Zynga: A Lesson in Managing Disgruntled Employees (Not)

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you’re an in-house attorney, you know that disgruntled former employees raise red legal flags. Let Zynga, the company behind “Draw Something” and “Farmville,” serve as a fable for how not to deal with demoralized employees.

After Zynga let go 520 employees and completely shut down the New York office of OMGPOP, the laid-off OMG staff threw an all-night anti-Zynga rager.

The post-firing bacchanalia was full of booze, loud music and unfettered rage. The party culminated in people ripping up Zynga hoodies and T-shirts, reports Business Insider. With the exception of a fortunate few, nearly the entire OMGPOP team was fired. On the other hand, hardly any of the web-first Farmville 2 team got the axe.

"We thought, 'You just laid off your most talented mobile team,'" a former employee told Business Insider. "We were totally under-utilized," he added.

Another OMG employee in New York was troubled by "weird vibes" from the headquarters out West, reports BetaBeat. "We never felt like there was a connection there as far as the culture. I think people are pretty bitter about Zynga acquiring OMGPOP last year," the out-of-work game programmer said, suggesting Zynga chose their office as a result of that kind of bitterness.

From demanding that employees give back their stock before going through their IPO to class actions over potential insider trading, Zynga has done a royally poor job of making their employees feel they work for a place where loyalty is valued.

When you alienate employees, you welcome a host of potential legal cluster-F(armville)'s, including wrongful termination suits and potential breach of contract claims.

In the long run, when word of a snafu gets out, it's going to be tougher to attract and retain talent -- and loyalty. Fortunately for Zynga (and their legal department), the booted employees don't sound keen on dwelling on the past.

"Just 'cuz Zynga bought us doesn't meant that they dumbed us down," a recently fired OMG employee said. "I think the people here are going to create some awesome stuff."

Still, this is a publicity nightmare for Zynga. Learn from their erring crisis management ways.

The End.

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