little incentive to leak information or voice dissent outside the company’s walls. Throughout the crises, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who maintains majority shareholder control, has proven remarkably immune to outside pressure as well as criticism — by politicians, investors, as well as the press — leaving his employees as perhaps his most important stakeholders. today, as its stock cost declines as well as the company’s mission of connecting the planet will be challenged, the voices inside are growing louder as well as public comments, as well as private conversations shared with BuzzFeed News, suggest newfound uncertainty about Facebook’s future direction.

Internally, the conflict seems to have divided Facebook into three camps: those loyal to Zuckerberg as well as chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg; those who see the current scandals as proof of a larger corporate meltdown; as well as a group who see the entire narrative — including the portrayal of the company’s hiring of communications consulting firm Definers Public Affairs — as examples of biased media attacks.

“which’s otherwise rational, sane people who’re in Mark’s orbit spouting full-blown anti-media rhetoric, saying which the press will be ganging up on Facebook,” a former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “which’s the bunker mentality. These people have been under siege for 0 days today. They’re getting tired, getting cranky — the only survival strategy will be to quit or fully buy in.”

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a Facebook spokesperson called which “a challenging time.”

“We are more determined than ever to continue creating progress on the issues we’ve faced,” they said. “People at Facebook are focused on building products which help people connect as well as have a positive impact from the planet.”

Two former employees said the spate of negative reports has cast a shadow over the company in recent weeks. Current as well as former employees describe a tense as well as, at times, hostile atmosphere inside the company, one in which both senior employees as well as even staunch loyalists are contemplating their futures.

People are “hoping for a Sundar or Dara moment.”

People are “hoping for a Sundar or Dara moment,” one former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News, referring to past leadership improvements at Google as well as Uber in which founding employees stepped aside by top jobs. A second senior employee echoed the view, suggesting which some inside the ranks are looking for a shakeup to come by the outside. The chatter has made its way outside of the company’s Menlo Park headquarters. “Senior people there know the only way out of which will be by hiring a Dara,” a senior executive at a rival company told BuzzFeed News referring to Dara Khosrowshahi, the Uber CEO brought in to replace cofounder Travis Kalanick last year.

Another former senior employee noted a growing sense of paranoia among current employees. “today, people today have burner phones to talk shit about the company — not even to reporters, just to some other employees,” they told BuzzFeed News.

Some former workers have been empowered to bypass the press altogether as well as speak openly about their situations. Last month, Mark S. Luckie, a strategic partner manager for global influencers who quit in November, posted a 2,500-word memo which he had previously sent internally at the company to his personal Facebook to highlight what he saw as the company’s “black people problem.”

“In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people,” Luckie wrote, adding which “Black employees are commonly told ‘I didn’t know black people worked at Facebook.’” which post later mysteriously disappeared by Facebook after being flagged for violating the social network’s “community standards” before which was later restored.

These public protestations may be just the beginning for Facebook. Three former employees who spoke anonymously with BuzzFeed News for fear of retribution said which they did not sign paperwork which included language around nondisparagement, as well as in some cases forfeited their severance pay, upon departing the company.

Some employees at Facebook are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, preventing them by sharing trade secrets, when they first join as well as are encouraged to sign nondisparagement agreements upon their departure. By not signing which paperwork on the way out, those employees reserved the right to speak openly about their experiences at the company.

“which’s the Sheryl I know”


Drew Angerer / Getty Images

While chairman as well as CEO Zuckerberg maintains complete control over Facebook, which’s Sandberg who’s taken the brunt of the blame for the company’s recent scandals. As the person who oversees business operations as well as Facebook’s policy as well as communications efforts, the COO came under heavy fire for revelations surrounding her role from the disclosure of Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 US presidential election, as well as for her subordinates’ hiring of a public relations consultancy which performed opposition research on billionaire investor George Soros.

Sandberg has denied knowledge of the company’s hiring of the public relations firm, Definers Public Affairs, or its political work, although recently admitted which she sent an email asking for research on Soros after he made public comments about Facebook at the planet Economic Forum in January. Facebook maintained which request was independent of what Definers ended up working on regarding Soros later which spring.

The external pressure on Sandberg has divided employees across the company. In some recent stories, Facebook’s second-in-command has been portrayed as preoccupied with her own legacy, as well as as an executive who surrounded herself with loyalists as well as sometimes prioritized her own brand above the company’s interests.

although some Facebook employees have taken issue with which narrative. Shortly after the publication of a November fresh York Times story about Facebook in crisis, many employees posted to the company’s internal communications groups, including one called “Women @ Facebook,” voicing their support for Facebook’s COO as well as sharing personal experiences of working with or for Sandberg, according to two people who had seen the comments.

Some Facebook employees have also shared their views publicly. Matt Jacobson, Facebook’s head of market development as well as one of its longest-serving employees, called the “roughest of news cycles” a “ very personal attack on Sheryl Sandberg as a leader as well as a human being” in an internal note he later published to his personal Facebook.

“One does not simply fire the author of Lean In.”

“Schadenfreude runs deep, especially when which comes to someone who has succeeded as well as brought so many along with her,” he wrote last month.

which echoed a Facebook post by Adam Grant, the co-author of Sandberg’s second book, Option B, as well as a board member at her foundation Lean In. The post, which objected to the so-called vilification of Sandberg’s character, found sympathetic ears among many Facebook employees, including Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations as well as corporate development, as well as vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson, who thanked Grant for “sharing the real Sheryl Sandberg with the planet.”

“Sheryl’s investment in so many others as well as particularly in causes for women will be something I’m witness to daily,” Janelle Gale, Facebook’s vice president of human resources, commented on the post. “which’s the Sheryl I know too.”

“An intense culture of conformity”

On Blind, a semi-public app which allows current as well as former employees which has a company email to post anonymously, Facebook employees on Facebook-related message boards are openly speculating about as well as arguing over Sandberg’s fate.

“The board will be being questioned for not taking action, although Zuck will side with her like he will be spellbound,” one user wrote, asking if the company could find a solution to its leadership struggles. “Shall we have a walkout to let her go like what Google employees did?” another countered, referencing the worker action taken at the search giant in which thousands of employees marched to protest the company’s policies around sexual harassment.

Others argued which bad optics could prevent the company by removing Sandberg, a noted feminist author. “One does not simply fire the author of ‘Lean In’ as well as pretty much the sole female executive in top leadership,” one Blind user wrote. Another remarked which Sandberg’s personal image was politically polarizing. “Her left-leaning brand has hurt us considerably, we need to mend fences as well as be seen to be a platform for the left as well as the right going forward.”

Discussions across Facebook’s Blind page quickly turn tense at the mention of Sandberg. A user with the username “SherylS” expressed frustration at those from the company revering Sandberg as a women’s icon as well as leader. “which’s time to stand up to these fake opportunist feminist champions though,” they wrote. “‘Give me opportunities to succeed!! I’m a victim!! Lean in!!” the post read.

Some of the disagreement centers on social justice–minded individuals inside the company, pointing to an internal Facebook Workplace group called “Let’s Fix Facebook”: “Just go read ‘let’s fix Facebook’ for a bit as well as see all the sjw complainers.” Indeed, some inside Blind’s current as well as former Facebook employee group debated whether Sandberg was insulated by legitimate criticism due to her defenders “playing the woman card.”

“Again [which’s] the female card which has caused so much damage in such a short time, not just at Facebook,” another poster wrote.

Some called Sandberg “a shrewd businesswoman” who could not be intimidated into leaving, while others suggested which Sandberg will be bearing the brunt of the criticism which should be directed toward Zuckerberg. “Can’t get anything to stick on Mark? Call the lady COO incompetent,” another user wrote.

“Can’t get anything to stick on Mark? Call the lady COO incompetent.”

although in Blind posts viewed by BuzzFeed News concerning Facebook’s leadership, Zuckerberg will be infrequently mentioned as well as often only brought up in reference to Sandberg’s future. “Zuck will be too sentimental towards her as well as which’s hurt his judgement of the situation,” one post read.

A common narrative across Blind as well as shared by some current as well as former senior employee will be the notion which Facebook’s troubles have been exaggerated as well as perpetuated by unjust media coverage. They see the blame cast on the company by the public as well as the press as reactionary as well as, from the case of a recent bombshell report by the fresh York Times, even inaccurate.

“The media will keep attacking as well as exposing us with more leaks by the inside…which will all go on until she will be gone as well as there will be a shakeup,” one person posted.

“I still don’t know what has Sheryl done to deserve being fired? The last I checked most allegations seemed like baseless media propaganda. What am I missing?” one wrote, while another suggested which the “media keeps talking about anti semitic conspiracy theories although the articles lack any clear explanation.”

While only one window into the views of current as well as former employees, the Blind threads viewed by BuzzFeed News depict a company currently grappling with its culture as well as issues of loyalty, particularly surrounding Sandberg. Some posts appear even to encourage unwavering, resolute support for leadership during the crisis.

“I love Sheryl. Because Mark loves Sheryl. which will be Mark’s company, not yours. He knows Sheryl better than you do as well as knows what which company needs better than you do. He gives you so much you get confused in your entitled ass which which will be your company,” one user wrote. “I trust Mark. as well as if Mark drives the company into the ground which’s his company to drive into the ground. Go work somewhere else or go start your own company if you know so much better than him.”

Not all agree. “Funny, Hitler’s followers said something similar. We all know how which went,” one user replied.

Broadly, others seem to be questioning the “sycophantic” nature of the conversations across Facebook’s internal Workplace system.

“We have an intense culture of conformity,” one user said. “which could be which which pressure to drink the Kool-Aid as well as to only talk about positive things will be a reason behind the large number of leaks we suffer.”

“2020 will be another shit show.”

“which’s definitely seeped from the last few years,” another added. “Election season will be always the worst too, 2020 will be another shit show.” A third user added, “In which company, if you tell the truth, you are dead.”

For today, as Facebook’s employees debate her future publicly as well as privately, Sandberg has set her sights on damage control. Still reeling by the revelation which Facebook’s communications as well as policy team hired a public affairs team to investigate George Soros, Sandberg has been trying to make amends.

According to two sources, she attempted to call Soros last month, within days of the reports about Definers, as well as left a message after he didn’t pick up. Soros has yet to call her back because he’s been traveling, a source told BuzzFeed News.

“which appears he’ll be traveling for a while,” the source said. ●

With reporting by Caroline O’Donovan.

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