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Why were so many Valve employees fired?

A couple of weeks ago we reported on how one and then many other Valve employees were let go. This seems to be a pretty rare thing at Valve and something that’s a little hard to understand, since it operates a boss-free structure that sees people moving their desks where they want, joining and leaving different teams of developers and generally eschewing traditional business practices. However thanks to a chat with one Valve employee, we now know a little more.

Yanis Varoufakis, Valve’s current economist, spoke with the EconTalk Podcast (via Gamasutra), and said that firing was always a difficult process. “I’ve seen it happen. And it’s never pretty,” he began. “It involves various communications at first when somebody’s underperforming, or somebody doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the company. ”

Valve
Valve's employee handbook is certainly unorthodox.

He defended previously fired employees however, by saying that it wasn’t usually to do with those people not being productive or not “good people,” but simply because they can’t function as well as part of a boss free environment.

“There are series of discussions between co-workers and the person whose firing is being canvased or discussed,” he continued. “And at some point if it seems there is no way that a consensus can emerge that this person can stay, some attractive offer is made to the particular person, and usually there’s an amicable parting of ways.”

It’s also been suggested by others that the reason so many were let go in mid February, was because of a project focus shift.

KitGuru Says: Considering Valve’s recent announcements for looking into hardware, it’s curious that one of its major hardware developers was let go as part of the firings.

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