More on why it sucks to work at Zynga

'Tough culture' may make it difficult to keep top talent, close acquisitions

Maybe Mark Pincus is a jerk. Maybe he's not. I don't know first-hand because I've never met the Zynga founder and chief executive.

But when I read that he demands employees give back stock rights granted by Zynga when they were hired or face termination, I can't help but think, "That guy sounds like a jerk!"

Now, lots of people are willing to put up with jerks -- for enough money. That's why someone will always be willing to work for a Donald Trump.

But I don't want to work for a jerk. I've done it before. It's no fun.

A lot of people feel the same way I do. They'll pass up opportunities to make a lot of money if taking such an opportunity means they'd be controlled/abused/threatened/manipulated by a jerk. Life's too short.

Some of these people who don't want to work for a jerk apparently run mobile game companies that Zynga wanted to buy, according to the New York Times.

In July, Zynga lost a bid for PopCap, a mobile game company. Zynga offered $950 million in cash.

But PopCap’s founders worried about the company’s reputation after hearing rumors of the company’s rescinding share awards and fierce internal competition, said two people with first-hand knowledge of the situation. Instead, PopCap agreed to a rival offer from Electronic Arts, worth $750 million in cash and stock and the potential of an additional $550 million if certain earnings goals were met.

Several start-ups have also rebuffed Zynga this year, including Rovio. This summer, Rovio, the maker of the popular mobile game Angry Birds, walked away from discussions of a deal worth roughly $2.25 billion in cash and stock, three people briefed on the situation said.
Of course, maybe it's unfair to assume these deals fell through for Zynga because of its cutthroat workplace reputation. We're on the outside, so we're not able to judge its corporate culture. Zynga's employees are, though. In a recent quarterly survey, the Times reports, "frustrated workers complained about the long hours and stressful deadline periods." These complaints are echoed in reviews at

"You'll work 8-18 hours per day 5-7 days per week

Company leaders demand creativity of employees after overworking them, and ignores most ideas that don't follow the same technique/code base that most of their games currently use.

Not much of a social life

Coworkers are grumpy because they've been overworked"

"Poor leadership and communication. Awful work-life balance."

"Being told by my manager that if i am not at home sleeping, then i am here working. That is how i was welcomed to the team."

"Poor Leaders, very fast pace, no life outside of Zynga. Work many hours for nothing in return. Everyone is miserable there and just waiting to get rich. Its a total joke!"

"One of the company values is something called 'Zynga Speed', which means accepting that quality will be sacrificed and long hours will be expected, over and over again. For employees aged over 25 this means your years of experience in your field will be routinely ignored; just to get the job done, you will be expected to abandon just about every principle you have learned as a skilled professional."

"You're basically forced to work 60-80 hour weeks."

"Long hours even when there is no real deadline.

Insane micro management all the way from CEO down"
By the way, Pincus gets a 46% average approval rating on, putting him only slightly ahead of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who gets 45%. In contrast, Apple CEO Tim Cook has a 99% approval rating and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has a 94%. Even Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, co-CEOs of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion -- one of this year's tech train wrecks -- have a higher approval rating (53%) than Pincus. That working at a start-up can be difficult and require long hours is a given. That poor-performing employees are subject to dismissal is just how the world works. But it sounds like more than that is going on at Zynga. None of which will dampen enthusiasm for the company's initial public offering. Nobody cares less about workplace fairness or equity than Wall Street, where it's all about making the big financial kill, right now. So there'll be an IPO, and long-suffering employees who haven't had their stock rights snatched away by Pincus will get a payday. Then they'll leave, because there's no point in working for a jerk -- or in a jerk culture -- if you don't have to.

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