Facebook, Why People Quit, and Why You’re Not Important

BRETT: What’s the matter?

LAMBERT: I can’t see a goddamn thing.

KANE: Quit griping.

LAMBERT: I Iike griping.



The Cub Scouts had a lousy record of shooting down incoming enemy plains, even though they designed their jobs.

This month on Google news, I saw a link for an article called, “Why People Really Quit Their Jobs,” at the Harvard® Business Review™ (HBR).  I clicked on it.  I don’t suggest that you do, but if you want to it’s here (LINK).  Since it was before I had enough coffee to engage the higher reasoning centers of my brain, I nodded, zombie-like, as I read it.  I probably drooled a bit, too.  I wrote down on a sticky note that this might be a good topic to blog about.  See, I think about you, dear reader, all of the time-even in my sub-human decaffeinated state.

Now, I’ve visited this topic before (LINK) in a definitive post about one of the most definitive books on the subject ever written – First Break All the Rules.  I heartily recommend this book, and get no money if you buy it at this link (as of this writing).  Read my post first – it’s the Wilder’s® Notes (Cliff’s Notes™ was taken, and neither of us wanted to be sued by Cliff Bars®).

If you don’t read the HBR article (again, I don’t recommend it, it rambles and is as poorly edited for flow as a copier fixed by a Chihuahua – and that comes from a one-man-show blogger who does these posts start to finish in three to six hours, admittedly in a flash/flourish of brilliance) the TL;DR version is:

  • OMG, I totally cannot believe that people quit Facebook®!!!
  • OMG, why???
  • Stock options are awesome!!
  • OMG here’s why:
    • “They left when their job wasn’t enjoyable,”
    • “their strengths weren’t being used,”
    • “and they weren’t growing in their careers.”
  • OMG, fix that by:
    • Designing meaningful jobs (for stars) that people enjoy. Let them design their own!
    • Use their strengths, silly!
    • Allow people flexibility when they don’t like travel or want to make babies.
    • Babies? So 1990.  So toxic!

Yeah.  It’s that shallow.  Here’s an example sentence embedded in the squalid mess of pretentiousness if you don’t believe me:

At Facebook, our head of diversity is a former lawyer, journalist, and talk show host; one of our communications leaders used to sing in a rock band; and one of our product managers is a former teacher.

Yeah.  I’m pretty sure that they have no idea how stupid that sounds.  And I’m also pretty sure that the head of diversity . . . does absolutely nothing of value for Facebook®.  Nothing.  A communications leader?  Not sure what that is, but I’d bet they’re just another leach on the profits the company produces.  And a product manager sounds good.  At least it involves capitalism in some fashion, maybe?

Whenever you think of a position and its value – ask yourself this:  does the NFL® have that position?

No.  There is no VP of Football Diversity at New England.  Belichick would give birth to living kittens if they hired one, and I would pay $1,000,000 for the rights to broadcast that on YouTube®, and an extra $1500 per Belichick-cat hybrid.   Football teams have a mission – winning (except you, Cleveland).  And a business should have a mission – creating mutual value for customers, but also creating profit for shareholders.  You know, because they own the place.

What they’re missing is that it’s not just these jobs that don’t produce value, it’s that most of the things they do at Facebook® produce little to no value.  Price’s Law (discussed in my Jordan Peterson post here (LINK)) shows that of the 20,000 employees at Facebook™, 141 (the square root of 20,000) produce half of the value.  It is a certainty that the “head of diversity” is not one of those 141.  Nor anyone in HR.  Or probably anyone who wrote this article.

I assure you, those 141 people are enjoying work, using their strengths, and get whatever they want from the boss if there’s an issue.  They’re probably getting paid a king’s ransom, too, if the culture allows it.  And they deserve it.  Those 141 people account for $20 billion in revenue.

I had a chance to manage an amazing performer – Willie.  I’ve mentioned him before (LINK).  Although the company wouldn’t allow me to pay him more even though he’d routinely save them a million a year, in a bad year, and would have saved them from a billion dollar investment based on bad physics (really) if they would have listened to him.  But what’s physics when you’re trying to do a business deal, right?  Oh, yeah.

A billion dollars (and I’m not making this number up).

Me?  I have Willie the maximum amount of flexibility that I could.  I couldn’t give him a raise, but I could let him buy almost unlimited computer goodies.  It seemed like he had a new laptop every month.  Plus the cutting edge in peripherals.  As his boss, I generally got the best of his cast-off equipment.

Another employee (not a high revenue employee, but still nice and pleasant) decided to order a new computer.

John Wilder:  “Send it back.”

Other Employee:  “But you let Willie have one.”

John Wilder:  “You’re not Willie.”  And they knew that, too.  I didn’t treat everyone in the group the same, but I did try to treat them fairly.  I think they knew that, too.  At least they all nodded when I asked them that during employee review time.

The 141 are the most important people at Facebook™.  Honestly, most of the remaining 19,850 or so people at Facebook® are interchangeable and simply lucky to be working at Facebook© rather than being a barista or hauling garbage or working at a cement kiln.  And that’s not bad.  You need people who just go to work, put in their time, get their job done, enjoy it, and go home.  Not every part in the engine is a spark plug.  I’ve been a spark plug, and I’ve been a broken wiper switch, sometimes at the same company (though rarely in the same year).  The company needs both.

And that’s not to say that you don’t have the ability to make everyone feel awesome, too.  I’m willing to bet that Facebook® probably has baristas and jesters and blacksmiths working for them.  You can allow and encourage everyone to have fun – there’s no reason not to.  And I firmly believe that managers should support their employees – and not be dictators.

I’ve always viewed the position of manager as having a moral dimension – it was important that every employee that ever reported to me was touched positively by the experience – they may not have liked me, but they were a better employee, more productive, more moral person because of the experience.  I figured if I could do that, the company had to win, too, even if the employee wasn’t a spark plug.

Remember, those 19850 remaining employees still produce half the revenue – though the formula is recursive – 140 of those 19850 make $10 billion for the company.  Oops.  But, really, if everyone designed their own job, nobody would do the dishes and the toilet would never be clean.  And that would describe my basement . . . sigh.

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

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